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Anxious Body: Selected Work

Anxious Body

2018, Nanjing

With saliva mixed with desires, I devour food in gloom and depression. I hide all what is glutinous and bland in a black hole till my body is enlarged to the extreme. I feel myself fragile, ugly, and greedy. The complicated convoluted moods turn into ferocious monsters.   

Food has become a symbol of power in this world where the weak are the prey of the strong. It seems that I do not eat food, but it is food that eats me. When appetite evolves from a physiological need into a psychological one, constant eating does not mean to stay hunger any more, and one is not in a mood for taste enjoyment. Food has thus gone awry and become a symbolic carrier to satisfy one’s psychological need. 

To me, such an act of gluttony is actually a spiritual salvation to redress the gap between deficiency and perfection by constantly taking in food after I realized the gap between the actual self and the ideal self. It seems to help dispel the sense of loss caused by that gap. As gluttony goes on, the two verbs of “occupy” and “attain” has stricken an extreme balance between deficiency and perfection.

This is after all a form of self-destruction as a result of disappointment and indignation. It actually manifests a process of resistance, collapse and disintegration, making me even more indignant at my own body and ensnaring me in a vicious circle. 

But body, as a container of food, is no longer a kind of organism, but a linguistic sign just like identity that carries and reflects the relationship between the decent behavior, politics, and power of a society. Hence it has become a social place. Just as the American artist Suzanne Lacy puts it: “Body is not merely a place. It is an important source of information as well. Women’s status is dependent, to a large degree, on their bodies.” 

This so-called division is embodied in the act of gaze. The way we watch and are watched has affected our identity as a social being. It demonstrates the convoluted relationship between vision control and power in society. The visual representation that those having greater power “manipulate” their inferiors has somewhat “controlled” their method and motive in reviewing their bodies. Some specific body types are presented as ideal objects of desires, while other unbalanced body types are viewed as “defects” and are despised. 

By and by, to survive in society, those having less power or those with unbalanced body types have no alternative but to submissively pursue the perfection standard attached with social preposition and value judgment, so as to avoid the risk of being marginalized. They would try to rationalize the addition to the perfect body shape, such as going on a strict diet and engaging in intensive physical training, and they would argue that these motives and behavior show the fine quality of abstinence. 

This combination between beauty and suppression has become a harsh act of violence. It’s like a religious worship in the contemporary world, giving people’s everyday life a kind of transcending existence or power. It inspires people to live with a perfect sense of “exceeding oneself” and “pursuing sacredness”. They diminish or deform actual conflicts and deceptively carry out self-restriction and abstinence under the pretext of self-discipline and fine virtues.  

In fact, food is the master while gluttons are the slaves of food. In this frenetic religious atmosphere, body itself has become an offering in the sacrificial ceremony and is experiencing a “perfect” yet painful revival. 

Cooperate with Lan Xu

Anxious Body: Projects
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