Kings College ‘3-Days of Fat’

3 Days of Fat, a collaboration between Thought Collider, Arne Hendricks and the Department of Nutritional Sciences at King's, is a series of 'live' art-science experiments, focused on the construction of an island of fat, to critically reflect upon our complex relationship with this material, what it is and what it might yet become.

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Gendering a Fatberg by Lucy Sanderson

Gendering a Fatberg arrives during a transitional period in London, where our lack of education, our greed, and our vanity is reflected through the disgusting visualisation of the highs and lows of living in the city. The sewer fatberg phenomena renders visible a succession of things that are typically hidden from view. As Becky Trotman from Thames Water notes of their Monster of Whitechapel exhibit at the sewer of London, the fatberg is a vivid reminder that out of sight does not mean not gone forever. Is the Fatberg then, in fact, a mirror image of society?

A 1:50 scale replica of the Victorian sewer system was created to shape a fatberg at speed. Harvest Festivals’ evil twin lay beside the aquarium tank – a concoction of everyday materials, objects and ingredients including babies nappies, tampons, cooking oil, condoms, anti-depressants, weight-loss powder, muscle-building formula, baby-wipes, steroids and contraceptive pills. The vibrations and ripples of sewer current were replicated using an aquarium pump. Syringing the newly melted fat, and pouring the ingredients into the water, the tank resembled a lava lamp as the components mixed and solidified where the currents met. The fat acts as the minority agent binding the majority objects together to form an embryonic Fatberg. The moment these everyday materials touch the water they morph into an untouchable object. The congealed mass where the materials come together formed a portal for discussion as prudish voyeurs voiced their disgust, pointing at recognisable everyday objects through the cloudy water.

New materialist feminism places the body, rather than language, at the centre of discussion, with the sensorial parts of the body that we find difficult to articulate – the orifices – divided into two groups: The Freudian trio of erogenous zones — the genitals, anus and the mouth; and the key sensory organs —the eyes, ears and nostrils. Note that the division occurs at the emission of raw matter – of liquids, of solids, of revolting visions, sounds, smells, gaseous and spiritual invaders.

If assigned the XX chromosome from birth, chances are you bleed, leak, carry children, put on weight and have generally been represented as the weaker vessel throughout history. Many of the so-called ‘objects of disgust’ discovered in the Fatberg have been used to assist in counteracting these unavoidable processes. When our insides can be understood as vile jelly, viscous ooze, or a storage area for excrement, the orifices become dangerous points of emission of polluting matter, dangerous both to us and to others. Humans are merely vessels of sweat and oil production until they become obsolete. When does a clean body become dirty and a dirty body clean?

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