Exposing the messy nature of reproducible labor

The milk in this exhibit is not real milk. After much trial and error, Liu finally filled the pump with “magician’s milk”, a proprietary formula purchased from a magic store that requires no refrigeration and is accompanied by a warning “Not a product food. Don’t drink!” However, it seemed convincing.When installing the work, Liu initially considered letting the milk coils take over the entire gallery floor, even actively bringing visitors into the frame. visual and acoustic scenes of newborn care.

on the floor is filled with white liquid
Untitled (eating by space and time) using 328 feet of plastic tubes filled with synthetic milk.


Liu, who holds graduate degrees from the Harvard Graduate School of Design and the MIT Media Lab, resumed teaching just five days after she gave birth in 2021. She just signed a new contract as an associate. professor of practice at Penn, and the university. only allow employees to take maternity leave of more than one year. Although she was initially allowed to teach Zoom from her home in Queens, she ended up having to pump more than nurse. “I developed this really intense relationship with my pump, where just hearing the sound of it frustrates me more than my baby crying. It was just a weird cyborg moment for Donna Haraway,” she said, referring to the feminist science and technology scholar who has written about cyborgs, that it “didn’t dream of family-modeled community organic family”.

That was also the time that led Liu to new research. Her discovery appears in works displayed in the Cuchifritos Gallery, including a series of three-dimensional reflections on technology, motherhood, and childhood in our algorithm-powered world.

details of Untitled (milk fat drops)
In Untitled (milk fat globules)a milk molecule, photographed under a microscope, layered, color corrected and printed on an aluminum panel shaped like a popular brand of scalloped nursing pads.


Pump is also on display as part of the second edition of the exhibition “Motherhood Design,” currently taking place at the MassArt Museum of Art in Boston. Michelle Millar Fisher, part of the curatorial team, wrote that the work “goes right to the heart of the ways in which reproductive labor is concealed, romanticized, socially taboo and underappreciated. .”

Liu’s work has extra urgency and resonance after the flip Roe v. Wade. Who controls, who supports, and who performs the labor are not just questions about the bedroom or the broom closet (and shouldn’t be); they’re playing on the streets, in state homes, and in the Supreme Court.

Millar Fisher drew parallels between Liu’s pump installation and the work of artist Hiromi Marissa Ozaki, known as Sputniko!, in 2010. Menstrual machine simulate the experience of menstruation; The video portion of the work shows a fictional day in the life of a young man who builds a device to experience life as a person with a uterus.

Liu has long been fascinated by this kind of simulation experience. In 2019, after watching YouTube videos of men taking labor simulations to understand their wives’ experiences and finding them wanted on so many levels, she decided to create sets of own machines, including a garment called Untitled (woman’s pain), equipped with a belly and electrodes, allows any non-pregnant person to feel the weight and discomfort of pregnancy. Another one in the series, No title (minor inconvenience), which simulates urinary incontinence. Made in collaboration with builder Randi Shandroski, the garments look like lingerie and simulate an outcome of sexual intercourse, but these are not experiences that are generally considered sexy. .

Untitled artwork (Small Facility) on display in the gallery
No title (minor inconvenience): A garment designed to simulate urinary incontinence as one of the symptoms of pregnancy.


Her works present a mischievous humour, nestled within the day-to-day anomalies of modern life. Consumer culture may seem to celebrate pregnancy, but pregnancy products focus on all the “wrong” things with the pregnant body: mood swings, stretch marks, urinary incontinence. control. In response, Liu created Pregnant consumers, which includes a wide range of creams, masks, and pills, is designed in a high millennial style (monochrome packaging, sans serif font) but is faithfully labeled as “Tired”, “Difficult to breathe”. “, “Swelling”. If you see them on a pharmacy shelf, you’ll be hooked at first, but once you read the description, even as someone who’s already pregnant, you’ll be hard-pressed to say. No thanks.

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