Feedback from WCCD Crit

FAT Project, Personal Projects, WWCD

I presented a sketchbook for a project I am working on called “Brown Bread Tastes Like Punishment” at the monthly Working Class Creatives Database online Zoom crit, and below is the feedback and the references I was given by other members of the WCCD on the call.

  • “Like the text and drawings- text is very punchy”
  • “Beautiful drawings”
  • Could I use the designs elsewhere- i.e. prints or zines?
  • Drawings capture a moment and record a memory- Ross said that the drawings triggers his own memories of his mum doing all kinds of diets, so viewers might have their own memories brought up when viewing the work, bringing their own things to it
  • drawings might be good with textures- paper mache, or ceramics like I showed on the Zoom call
  • try lots of things- film/prints/zines/sculptures/animation
  • catharsis through the physical act of making, versus the act of showing the work to others and opening yourself up to the feedback/criticism of others

REFERENCES TO CHECK OUT:

  • Lucy Sparrow
  • Jo Spence
  • Heather Philipson
  • Lindsey Mendick
  • Mystical Femmes
  • Mr Bingo
  • Sharona Franklin
  • Victoria Sin- drag artist, Glitch Feminism
  • “Virus” by Linda Stupart, gender, body, fatness

Some really helpful feedback that definitely made me feel more confident about this project as a whole- I entered the crit feeling like I didn’t have much to show and was unsure where to go with the project and ended up leaving it feeling much more confident in the ideas behind it, and possible avenues to take with it.

Car Window, or Being Seen as a Fat Woman

FAT Project, Personal Projects

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Screenshots of a piece of writing I originally posted to my Instagram, about being perceived as a fat woman after an incident that happened during lockdown.

Transcript:

” Car Window (or Being Perceived as a Fat Woman)
You lean out of the car window and jeer at me
You say your mate wants my number
I hear you all laugh
As your car pulls away
This is the reality of being percieved
As a fat woman.
It started just like that
Back in school
A popular boy runs up to me
And says
“My mate thinks you’re well fit”
I see your group burst into laughter
I spit and curse at you
Before I hide in the toilet and cry.
It’s almost Valentines Day
And you, a popular boy, overhear me
Telling a friend I had never received a Valentines card
You come in on the 14th
Hand me a card and bar of chocolate
The card has a monkey in drag on the front
It says “Happy Valentines Gorgeous”
I laugh it off, like I’m in on the joke
And eat the chocolate alone in my room in the dark that night.
I have “boyfriends” in school
One of them is fat like me
But is still ashamed to be seen with me
One of them dates every less desirable girl in school
To hide the fact that he’s gay.
Dating whilst fat is a minefield
On dating apps I loudly declare my fatness
Lest I be accused of lying,
Called a catfish
Men send me messages that say things like
“You’re not fat, you’re beautiful”
As if the two are mutually exclusive
Or they say something sexual, no small talk needed.
I wonder
If their friends know they like fat women?
With every boyfriend I’ve ever had
I wonder
Do they only like me because I’m fat, a fetish?
Or do they like me in spite of my fat, is it something they put up with?
For a long time I couldn’t let my partners see me naked
I would keep my baggy tshirts on during sex
Or cover myself in lacy lingerie
Terrified that if they saw my stomach,
Saw how fat I really was,
That they would leave me
Disgusted.
It always felt like men saw me as fuckable,
Or not fuckable.
To be put into either category feels uncomfortable.
Realising that I am not, in fact, a woman
Realising that I am attracted to women
Has been liberating
Suddenly I don’t hate being naked
(at least not all the time)
Suddenly I am able to fulfil my own sexual desires and needs
Without shame
But that all crumbles away, when a man leans out of a car window
Jeering at me, a fat woman, out on the street.
I am back where I started.
Uncomfortable, lost, my confidence evaporated
Being seen as a fat woman, and nothing else. “

I envision this as becoming a spoken word piece at some point in the future, as I feel it would work well in that context- I get very emotional reading it out and that could work in favour of this writing.

