Milk and The Town That Was Mad was a temporary artwork inspired by the name of the laneway where it stood, Underwood St, and the famous radio drama Under Milk Wood, written in 1954 by Welsh poet and playwright Dylan Thomas.
The installation consisted of a wooden plank mounted on to one of the laneway’s metal safety barriers, to form an impromptu benchtop or bar counter, with four black bar stools standing beside it. On the plank sat a collection of 12 ashtrays in a variety of shapes and materials.
Through hidden speakers the smokers who gathered to use the makeshift bar were played an excerpt of Richard Burton’s famous performance from the original recording of Under Milk Wood.
Dwyer wrote of her work:
“Underwood St seemed a street that had a feel of deathspace or nonspace. A somewhere in need of poetry and a place to smoke and day dream, even if just for a time. So a strange and simple word ‘milk’ inserts itself between ‘under’ and ‘wood’ to become ‘Under Milk Wood’.
To begin at the beginning: it is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the cobblestreets silent and the hunched, courters’-and-rabbits’ wood limping invisible down to the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboatbobbing sea. We are not wholly bad or good, who live our lives under milk wood.
– Dylan Thomas
Inserting milk into the gap between ‘under’ and ‘wood’ prises open another place. An extra space is generated by listening to a story, a nondescript lane in Sydney becomes described and momentarily interwoven with Llareggub, or maybe Sydney is now remapped as a suburb of Llareggub.
Mikala Dwyer was born in Sydney and was educated at the Sydney College of the Arts, Middlesex University in London, the University of NSW College of Fine Arts, and the Berlin University of the Arts.
Since 1982 Dwyer has exhibited her work in solo exhibitions across Australia, New Zealand, Germany and the UK.
She has also participated in numerous national and international group exhibitions, and completed several public art commissions in Sydney and Melbourne.
Her work is featured in the public collections of many prestigious galleries and museums, including the National Gallery of Australia.