This text by Anna Yam is on her publication BIRD’S MILK , which is now for sale at www.ftn-books.com
Bird’s Milk is the name of an east-European candy. Anna Yam, who was born in the USSR and lived there until she was twelve, remembers it as a sweet, comforting delicacy, a rarity in her childhood’s circumstances and environment. The couplet composing its name, chosen by Yam for the title of her exhibition, is surprising and attractive yet simultaneously daunting and disturbing. A suspicious curiosity. An online search of the term offers links mostly to food and recipe sites which, along with glucose- and cholesterol-laden descriptions and culinary minutiae regarding the accurate mix of whipped egg whites, sugar, vanilla, milk and occasionally chocolate, also refer to the name’s origin, a common term in Russian to describe something inexistent or unattainable. Such expressions serve in popular use in many languages to describe everlasting devotion or a promise to achieve the unachievable for a love object (“I’ll give you the stars and the moon”). An essay published in February 2013 in the online magazine The Moscow News dealt with the changes that Bird’s Milk underwent over three decades in one of Moscow’s well-known restaurants, noting that the name refers to a Slavic legend about an unattainable gift that uses the phrase “as rare as hen’s teeth.” Yam’s choice of such a dual phrase sits well with the exhibition’s selection of photographs. At first glance they refuse to be linked with a coherent continuum, yet attest to a carefully considered editing that elucidates a meaning, as if a random collection of words whose composition within set syntactical structures has created fluent sentences with a formed narrative whose parts, once read, are no longer a random collection of words but details in a story. The story’s text is secondary, hence its uniqueness.