READING GROUP PLAN AND NOTES FROM GROUP: The Blob by Dr Charlotte Cooper

FAT Project, Lectures/Talks, Reading Groups, Uncategorized

I am leading next week’s Babeworld3000 reading group, and have chosen to examine a zine made by Dr. Charlotte Cooper, The Blob. This post is essentially my notes covering what I want to discuss during the group so that I have something prepped!

I have chosen this text as it is something very close to my heart- I have lived my whole life as a fat person, and like the author I was was particularly affected by the Obesity section of the now closed Medicine Now exhibit at the Wellcome Collection- particularly by a sculpture by the artist John Isaacs, called “I Can’t Help The Way I Feel” which is the piece that inspired the zine we are reading. I think speaking about marginalisations is super important and I have learnt a lot from our reading groups so far, and whilst we talk about a lot of different intersections- class, race, gender, disability, mental illness, sexuality- we haven’t given much time to the discussion of being fat, and what that means in the society we live in. I think this has a lot to do with how we view being fat. We see those other things as things we cannot change about ourselves, or things that we are born into, but being fat is often still seen as a moral failing, or a flaw that we can work on and change, as opposed to simply being a different body type or being a product of various other factors. All this is why I decided to suggest this text, so that we can open up the discussion and get to grips with how being fat can interact with our other marginalisations. 

The sculpture mentioned above provoked a very visceral reaction in me, so much so that I made a video using clips I filmed on my phone of it, interspersed with clips of my own body and other related imagery called “I Can’t Help The Way I Feel: My Fat Body”. It also inspired me to run a drawing workshop by the same name, which wasn’t as successful as I had hoped, but which has continued and evolved into the FAT Project I am currently working on, including the zine I made during my residency at The Playground and a series of sculptures  and drawings I have been working on.

I think it’s really important that fat people control our own narratives; if the sculpture, which Dr. Charlotte Cooper nicknamed “The Blob”, had been made by a fat artist who was exploring their own relationship to and feelings surrounding their body and body image I think my reaction to it would have been a little different. I would still have had the visceral reactions of disgust and uncomfortable-ness that it provokes, I think, but knowing that someone like me had made it to express themselves would make it feel more genuine and relatable. Finding out that is was in fact made by someone who is not, and it seems never has been, fat felt like a slap in the face. I am not saying that thin people can’t have body issues or eating disorders (for clarification, don’t jump down my throat!!) but for someone to come along and create this narrative, to decide he knows how fat people feel about being fat is just really gross in my opinion. It isn’t the only work of his that sensationalises, trivialises, and makes the fat experience seem “gross” or “other”. He has made a whole series of fat sculptures where they seem to melt onto the pavement and ooze as they dominate the spaces they are installed in.

john-isaac-i-can-t-help

“I Can’t Help The Way I Feel” AKA “The Blob”

Points we could discuss:

  • This idea of co-opting or taking over narratives from marginalised groups- when people who do not belong to a certain group of marginalised people try to tell us how we feel or how we should feel (i.e. how THEY think we should feel) it takes spaces/opportunities/audiences away from those people
  • The “Headless Fatty” concept
  • Fat as symbolism for wealth, greed, laziness, ugliness, as a fetish, or as the “maternal”
  • doctors and fat people
  • body positivity movement being co-opted by thinner, white, cis, straight people when fat queer people, fat people of colour, fat disabled people, FAT fat people are still facing stigma and trauma at higher levels
  • the links to poverty and fatness- as discussed in our first reading group session
  • The Adele situation currently happening
  • The idea that fat people are a modern creation- see Historical Fat People Instagram

Then we’ll see where all this takes us I guess!

