Is Empathy only present if you are well and well fed?

Starvation Diet. What is it?

Mmmmmm chocolate, Mmmmmm sandwich, Mmmmmm doughnuts, Mmmmmm beer. Spoilt for choice. Trying to resist. When I resist I put the money in a pot. When the pot is full I send it (the money, not the pot) to somebody who needs it to survive. The art comes about through the documentation of the process, here and in other places. There is no end to this project.


22 Nov 2011

Starvation Diet Book

I've now completed the Starvation Diet Book. It tells the story of the project and focuses on some of the key topics which came up throughout it. You can see a preview of it and order a book here.

20 Sep 2011

Art Novel or not?



If an art project fails to alter and just replicates an original rule does it become stunted or more insightful.  Should we as artists always strive to present novelty in an effort to turn life on its head?

Slow Art and Novelty


There may be a reason why most art projects come to an end.  Even if if your life's work is to make furniture you need to feel that at some point you sand off the last bit of wood on an individual chair and stand it there as finished.  If your work is as a conceptual artist you go through your prescribed process, you document it, maybe you present that documentation and then you stop. Maybe themes recur, maybe the work gets recreated  but you move on.  Starvation Diet was set as a life project. The end would be when I died.   The measure of its success or failure my weight on death and the amount of money donated.  But as I've gone along I've found it increasingly difficult to sustain.  I think the reason art projects  and other things we do have an end is because we intrinsically look for novelty. We would love to be wonderfully persistence people with sustained interest but in things we do we long to find the ability to conclude one thing and move onto another. 

This is not to say that we shouldn't strive for life long endeavours.  Maybe we do this through making the project an underlying structure from which other things originate from, sit alongside or inform. Maybe we have to step away from it for a while and then return refreshed.  Maybe we segment it and mark the end of each phase.

8 Jul 2011

Ideas for a starvation diet t shirt photoshoot



A few years ago I received my People Tree catalogue through the post. I'm not sure which year it was and after about an hour of internet searching can find no evidence of it. The reason it came to mind of late is that it seemed to me to be misguided. The models were placed in their expensive clothes in front of those who had made them, Indian sowers and African Weavers perhaps. The clothes had to be the focus, as that is what were being asked to purchase, but whilst showing the garments the company tried to make the link between the makers of the clothes and its ethical origins and the finished product. It was probably a great idea sat around a marketing table but when seen it created a feeling of unease and I felt undermined what the company try to do. I am a supporter of ethical trade and interested in where my products originate from but placing the people as an attractive backdrop to the clothes created images too full of contrast. It underlined the richness of our lives compared to others and put me off buying the clothes in the catalogue. I note from the current catalogue (top picture from here) that they haven't gone down this route again. I found this site on my search for the catalogue images http://eng.feministblogs.org/tag/nation-india/page/2/
( from where the second image hails). There is an interesting article on the use of cultures, their architecture, nature and people as backdrops to Western beauty. It makes the point that by choosing this backdrop the companies give the buyer a feeling that they are buying into the exotic. By People Tree choosing developing country backdrops are they at once indicating the exotic and reminding the buyer to feel smugly good at no real cost to themselves. If this is the feeling I got from these images does it underline something which is intrinsicly strange about fair trade. Of course fair trade is a better option than just trade but should it have the title fairer trade, indicating at its place as a process rather than a conclusion. A stepping stone on the path to truly fair trade which, in an infinite resource planet is two pronged. The first prong being a raising of the living standers of those living in abject poverty and the second the sacrifice of some of our unsustainable luxuries to bring our lives to a less decadent place. Does buying another top, no matter how nobly sourced forward the aim for equality or does nurturing my greed for more clothes, more novelty, more stuff ultimately lead to more inequality both geographically and generationally.

This is not an attack on People Tree, us as its customers or fair trade in general.It was just an observation and maybe a cautionary note that we must carry on thinking, challenging our perceptions and behaviours, moving ever forward. The world is an every changing story. Current droughts in Africa may lead to instability in countries we had ticked off our list as solved. The troubles of countries we have seen as nice holiday destinations such as Greece, may throw the economies of the world into turmoil. We are living in a time where each individual must be adaptable in their views and perceptions. Nothing is set in stone, everything should be up for debate. As artists we can use our role as agitators, observers and re-presenters to tackle things of worth.

All this thought and research came about as I have finished the first version of my starvation diet T-Shirt. The stitching indicates the body of a starving woman ( after much research the only vital statistics I found near to this were those relating to a size 0) . When worn by me it will show up the contrast between my body and that of a person suffering from the symptoms of starvation. I want to do a parody of a fashion shoot so was pondering on replicating the ones I saw in that People Tree Catalogue. I will probably approach it in a few different ways and see what resonates best.

28 Jun 2011

A few Facts on Stravation



One way of measuring malnutrition in children:
•Mid Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) :
•MUAC <125mm >110mm
•MUAC < 110 mm OR the presence of bipedal oedema

Taken from World Health Organisation web site

Is everybody actually getting fatter?


I've been trying to research vital statistics for a starving woman. The reason for this may seem a little shocking. I want to create a T shirt as a reminder of the extremes of weight which exists between me and somebody who has been deprived of food to the point of starving. I am struggling because as with most subjects things are not as simple as they first appear.
I keep finding a lot of research on the growing obesity epidemic in Developing countries. Its shown in this chart and the quote below from;
here

"The number of obese people in many countries is fast overtaking the number who are underweight — even in the poorest rural regions (see Figure 2). In Mexico, for example, nearly 60 per cent of people are overweight, compared with less than ten per cent underweight."

