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'It's All Going Down the Shitter' (2023-24)

The sculptural piece reflects on the multiple meanings of consumption: ingestion, exhausting resources and disease. It draws comparisons between the artist's personal experiences of self-induced intoxication and insatiable gluttony with a self-exploitative neoliberal consumerist society. They aim to display these cycles and systems as illnesses of individual and collective, affecting the health of our bodies, psyche and milieu. This blog post will take a deeper look into the work from the artist’s perspective.

It's All Going Down the Shitter (2023-4)

Anna Stevens

Cardboard, expanding foam, plaster, glass, wire, textiles and paint

60x30x40 cm

Self-Portrait as a Businessman (2002-4)

Pawel Althamer

The suit jacket refers to Pawel Althamer’s Self-Portrait as a Businessman (2002-4), where the artist dressed in a suit, emptied his belongings from his pockets, undressed and walked away. The clothes and objects remained discarded in the same spot for the duration of the exhibition. I wanted to acknowledge his ability to have the artist and body present in its absence and to discuss the feeling of emptiness or incompleteness one feels when influences promise a commodity or idea to fill that space inside. This void is inevitably never filled and one is persuaded to continue on their path of consumption, creating a cycle of desire and unquenched sickness. The absent figure (or rather self-portrait) is only half dressed to continue upon the imagery of something missing and the state of drunk confusion. By utilising my own clothes and a cast of my own foot, I see this as a self-portrait, an extension and omission of my own body and identity. This is also why the work needed to be life-size, so I could put myself in those shoes when making the work (quite literally) Having the figure stooped over the toilet seat is something most of us can relate to, whether through a fault of our own or not. I like to imagine the regurgitation that envelops the piece as both a physical substance of illness, an emotional state of the individual and a conceptual poisoning of society. The businessman get-up is interesting to me too, as individual consumers who are making choices that ultimately affect the lives of all kin and how this should be considered when thinking about accountability for environmental destruction and death.

The work utilises materials that are waste products from my own consumption, all modified and mutated into something else. For example, under the layers of paint and plaster, there lies a real red wine bottle, which has grown black, tar-like bumps and sags. It has been turned into an image of violence, with the burnt textiles protruding from the neck to reference a Molotov cocktail, as a way to reimage the welcomed bottle as a vessel for self-inflicted bodily and psychological damage and as a way to remember the youthful rebellion of drinking.

Expanding foam felt like a good option for this piece as it expands and moves almost like it has a mind of its own, nearly organically, as if it were trying to engulf the materials in its way. Originally, I had planned to paint the foam red, as a reference to my favourite outdated creature feature The Blob (1959), where a fleshy mass terrorises a community by engulfing the residents one by one. However, I instead opted for black, as a nod to poisoning and oil spills, where whole bodies and ecosystems are infected, showing addiction and consumer gluttony both for what I feel they are.

Ultimately, this piece feels like perhaps the most personal and vulnerable work that I've made so far. I've realised this piece as I am going through a self-realisation, at a pivotal moment in my life, where I am confronting my connection with alcohol, and how my actions, emotions and relationships are shaped by it. Whilst this continues to be a difficult time of reflection, it also influences and allows my conceptual understanding of my research to blossom. With a clearer mind, I can join those dots together and reflect on my role as a consumer of commodities and how this is affected and how it effects.


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