Finding the river of Eden that Runs with Milk
Materials: laser-cut plywood, fishing line, chicken wire,
30 cm by 147 cm plywood board
The sculpture Milk Nile is part of a sculptural series on the rivers of Eden. Similarities are drawn between geographical water ways and mystical rivers from religious scripture. Four existing rivers – the Nile, the Tiber, the Euphrates, and the Ganges – are identified on Earth as the four rivers which originate at the spring of Salsabil. These run with milk, honey, wine and water.
With their materiality, the riverine sculptures in this series expose the manifestations of corruption enabled by commercial waterways throughout history. Earthy materials represent water as these sculptures communicate the cartographic medieval endeavor of locating the rivers of Eden on Earth and on the atlas. The psychology of mystery and of treachery are rendered tangible by the substances used to represent river water.
Milk Nile draws correspondences between the River Nile and maternal milk. The Nile has its source in Ethiopia, the birthplace of humanity and therefore of our emotional understanding of maternity. In ancient Egypt, fertility of the land was represented by Khem or black lime deposits in agrarian fields from Nile water. Since the Neolithic, black earth has been associated with mother goddesses. The Nile flooded when the Sun was in the sign of Cancer, the most maternal and most esoteric phase of the zodiac.
The Nile’s water is represented on the sculpture’s supporting base with a mixture of flour and sugar, a substance chemically approximate to maternal milk. Over this mixture, a plywood bind is attached to a wire net with fishing line. In the ancient Egyptian imagination, fertility of farmland was symbolically understood to be incarnated in black lime deposits on the Nile’s banks. Space between plywood pieces varies alluding to the variations in the speed of the river’s current on the 30 cm by 147 cm river water sample.
The plywood pieces are in the shape of saffron and cinnamon pollen grains seen under a microscope. According Jean of Joinville (1305-1309) in Life of St. Louis, fisherman on the River Nile found cinnamon, saffron and other spices in their nets which were carried on the current from Eden. The plywood current in Milk Nile carries the pollen grains of these spices. Cinnamon, saffron, ginger, rhubarb and aloe float on the Nile’s current towards historic Lower Egypt.
The botanical cycles of these plants vary. Cinnamon verum flowers between January and February, Crocus sativus flowers in September.
In Eden, trees bear fruits and flowers at the same time regardless of life cycles and seasons. Interpreting the accounts of Jean of Joinville with this spiritual consideration, pollen from cinnamon and saffron plants could be found year-round in nets of fishermen on the Nile. In this plywood bind of the current on the River Nile, pollen grains from plants with different flowering seasons appear in the fishing net.