16 January 2013

How fat people see and are seen

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

i am familiar with this artists work, i dont think this is the intention, and it is an assumption on your part. you know what they say about assuming....check your research if you are to use artist images on your blog to make a point.

Dr Charlotte Cooper said...

Thanks for your thoughtful and generous comment, Anonymous.

I don't know the artist and have no idea what his intention was in producing this work. What I do know is that it was curated as part of an exhibition that I found especially problematic, presumably in a way with which the artist agreed (though maybe he didn't, that would be interesting to know), and that I interpreted it in the way I did because of the context in which it was displayed. There are many ways of interpreting art, that's what makes it so powerful. This is how I interpreted it.

Emerald said...

I remember this one - in fact, I actually saw it in the gallery (I work in a pathology lab, so a lot of the exhibitions the Wellcome puts on are ones I find interesting - this one, not so much).

There's information here on what they intended this to represent:
http://wellcomecollection.wordpress.com/2011/06/22/object-of-the-month-a-fat-lot-of-good/

Me, I'm not convinced. First, to judge from photos of the artist I've found elsewhere, he's not fat himself, and I don't believe a thin person can represent how it feels to be a fat person in our society, any more than I as a white person can make any kind of representation of how it feels to be black, for example. Nothing about us without us! Also, they mention how fat people are made 'headless' in the media, yet the sculpture itself fails to tackle that by committing exactly the same offence - you don't have to look into this fat person's eyes, confront them as a human being, because they don't even have a face. And, art is for looking at, first and foremost, and people will get an impression from looking before they read any kind of artist or curators' statement on the piece - and I suspect most viewers' reaction would be along the lines of 'eew, look at the gross fat monster!!!' (Because, face it, that's the reaction of a lot of them to the living, breathing fat people they meet in the street.)

Completely coincidentally, while looking for artist info I came across this very good piece by a blogger I hadn't heard of before - and she links to you, Charlotte!...
http://www.rebecca-harris.co.uk/2013/01/the-obese-spectacle.html
Interestingly, as an artist she's working on the theme of society's biased and inadequate images of the fat body for her MA, so she may be worth keeping an eye on...

Tempest Nightingale LeTrope said...

I see the bottom image as the ultimate Headless Fatty. I agree with Charlotte. That is how most people in modern society have been trained to see larger people.

Dr Charlotte Cooper said...

Emerald, I too was unconvinced by the artist's statement.

Rebecca Harris and I have been talking together. I'm interested to see how her work turns out.