Further reading/watching/resources:

Please feel free to message me with other resources that discuss fatness, and specifically fatness alongside other intersections (i.e. being a fat person of colour, being fat and queer, being fat and LGBTQ+, ect)

EDIT:
Really pleased with how the group went, everyone seemed to engage well with the material and topic and I really enjoyed taking on a more active role as leader- I hope to do it again sometime in the future!

We also discussed:

  • Jameela Jamil- the idea of a thin person starting the “I Weigh” movement, how it feels as if she is taking up space that an actually fat fat activist could be using, how it has gained popularity because she has thin privilege and is famous- yes she is doing good work, yes she has had issues with body dysmorphia and eating disorders in the past, but she is undeniably thin and conventionally attractive and so her spear heading the movement in this way is harmful in the long run
  • Instagram
  • fatness and dating/relationships
  • Georgina discussed fatness and sex work
  • Feeling like you have to over perform femininity as a fat person- always having a full face of makeup, looking well put together, not wearing certain clothes (i.e fitted/bright colours/revealing), having certain haircuts/styles, always having to look your best so as not to fit the fat slobby stereotype
  • fatness and disability/mental health/eating disorders
  • Lizzo and Cupcakke – online bullying, especially aimed at fat, black women who decide to be visible
  • power dynamics and institutions- having to censor yourself and beg institutions to be given a platform/commissions, and being blacklisted when you refuse and are critical of them
  • “But is it Healthy?” – this idea of thinness equating health and fatness meaning someone is unhealthy- it isn’t anyone’s business, and thinness doesn’t always equal health, you CAN be fat and healthy (but your health is no one else’s business!! If you wouldn’t ask a thin person about their health then why do you demand to know the medical history of every fat person you meet??)
  • Reclaiming harmful narratives and turning them into positive experiences that raise awareness or celebrate the truths of marginalised groups- i.e. Dr Charlotte Coopers’ dance piece in front of The Blob “But Is It Healthy?” or my drawing workshop and subsequent fat projects
  • bullying of fat people is still seen as publicly acceptable because it is seen as something a person can actually change (unlike other marginalisations) and as a moral failing
  • Lockdown weight gain memes and posts and how it can affect those of us with eating disorders and those of us who are larger anyway
  • The idea of your body being public property

FAT Research: V&A Visit

FAT Project, Personal Projects, Photographs

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Above: photographs taken of classical marble sculptures in one of the rooms at the Victoria and Albert Museum, taken on my phone

I spent about 3 hours in this part of the museum drawing and photographing some of the sculptures shown above, partly for practice as I am wildly out of practice in terms of drawing, and also for research as part of my FAT project. I wanted to look at the body types and poses in particular, which is why I have photographed and sketched them from different angles.

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Above: photos of a variety of sketches done yesterday at the V&A, taken on my phone. Some are on A3, and some are A5.

I started off trying to realistically capture the forms and shading using pencils and pastels, but I wasn’t entirely happy with my efforts, so I then used blind contour drawings in felt tip pens to warm up a little, before shifting back to pencil, the moving on to simple line drawings using just a fine liner pen to capture the forms. I have been struggling lately to motivate myself to get out and make art, due to overworking and poor mental health, so even though I am very critical of the drawings themselves I am deeply proud of myself for getting out and travelling across London to the V&A to actually make some art.

I think given how out of practice I am the drawings aren’t a total loss, I still managed to capture the forms and that was the main point of the exercise- to practice and to study the body types and poses, which I think come across in my drawings. I particularly like the line drawings, they aren’t perfect but it was freeing to draw directly with pen and simplify the sculptures down to the bare essentials. Also with the pencil and pastel drawings I tried harder not to erase too many of my mistakes- I quite like seeing the bits I’ve re-positioned and redrawn as it shows the development of the drawing, and it was helpful to get me out of my perfectionist mindset.

