If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.
—On Steve MCQueen
"As they become known to and accepted by us, our feelings and the honest exploration of them become sanctuaries and spawning grounds for the most radical and daring of ideas. They become a safe house for that difference so necessary to change and the conceptualisation of any meaningful action. Right now, I could name at least ten ideas I would have found intolerable of incomprehensible and frightening, except as they came after dreams and poems. This is not idle fantasy, but a disciplined attention to the true meaning of it ‘it feels right to me’. We can train ourselves to respect our feelings and to transpose them into a language so they can be shared. And where that language does not yet exist, it is our poetry which helps to fashion it. Poetry is not only dream and vision; it is the skeleton architecture of our lives. It lays the foundations for a future of change, a bridge across our fears of what has never been before."
For those of you who own a TV and would actually spend time watching Barbara Walters’ interview people her yearly special on people she thinks are fascinating is airing soon, mind you she’s interviewing famous people. I’m pretty sure she isn’t interviewing activists, community builders and others…
Dear one and all,
(this is long, make a brew)
I have been putting the flourishing touches to my new project over the past few months. Between epic journeys to Texas, NYC and Holland I have been manically fundraising, drumming up support, finding collaborators and of course been in deep…
The ultimate tool for corporations to sustain a culture of this sort is to develop the 40-hour workweek as the normal lifestyle. Under these working conditions people have to build a life in the evenings and on weekends. This arrangement makes us naturally more inclined to spend heavily on entertainment and conveniences because our free time is so scarce.
I’ve only been back at work for a few days, but already I’m noticing that the more wholesome activities are quickly dropping out of my life: walking, exercising, reading, meditating, and extra writing.
The one conspicuous similarity between these activities is that they cost little or no money, but they take time.
I don’t want to anything.
It was an image I stole, I think. I stole it because in the image in question, the girl was entrenched in the cake, she was trapped in it - but she was also eating it. She had to eat her way out, but she was trapped by food. And also it was beautiful. That’s what a diet is to me, it’s a beautiful entrapment in food. That metaphor makes perfect sense to me.
Also, cake is so fucking feminine and twee now, in that Zooey Deschanel “look I bought cupcakes!” bullshit way. I love that shit - blankets, and pretty things, and smelly things, and cutesy patootsy bollocks - of course I love it, because it’s designed for you to love it. But, also, it’s a distraction from things that matter. But that doesn’t mean it’s unimportant.
I learnt in Ipswich as well that it’s fucking grose. It’s smelly, and heavy and sticky, it goes like playdough, it’s an infirm foundation. It’s rotting and drying out instantly. It’s doomed.
I am anti diet. I am not anti health - exercising, eating right being strong and fit are good. It is important to feel attractive too, whatever that might mean for you. But calorie counting, self hating, symptom treating with no thought for the cause is a painful, dangerous waste of time.
Why A Dress?
I am a big fan of spectacle. I wanted to make something huge and beautiful. Fashion is a big part of dieting for me. The naked body is hidden. Or sexual. The fat sexual body isn’t something that concerns me, or something that I think about. But the clothed fat body, the presentation of fat socially does. My biggest concern about getting too fat is no longer being able to fit in clothes from Asos, H&M and New Look - Evans is for mums and I’ve already lost Topshop. I only ever feel fat when I want exciting costumes for shows, and know it will be an uphill struggle.
Why so much waste?
I never really thought about it. Is food only useful or of any worth if it is eaten? If I make something out of it, if I’m completely engaged with and absorbed by it for 7 hours, is that really a waste? I’m not using food as sustenance, it’s an artistic material. Eat it, if you want, I’ll provide forks. Look at it, if you like, we’ll try and make it beautiful. Be repulsed by it, if needs be. Smell it, be overwhelmed by it, gag a bit. Be angry about the waste, about dustpans full of cake being thrown into a skip. Some could argue that as a morbidly obese lady I waste food everyday. Arugably, gluttony is a waste of food.
Does you eat?
Yes, this time. Cake around me, cake within me. The bowl licking aesthetic of making a cake with a friend. Hands dirty.
Does Jess eat?
Yes, of course. At the end of the piece, she sits and nibbles away at the cake, situated to the right, my friend in arms. The space is clear, the cake is lit. I am successful in my aims. But she is my niggling doubt, and she eats away at me.
She, and the other women that populate the charts with her - Rihanna and Rita Ora and Lady Gaga and Little Mix and Kesha and Robyn and Kelly Rowland and Katy Perry and all the rest - they are my blueprints for womanhood. It really hurts to type that. There are others too, better ones. My mum (but that’s another show altogether), other artists that I admire (but they’re too far, too remote to emulate), friends (a curious mix of love, envy, disregard, a constant sensation of not enoughness, of being let down), politicians (not enough, boring, embodiment of corrupt systems). But they are the most accessible, the most shiny. One dreams of being their friends, of being like them, of looking like them. They are the soundtrack to nights out, to getting dressed, the endless background noise of media. Celeb culture is how my generation is taught about society right now, it’s expectations of us. Those women and the presentation of them teach me what sexy should be, even if it’s not what it is. Those women and the presentation of them teach me how I should look, even if I could never look that way. I think they’re idiots in the most part, or at least only human, but those women form the background in my head when I present myself to the world. They are in my life, whether I want it or not.They are an atmosphere of pressure, of unmeetable expectation. I thought they did not influence me, but they are somewhere in there.
Also, it’s pretty and glamorous and trashy. And I love that aesthetic. See? Just like Cake and Kitsch: I love it, because it’s designed for me to love it. But, also, it’s a distraction from things that matter. But that doesn’t mean it’s unimportant.
Ask me what I’m doing
Let’s talk logisitics
Ask me what it represents
Tell me about dieting
Tell me about your body
Ask me about when I’ve dieted
Have a cup of tea
Stand in for Jess
Remember that people arrive at any work about the body with their own agenda, their own issues, their own experiences. You must be open to that.
The background is celebrity culture, the manifestation of that pressure is the cake dress.