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Social Experiences of BreastfeedingBuilding Bridges between Research, Policy and Practice$
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Sally Dowling, David Pontin, and Kate Boyer

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781447338499

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781447338499.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM POLICY PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.policypress.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Policy Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in PPSO for personal use.date: 27 May 2022

Encountering public art: monumental breasts and the Skywhale

Encountering public art: monumental breasts and the Skywhale

(p.205) Eleven Encountering public art: monumental breasts and the Skywhale
Social Experiences of Breastfeeding

Alison Bartlett

Policy Press

This chapter is grounded in the idea that more visual imagery of breastfeeding will contribute to its normalisation, and counter the commercial sexualisation of breasts. It suggests, however, that this strategy is not just about seeing but also about feeling. To demonstrate this the chapter turns to a controversial piece of public art — Patricia Piccinini's Skywhale — which was launched in Australia in 2013 and has been touring internationally. The Skywhale is a hot-air balloon in the shape of a fantastical creature of the imagination, which features five giant breasts on each side. This unexpected flying mammal provokes responses wherever it goes, and arguably provides productive ways of engaging public responses to breastfeeding and maternity. This chapter examines responses to Skywhale through broadsheet and social media, and then analyses its affective domain through psychoanalytic concepts and its materiality through the tradition of public art and monuments. The extremes of intimacy and monumentality configured through Skywhale offer an object par excellence for seeing breastfeeding writ large in the public domain, and for feeling the return of the maternal. The chapter argues that this is fundamental to a shift in perceiving breasts as maternal, and breastfeeding as normative.

Keywords:   Skywhale, Patricia Piccinini, sexualisation, breasts, social media, maternal, public art, breastfeeding, intimacy

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