What Are Those Bizarre ‘Bathe in My Milk’ Photographs About?

"Is there really a granny standing by with a gallon of the good stuff?"

  • Published 21 May 2019

The odd and somewhat disturbing photographs have been online since the end of 2017 —— several pictures of men sitting expressionless in bathtubs full of milk, situated in a bathroom whose furnishings (and last cleaning) appear to date from several decades earlier, while a similarly expressionless, silver-haired woman dressed in white hovers nearby (and in one picture ominously peers in through a window from the outside). For additional effect — and unexplained reasons — a stout length of rope is visible on the floor next to the tub in most photographs, implying to viewers that perhaps not everything occurring in that grim washroom is completely voluntary:

The photographs appeared in flyers posted around Los Angeles at the end of 2017, offering men the opportunity to bathe in the anonymous woman’s milk, with the added enticements of her allowing respondents to “Use my sponge” while promising that “I will watch you.” The flyer’s “Bathe in My Milk” headline suggested a chance for volunteers to take a dip immersed in human breast milk, but additional wording restricted the choices to “Soy, almond, or traditional” — although who’s to say exactly what “traditional” milk might be?

Interested subjects were directed to the website at BatheInMyMilk.com to schedule appointments:

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Alan Wagner (@truewagner) on

The photographs prompted curious social media users to question what was behind them, with some posts implying they were connected to sinister goings-on:

However, the flyers and the photographs were all just a prank executed by Alan Wagner, an artist and comedian who, along with creative partner Sydney Marquez, “has turned absurdist, real-life memes into an art form. And an actual business.”

Wagner told the New York Post that he staged the disturbing milk-bath pictures inside his Los Angeles garage:

“I really like the image I came up with. This old woman bathing men, and it’s ambiguous what anyone is getting out of it. Nobody seems to be enjoying it, [and] yet they are partaking in it.”

Wagner came up with the bizarre idea when a beverage company asked him to create a meme that would make their drink go viral. He offered up a version of this, but it was rejected because it was too quirky.

So he decided to do it himself.

‘I can’t tell if people are expecting milk or they are reflecting my deadpan humor.’

Surprisingly, fabricating an entire bathroom and hiring actors only cost Wagner about $300. He and Marquez bought the tub from Home Depot, cleaned it after the shoot and returned it when they were done. Friends volunteered to star in the milky nightmare; a few extra models were recruited online and paid $20 each. (One thespian arrived in a sleek suit, unaware he had signed up to sit in a dirty tub of diluted leche. “You could tell how uncomfortable he was in the photo.”)

Similar projects from Wagner have encouraged unsuspecting flyer viewers to “Experience Cornelius” for $15-$25, with no explanation for who Cornelius is or why people might want to “experience” him — unless the curious visit the related website, where they learn only that Cornelius “does not claim to be a healer, faith guru, or wonder-priest” and is only “a single man who can be seen, touched and fed at your discretion”:

 
 
 
 
 
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I am considering becoming his disciple.

A post shared by Alan Wagner (@truewagner) on

Concerned parents who encounter another Wagner project might consider signing up their children for “man” and “woman” lessons (including instruction on how to “bleed,” “groan,” and “pink”) “before it’s loo late.” Or come spy through a window to watch a recumbent man open up two months’ worth of saved mail:

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Alan Wagner (@truewagner) on

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Alan Wagner (@truewagner) on

According to Los Angeles magazine profile of the creative duo, “People are interested in these situations — and they love taking pictures to post on Instagram”:

Wagner — who formerly worked in video at Super Deluxe — refers to these egregiously well-executed jokes as “interactive comedic experiences” (although it hadn’t occurred to him to call them anything until I asked). Most of Wagner and Marquez’s projects have some interactive element, like the bumper sticker campaign that directs people to voteonourson.com, where they can see said son’s drawing of a bald man being hit in the head with a rock, and then vote on whether he’s good enough to go to art school.

“We like when people have to question whether or not it’s real,” Marquez says. “The more layers you add, the more they’re questioning whether it’s real or not.”

Since their work started going viral, Wagner and Marquez’s Brambus Productions has been tapped to work on campaigns for brands including Soylent and Atlantic Records, as well as some local bands. They were recently picked up by a talent agent after they inadvertently posted a flyer outside her house, and are currently working on ideas for a television show.

In real life, they both want to continue to push the boundaries of the comedy they create. “We’re trying to deepen the interactive experience,” Wagner says. “What we’d love to do is build it out to the point that there’s a physical space for an experience.”

A collection of other pranking efforts in the same vein can be viewed via Wagner’s Twitter account.

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