I have also ended up going down the route of looking at size 0 and what this means. Its easier to find the vital statistics for this, its 31.5" Bust 23" Waist and 34" Hips. There are lots of articles about starving models and the two sisters models who died of cardiovascular arrest and stomach leaks due to starving themselves. I think this is misleading though as its a very different issue to deprive yourself in a land of plenty than to be the victim of famine. If anybody out there can think of a place to go and look for the info I need it would be a great help. Its the vital statistics of a starving 37 year oldish woman in say Chad, India or Ethiopia.

Economic Rationalism

The true evil of economic rationalism
Vast amounts of value, of jobs and long term sustainability of communities have been destroyed across the world in the name of economic rationalism.
It is economic rational to build "super stores" in small and medium towns to destroy local commerce, drive down prices and create greater levels of consumer debt.
It is economic rational to sell international brands in high spending consumer markets at outrageous mark-ups, while paying children in third world countries a few cents and item to make them under slave conditions;
It is economic rational to make naturally grown pain killer crops illegal in major regions such as Africa, the forcing governments to purchase vast quantities of out of date synthetic pain killers from US and European pharmaceutical companies that remain ineffective and too expensive for 90% of the population.
In all cases, economists argue that these are just extreme cases and that the "free market" has produced phenomenal amounts of wealth and raised the standard of living of countless hundreds of millions.
But is this even true? Does living in a non-de script cul de sac two hours from work with neighbours you don't even know quality of life?
Is a large screen TV, the latest gadgets and internet porn really improving the minds of your children or the closeness of your family?
Are we really happy with everything we buy and still find ways to purchase more? or dow e convince ourselves we are happy, to make sense of a system that seems to lose a little more morality every day?
In the absence of morality in decisions concerning the lives of human beings and its acceptance, it is only "rational" then to conceive of a time in great disasters that governments claim it to be "economically rational" to give up on great numbers of people and let them rot.
When these times approach, the true nature and evil of economic rationalism will reveal itself to be one of the great evil acts of history.

From here:http://one-evil.org/acts/acts_economic_rationalism.htm

27 Jun 2011

Failure or not a Failure?

I've sent the starvation diet idea off to a group exhibition about failed art. I'm not really sure if this is failed art but thought that it threw up some interesting ideas about when and why we judge something failed.
The text from this is here:

Starvation Diet Failure Statement

“Starvation Diet” is an art/ life project based around food inequality. The premise was that I resisted food I didn’t need and gave the money saved to charity. The process was documented through, photography, film, text and currently resides on a blog site and a half finished book. As the project developed it involved others in “Starvation Diet, the next generation”, explored an idea called “Extreme Starvation Diet” generated a shared weighing scales element and resulted in my losing 2 stone and giving £367.00 to the charity practical action.

Why do I consider it a failed work?

The true nature of it as failure or success will only be evident at the moment of my death. The aim is to raise £10,000 in my lifetime and to remain at a healthy weight. The work is currently in a state of failure as I am putting on weight, have not donated in 3 months and have stopped noting the things I have resisted. The Next generation have not carried on with the project. The work is part of an effort to create slower art with less of a discernable end. This form of art brings up all sorts of issues around success and failure. At what date do we decide on a projects success and how does this choice of date skew this? When the lines between life and art blur are there more pit falls and less artistic control. As artists do we have the tenacity to stay with long term projects and not be distracted by new ideas and works.

Looking back


Was just looking back at my starvation diet blog and realised that I haven't included anything about the Interactive scales project. The idea came about when I was considering buying a set of scales to weigh myself with. I decided that it was daft to posses something which you would use so infrequently. I also saw a way of picking up my activity levels. I set the rules for weigh in that:
I had to weigh myself on somebody else's set of scales
I had to get there under my own steam
I could only use each set of scales once.

So it began and was charted here:
http://www.bethbarlow.com/completed_pages/scales_map.html

25 Mar 2011

A long time missing-the temptation to stop because its lost its novelty


This was supposed to be a life project but its turning out to be tricky to keep it in the forefront of my mind. As with lots of art projects they slip in and out of focus and so has my commitment to this. I have started filling in my sheets again and trying to resist. I can feel the inches coming back on a little and I know its perverse but the thing which makes me want to refocus is seeing others about me who have extra weight. In this country we hear common phrases like " I just don't know how I got like this." " I hate myself for being this fat." and people passify with phrases like " Your not fat your just cuddly." or " There are plenty of people bigger than you are." or say of you " You have lovely hair." which is a sure fire distraction from the issue. I haven't decided if we should hate ourselves for being overweight. Not because it looks bad and might turn others off their dinners but because of the moral obligation to eat our fair share and nothing more. This has made me think of an art experiment, possibly the opposite of the extreme Starvation diet where I ate only rice and porridge. In this new work I would have a big cheap and nasty cake, I would chop it into slices one huge and one just a slither. The tiny bit I would give to someone, maybe my son to eat. Maybe I wouldn't tell him why he was only getting a small piece and I was going to eat every other bit. The other I would plough through myself. Maybe it could be filmed with flash images of the needy, too fast that they don't register on the concious. Maybe this is just striving after novelty again though and I just need to keep on with the mundane, both for the sake of the art, life and the message. I shall ponder on the validity of this one.