08 July 2010
Fat art that reproduces fat abjection
The artist's own statement goes like this: "a new kind of realism, using abstraction to trigger responses at a neural level ... quasi-musical variations or transformations of a simple, rhythmic form ... a set of possibilities like the malic molds, shaping the spangles of illuminating gas/ether ... the human body as a material object in myth, propaganda, dream and fetish ..." (Yeah, me neither).
I'm interested in what people think of as being a 'positive image' of fatness because 'positive' is such a subjective concept. I suspect that some people regard this sculpture as a positive image of fat. Look at the ladies giving her belly rolls a good old feel in the picture, for which the file is called venus-hug. Hug the fatty! It's lovely! But this sculpture really creeps me out and I want to say why.
For me, a positive image of a fat woman might include some sense of autonomy. Ideally it would be produced by someone who has direct experience of a fat woman's subject position. I don't see any of that here. Instead, I look at venus and wonder: Where is her mouth? If she had a mouth, what would she say? "Get the fuck off me!" "Where are my rights?" Instead, a fat woman is diminished here through abstraction into little more than something passive, accommodating, squidgy and lovely – a magical fatty – and/or a disgusting blob. It's so limited. We deserve better representations than this.
Like John Yeadon's recent crap art I wonder if this sculpture is also a misguided product of mainstream obesity discourse, albeit a weak attempt to offer a more enlightened reading. It makes me long for art produced by people who actually have a clue about fat; Allyson Mitchell is one whose work is amazing, but yes Amanda Piasecki, I'm looking at you, and yes Stefanie Snider, I'm desperate to read your art criticism too.
Posted by Dr Charlotte Cooper at 15:29