Preview :: Jodie Whalen at MOP
May 24th 2011
Nick La Rosa
Jodie Whalen’s first tattoo will read “60kg” in Times New Roman. As claimed by the Body Mass Index used by professionals and the government, at present she is morbidly obese. 60kg is the mid point within the prescribed ‘ideal’ body weight range for her height. “This is not an exaggeration," Jodie explains, "but most of the woman I have spoken to about weight issues have told me that their ideal weight would be 60kg, regardless of how tall they are.”
Onsite at MOP, on May 26, Jodie will be inked and filmed. A dual channel video of the live scene will afford the viewer multiple perspectives of a practice aimed to question thought patterns on body image and beauty in our Western culture.
Jodie’s interest in the intersection of art and real life started with a fascination with publicising private exercise rituals and have since hatched into sugared plots. In the video Positive/Negative (2009) Jodie inhales an amber toffee shape over 43 minutes and 46 seconds – a symbol of a single day's calorie intake. In Take One (2008-11), Jodie recorded her weight loss in two week intervals, transformed the loss back into concrete forms as toffee and held a stall at which people could ‘take one’ – parceling out the weight to the public.
With 70 hours of filmed workouts, three years of fad food regimes, meal pills and ultra detoxes and a solo show, I’m Worth My Weight In Gold to date, Jodie has tested herself from all angles. Despite her enduring force, it’s the recent shift from video performance to live art that’s upping her nervous aura. “I completed a five hour durational performance in (Oxford Art Factory's) Cube as apart of the Free Fall program. Basically I raised my hand to exercise for five hours straight, with no break and interaction with the audience, most of who had come to see the bands and not a fat girl exercise. It was tough in terms of the environment and the length. All my insecurities came to the front of my mind, and I had to push on through them, even when I was receiving fat taunts and funny looks.”
Mostly Jodie films herself and runs with an amateur video aesthetic so as to make the work as honest and sincere as possible. It is heads like Mike Parr and his video Hold Your Breath For As Long As Possible (1972) that made plain how simple it can be – a viewer’s feelings can pile up and ricochet in minutes.
Jodie’s gestures highlight the system we’re living in, explore contemporary pop psychologies obsessed with physical beauty and ask: what happens if we bring humdrum rituals into the gallery? The ideas are in line with those of The Beauty Myth author Naomi Wolf who said, “new possibilities for women quickly become new obligations,” and Parramatta Artist Studios fellow Tom Polo, whose work explores society’s corrosive anxiety and inherent desire for success. And though Jodie informs me, “plastic surgery is one of the fastest growing industries in Australia, and one of the only industries globally that continued to grow through the GFC, and not just a little bit but exceptionally,” she is in for the slow burn before the camera.
What: Sixty Kilograms by Jodie Whalen
Where: MOP, 2/39 Abercrombie Street, Chippendale
When: 26 May 2011
How much: Free