Published on November 11, 2013 | by Hollie Bracciale


Eating disorders explored in new CSM exhibition

Size Matters display at CSM

CSM exhibition based on the essays of Lorraine Gamman and the featuring illustrations by Lucie Russell [Mary Clarke]

A new exhibition at CSM explores the ‘unhealthy’ relationship society has with food and how certain ideals of body shape result in unnecessary surgery.

CSM Professor of Design Lorraine Gamman and illustrator Lucie Russell, an external researcher at CSM, have collaborated on the exhibition.

They use a combination of text and imagery to discuss how an unrealistic body image is promoted through fashion to a society obsessed with food.

Female Slenderness and the Case of Perverse Compliant Deception – or Why Size Matters looks at how people find being slim unachievable and simply give up on the idea of the perfect body, finding comfort in eating, which then leads to obesity.

Comfort food

“Obesity and anorexia are not just body shapes, they are manifestations of our mental health,” Russell explained.

Gamman believes one of the causes of the obesity epidemic is the advertising of food, which tells people they can eat twice as much for half the calories or the cost. “We can’t have our cake and eat it too,” she said.

Other parts of society to blame are the fashion industry and the media, which reinforce ideas of a slender figure as being ideal. Russell thinks that slim has now become “another definition of perfection”.

“It’s a compulsion to compare ourselves to what is presented as the norm. Fashion operates like this. The fact women rarely see positive images of curvy women in fashion magazines or the press means we begin to believe that images are more real than us,” said Gamman.

Misleading images of women in the media and the obesity problem are distorting people’s self-image and causing confusion between being slightly overweight and being obese.

“The gastric band could be seen as a high-tech quick-fix design solution to the problems in the West where exercise is no longer part of everyday working life … a corset placed inside the stomach seems to work a lot more effectively than one fitted outside of it.”


“It’s a compulsion to compare ourselves to what is presented as the norm. Fashion operates like this.” – Prof. Lorraine Gamman

However, such procedures have a stigma attached to them, shown by women who deny that they have had surgery, such as TV personalities Vanessa Feltz and Fern Britton.

Russell, whose illustrations add provoking visuals for these arguments, is interested in “the idea that a personal and private decision may only be thought of as successful when it becomes public, such as an internal gastric band operation leading to external physical weight loss. The process has to be seen to have worked.”

The Window Gallery at CSM proved a challenging space for the exhibition. A screen with text acts as a skin to read before viewers are forced to get closer to the window in order to see the pieces. Russell’s fleshy and intimate illustrations are seen through small peepholes in an almost fetishised way.

“The way we created the exhibition is all about choice and perception. This is not a shop window telling you how to look. You can choose to read as little or as much as you like,” Russell told ALN.

“So often we are bombarded with information, hopefully this display is not intrusive, instead it is a trigger for ones own personal contemplation,” she added.

The exhibition will run until November 14 at CSM Granary Building.



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