Milk Tongue, 2019


Milk Tongue is an intimate sound work that takes the form of a lullaby composed of parentese – the extraordinary array of utterances emitted by adults when communicating with a baby. The work is presented through a single set of headphones positioned on a feeding chair.

Inspired by the observation process undertaken by students training in psychoanalysis as a privileged window into the ways the parent and infant interact, form and strengthen their bond, Milk Tongue was developed through the making of field recordings at home with parents and babies under the age of 1. Woven together into a score these sounds shape a narrative arch from introduction, play, to sleep. The work is sung by the artist and recorded while sung to her own daughter to retain the authenticity of infant directed speech.

This work constitutes part of an ongoing investigation by the artist into tacit communication. Drawing on the study of non-verbal communication in the films of John Bowlby, Rene Spitz, Sylvia Brody and Margaret Mead, Milk Tongue evokes the dramatic impact of the infant on adult vocalisation and highlights the influence of the child over the adult world.

Milk Tongue was created as part of Wunderblock: a building wide exhibition at the Freud Museum London, commissioned by the Hidden Persuaders Project, Birkbeck, University of London, and curated by Rachel Fleming-Mulford.

Wunderblock developed through investigation into post war paranoia around the developing child’s mind and how nurturing and understanding the child became inextricably linked to the interests of the state. Wunderblock interrogates this complex history to consider the status of the child in society today.