I would like to go back and draw some of the sculptures in other rooms, mainly focusing on European, as I am white British and I am examining the lack of diversity in classical European sculptures in particular. I think next time I might take some other drawing materials such as watercolours or inks to try and do some more gestural studies. I would also like to try redrawing the sculptures with different body types (I will probably use images of myself in similar poses as a reference) and possibly experiment with digital drawings on Illustrator.

FAT Project

FAT Project, Personal Projects, The Kiln Rooms/Ceramic works

I want to further develop my ideas around my body, how it feels to inhabit a fat body, and a non-binary body, and how it is viewed by the outside world. I still need to upload my FAT zine on here, which I want to make as a digital version as well, and continue on in that vein. As part of this I began making a sculpture a few months back in The Kiln Rooms, which I need to finish sculpting and then fire and glaze.

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Above: photos of the sculpture in progress- it is hand sculpted from white stoneware clay, and is a self portrait based on photos I took of my own body in the same pose (which I won’t upload here, for various reasons). I need to work on the legs, feet, and boobs a little bit more, but I am planning to leave it headless and arm-less, as I want to concentrate more on main body, and I quite like that it resembles a broken classical marble sculpture. When I have finished sculpting it I plan to fire it and glaze it with a white satin glaze, to give it the silky white texture and look of a marble sculpture.

I started making this as a way to come to terms with the reality of how my body really looks- selfies and photos taken by others often aren’t 100% honest depictions and I wanted to challenge myself to see myself in a more objective way, to help build on the vein of self love and acceptance I have been working so hard to cultivate. I am hoping to make more of these small maquettes, in different poses, as part of this. It also got me thinking- its’ resemblance to a classical marble sculpture made me realise we so rarely anything other than idealised versions of the human form in art, and particularly in sculpture. Even artists who sculpt self portraits and cast from life tend to be able bodied and cisgender, with conventionally attractive or at least socially acceptable bodies. I think it would help a lot of people who don’t fit these margins to see bodies more like their own represented in museums and galleries, as we have always existed but are too often left out of art and history for conforming.

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Above: images of works by Marc Quinn, exploring the bodies of disabled people, taken from his website

I am particularly inspired by the work of sculptor Marc Quinn, who has sculpted people with different disabilities. However as someone who identifies as disabled (due to my long term mental health issues) I find it somewhat uncomfortable that someone who is not disabled is making work about it. This is because it almost feels voyeuristic, and a little bit like fetishisation, although I’m sure it isn’t meant to come across this way. I do enjoy the idea of having these unconventional bodies created in this particular medium and put on display in gallery and museum settings- as I think representation and diversity are super important; but I think more needs to be done to elevate disabled artists and give us our own platforms to create, share, and display our works. This is a systemic issue in the art world that needs to be tackled and discussed by all of us. I would like to create work that explores and celebrates diverse bodies in a way inspired by this, but from the perspective of someone who actually has a body that doesn’t fit the norm.

As well as my FAT zine I also created the video “I Can’t Help the Way I Feel (My Fat Body)” in response to the sculpture “I Can’t Help the way I Feel” by artist John Isaacs, pictured below, and the drawing workshop  of the same name. This thread is something I am keen to continue exploring through various mediums, as it is important to me and a part of my journey in self love and self growth.

john-isaac-i-can-t-help

I think further research and exploration into the subject needs to be done, which I am going to endeavor to do in my own practice going forwards with this project. I plan to start by visiting art galleries/museums to examine classical sculptures- I want to do some drawings and take some photos for inspiration and see where that takes me.

I Can’t Help The Way I Feel: Fat Bodies Drawing Workshop

FAT Project, Personal Projects, UNIT 2, Workshops

Do you identify as fat?

Would you like to draw and be drawn in a safe space for like minded postgraduate students who also identify as fat?
Join Kat Outten for a workshop ran by a fat Post-Grad student, for fat Post-Grad students.

