Rubber Tit

Anticipation brimmed over in Ida Noyes on Tuesday night, as a hundred or so spectators arrived for a piece by Japanese performance artist Tari Ito and jazz saxophonist MASA entitled simply “Rubber Tit.” As the audience members entered the room, they were instructed to sit along the sides of the Cloister Club, a neo-gothic room with hardwood floor and high ceilings. A makeshift screen–during the introduction it was noted that it had been sewn from sheets earlier that morning–was propped somewhat haphazardly against the far wall of the room. In the center sat the frame of a cube, and inside of it a flesh-colored mass, presumably the deflated rubber tit.

The posters for the event displayed prominently the shape of the female breast, an image that is well known and often overdrawn in popular culture. The symbol of the breast is everywhere–it is almost inescapable. Yet despite (or perhaps because of) this, hundreds flocked to the event, and watched with captivation as Ito and MASA began to perform. Ito, clothed entirely in rubber, crouched inside of the cube and began to orally inflate the rubber tit, while the image of her doing so was projected on the screen simultaneously. Also on the screen was a newscast of the aftermath of the coming out of a Japanese female politician–an interview describing her description of both the problems therein and the letters of support and affirmation that she received.

After several minutes, Ito ceased the manual operation and attached an electric air compressor to inflate the tit. She began to create a web with brightly colored yarn around the cube, reaching out into the audience and twisting it around some of the audience members. Ito retained a solemn expression throughout, but her petite body worked with what seemed to be a somewhat joyful purpose. As the breast expanded within the box, Ito moved with a charmed fascination.

Finally, the tit was released from its shell. It became a giant beach ball, tossed around the pretzel-legged audience. Its scale was tremendous; two people could have rolled around inside its giant mass. The nipple protruded prominently, and the bottom of the breast was flat, as though it had been severed cleanly from the body. The fleshy dome was bounced around, rolled and fondled. A male audience member leapt from the crowd, and, for lack of a better word, assaulted the tit, bouncing it down the row of spectators like a basketball. Ito balked, and ran after him. After reclaiming the tit, she proceeded to caress and envelop herself in it. The performance turned more subdued. The tit itself jiggled slightly ominously in the center of the room, before Ito brought it to its resting place in front of the large screen. There it sat, and as she and MASA bowed, the audience again began to clap, and talk, and whisper. The performance was invigorating, somewhat surreal, and certainly a little odd. The tit was supposed to be about universality–but as everyone smiled and laughed at the chance to touch the huge dome of breast, it was unclear whether the message was fully conveyed.