Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Open call for The BIG Idea: A visual exploration of contemporary culture & obesity

Being able to combine my background in the Arts with a new journey passion of food lifestyle, I was excited to submit a piece of work for this competition. 

"Artists are asked to respond to issues ranging from the cyborg, the medicalization of the body, the obesogenic environment, the psychological complexity of obesity, body and boundaries or obesity and space, to positions on consumption and consumerism, or the “super-sized”. Artists are encouraged to bring perspectives to the subject that challenge, support, and ultimately broaden the dialogue surrounding obesity. Artists should also consider (but not be restricted by) the mission of the Canadian Obesity Network".

My submitted work showed images of my contemporary combination of calories in versus calories out and thus the work is called kCalories in vs kCalories out. That is the way we measure our food, in kilocalories not calories as marketed. The significance of kilo being 1000 more than what we are told is significant. Through collected snapshots I reveal my failings in weak will and pleasure seeking with trying to achieve the Barbie body. The images are bloated over a thin line drawing of a girl. ‘We are wired for pleasure’ neuroscientist Candice Pert wrote in Molecules of Emotion: 1999. So you get trapped in a obsessive cycle of guilt. Obesity used to be termed a malnutrition (under eating) disorder that needed a doctor. But somehow along the lines, judgement tones of sloth and gluttony cast guilt on such individuals and they need to see a psychologist for weak minds and indulging (over eating).

Training at the Olympic level, in a weight restricted sport of rowing, the absolute focus on the perfect body is a constant struggle I battle every day. I wade through the seas of opinions from public perception and incorrect research preached generating self-doubt in the ego and skin. I read the self-help, diet books and mental trainings, to have nothing but intrusive thoughts of food still persisting. In 186 images I portray my visual imprint of this necessary fuel, that both ‘crowns and crucifies me’ -The Prophet, Khalil Gibran: 1923).

The printed image stands at 64 inches, (5 feet 4”) which according to Wikepedia is the average height of a woman. The width of this image measures at 35 inches. If any width of women’s body reaches that measurement, says the NIH, she is calculated as obese. The work is printed on paper that is tiled and assembled together, instead of one large printed image. This represents the inches of matter added on the body in the weight gain process. In accordance to the well known BMI calculations, if your values of height and weight reach 30+ you are calculated as obese. This corresponds to the 30+ tiles needed to put this image together in full.

The flood of media, with TV, print ads, newsprint discounts and flashing billboards bombard us with what to eat and to make decisions about food all day long. Thus the artwork is intensive in images. Hungry is irrelevant, but rather buying, eating, consuming and rewarding yourself with food is. Most of these food-like imitations, terrible for you, wrought in additives and added sugar forcing a natural craving in us. I was born in South Africa, and come with influences from the San people who wondered the Kalahari deserts. In the Paleolithic way, before processed, they would come across something so sweet like a tablespoon of sugar, in the form honey and would want to consume large amounts, for they were not going to get that source of fast-fuel burning carbohydrate for a long time. Now a tablespoon of sugar is put in everything, in the form of a synthetic corn-syrup. A very natural craving is turned against us for commercialism. We are blamed for having weak minds or will power for wanting another cookie. Advertising says low fat, and then adds more sugar. Fruits and vegetables say nothing at all, but go for more in dollar than a box of Cheerios which contains very little nutrients other than sugar. (In Defense of Food, Michael Pollen: 2010) Exercise more, but eat less. But when you exercise you build up appetite. When you restrict the body of food, it becomes less active to compensate. ‘Tension resulting from trying to hold two incompatible beliefs simultaneously’ as Gary Taubes writes, is the energy balance effect. Energy can not be created or destroyed, only transferred from one form to another. In the time it took me to create this artwork, I did not eat. But as soon as I stopped, I consumed 2 eggs, butternut squash and protein powder, left over salad and shrimp cooked in coconut oil, ginger and garlic and thought about the fudge in the fridge.

doesn’t get fat because it overeats, it overeats because it gets fat’ - Gary Taubes (Why We Get Fat : 2011)

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