Created in response to the sculpture by John Isaacs currently in the Medicine Now exhibit at the Wellcome Collection, fat is so much more than a body type. We deserve to celebrate and love our bodies as much as anyone else- to do so in this current culture is a rebellious act that defies social norms.

rtaImage.jpg

(Image above used to promote the event, a photograph of the sculpture the workshop is a response to, printed in black and white, with illustrations of fat bodies drawn over the top. Photograph and drawings by me)

As part of my role as Post Graduate Ambassador for Camberwell I organised a drawing workshop, aimed at fat post grad students. The workshop was in response to a piece of work I find very repulsive at the Wellcome Collection, with the goal of creating a safe space for fat post grad artists to come together and celebrate our bodies. We ran the workshop on Monday 10th December at CSM for 2 and half hours, and I was very excited to meet fellow fat creatives. Unfortunately it didn’t go as I envisioned. There ended up being only two fat people in attendance- myself and my friend who is not from UAL whom I invited. The other attendees were not fat by most societal standards, and this was something that caused both myself and my friend a lot of anxiety. Where we had hoped to be in a room full of people like us, we instead felt incredibly anxious and judged.

It may not have been the intention of the other attendees, but when thin people invade safe spaces designed for fat people it leaves those who are fat feeling alien and excluded. Having to listen to someone talk about how they used to be fat, (FYI size 16 is actually the average size of a woman in the UK) how they didn’t feel welcome in some fat spaces, and about their fatter friends was actually deeply patronising and insulting, but we felt unable to voice these opinions. It made both of us deeply distressed, which was the opposite of how I hoped we would feel at the end of the workshop. It has taken me a while to write this blog post, as I have been trying to organise my thoughts and write about the workshop in a less emotional way, however I now realise that my emotions are a valid response, and I would be doing myself a disservice not to put them down.

The artwork that this workshop was a response to caused a deeply emotional and visceral response in me when I first heard about it, and even more so when I saw it in person. When you see something that is an exaggeration of what your own body looks like and you witness school children walk past it making disgusted noises and making comments like “ew that’s what happens when you eat too much”, amongst other things, it does not make you feel good. It made me feel sick, angry, upset, and brought to the surface all of the body image issues I have been struggling with since I was a child. The fact that fat bodies are objectified and ridiculed by society means that safe spaces where we can be ourselves without shame are deeply important and needed.

The vast majority of people who are not fat, and who have never been fat, cannot understand what it is like to exist in a fat body. Our bodies are constantly policed, every choice we make scrutinised; from what we “can” and “can’t” wear, what we “should” and “shouldn’t” eat, how much or little we exercise, to whether we need mobility aids, and how we travel.

When being fat is enough to have people bully and fat shame you in school, in shops, online, at work, on public transport, in court, –pretty much everywhere you go- it is a daily act of rebellion to even dare to exist.

I understand that anyone, at any size, can feel “fat” and struggle with body issues and self esteem, and I am not trying to detract from that, or invalidate their feelings. Diet culture, fatphobia, and our society’s obsession with the “perfect” body affects everyone, but those who are not what western society considers to be “fat” should be mindful of the impact their presence will have when they enter a safe space designed for fat people.

Safe spaces are not exclusionary, but by definition they should be spaces where marginalised people feel safe, comfortable, and able to express themselves- this can be difficult when people who do not share your experiences talk over you and take over the space. If you are entering a safe space that is not aimed at you (for example, if you are straight and entering a safe space for LGBTQ+ people) it is up to you to be thoughtful, considerate of your words and actions, and to listen to what members of that marginalised group have to say. Acknowledge that you come from a place of privilege, and choose to be part of a positive change. Ask questions, but respect that some things might be hard to answer.

This is not what happened at the workshop, and it was deeply saddening and frustrating. Going forwards I plan on organising this event again, outside of UAL, so that I can invite all the amazing, non UAL fat creatives I know from social media, and hopefully create the space I hoped for.

Below are photographs of some of the work created during the workshop, which came out really cool! So a positive amongst the negatives.