R.A.W. Assmilk Soap

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by Karin Bolender

The story begins in the summer of 2002, when Karin Bolender made a seven-week walking journey across the American South with Aliass, a six-year-old American Spotted Ass (a kind of donkey). Over many miles of the journey, Karin walked behind Aliass day after day on city streets and rural back-roads, and they slept nights in random churchyards and patches of woods.

Aliass gave birth to Passenger at the end of this journey. Karin took some of Aliass’ milk to create soap in her Rural Alchemy Workshop (R.A.W.).  Assmilk soap involves visible scars of industrial wastelands as well as “hidden pollutions” – poisons born of exploited bodies, beings, minerals, and ecosystems – and the ways they linger in our bodies, thoughts and utterances.  

Like our bodies themselves, every bar of R.A.W. Assmilk Soap holds its own unwritten story, in the invisible traces of bodies and antibodies immersed and entangled in specific times and places.  The inner realm is where this soap really finds its potency, calling upon imagination to bring our buried stains to the surface, at least to attend to if not to assuage them.  R.A.W. Assmilk Soap has found a way to figure the wordless body’s side of the story, writing itself in milk made of interactions in time and places.

Read Chapter Two: R.A.W Assmilk Soap on Google Books

Karin Bolender is an artist who practices barnyard and back-road ontological choreography to negotiate between human logos and other embodied ways of being and knowing. She has lived and traveled with a family of American Spotted Asses since 2002. Through performance, video, writing, and sound, she explores dirty words and the wisdoms of earthly bodies in the company of she-asses Aliass and Passenger and their whole muddy ass herd. Major forays of the last decade include Little Pilgrim of Carcassonne (2002), The Dead-Car Crossing (2004), “Can We Sleep in your Barn Tonight?” mystery tour (2006), the ongoing She-Haw Transhumance series, and Gut Sounds Lullaby (2012). She holds an MFA in interdisciplinary arts from Goddard College.

Rural Alchemy Workshop Aliass X-ing

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a companion to the book