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.