She Masticated Nothing (2019) Red Watered Silk, Cotton Calico, Applique Photocopied Paper, Glass Beads, Gold Thread, Mild Steel Stand, Galvanised Steel Chains, Bramley Apples. Photos courtesy Paul Chapellier.
This object is horrific to me.
The coat began at a time when I needed to pull myself out of unpleasant thoughts and behaviours around food. It began with me cutting up magazines, cutting out all of the sequinned
and metallic clothing. Clothing for parties, clothing to signify sociability, at a time when leaving the front door was untenable.
I had no idea why, or what I would do with them. I photocopied them, I
started embroidering them onto panels, loosely with the idea of making a worm-eel-creature by attaching them together. Perhaps it was the desire to make a sigil, who would act as protection if I went outside, who would shield my shame from the world. The worm turned into intestines, then it turned into an intestine-snake,
I planned to put it on a panel of fabric (you can see my original drawing on this page),
then I decided to make a sort of armour, so I put it on a coat (you can also see this drawing, above). Nothing I do starts from a design which I execute to the letter: it is always an evolution, a process, that is constantly changing and responding. I don't think I could work within the structure of design>implementation, and I also don't want to.
The text on the coat is a quote from Gargantua and Pantagreul (Rabelais). It reads:
She masticated nothing: not that she did not have good strong teeth nor that the foods did not require mastication, but such was her manner and custom. Her foods, after the Tasters had assayed them, were taken over by her Chewers and nobly masticated for her, their throats being lined with crimson satin containing streaks of gold and gold-braid, whilst their teeth were of beautiful white ivory: with such help, once they had masticated her food to a turn, they poured it directly into her stomach through a funnel of fine gold.
For the same reason, she never had a stool except by procuration.
At the time that I read this, with so much horror and ambivalence surrounding food and eating, the idea of a disembodied system of digestion sounded like the ultimate fantasy. At the same time, holding onto this reproduces violent ideas of sovereignty, dignity and bodily functions. Sure, it would be great if my digestion happened somewhere else, over there, but overwhelmingly the class-based privilege of outsourcing unpleasant tasks doesn't make the task disappear, it just means a lot of other people have to carry out the task. The person that Rabelais is describing, not incidentally, is a queen. And also, what's so wrong with digestion? Why so much horror that it should need to be outsourced? There are a lot of things this intersects with in terms of the privileging of brain over body (as though the two are separate) and the gendering of these arbitrary distinctions, but I talk about this a lot in other projects, and also, I don't want to draw any foregone conclusions, all I keep thinking is how in many ways my dream is to live in a world where we could be brains in jars and at the same time I am ashamed at this, and I don't know where that leaves me.
Food is a convenient metaphor for existence
Cheese of the soul