We got our hands on Excess last week and after a giggle-filled look-through interspersed with exclamations of ‘So true, that totally happened with me’ and ‘That’s what my relative said to me last time’, we’re here to share with you what we thought of the book.
“If you wanna be healthy, wealthy, sexy, wise; ex-er-cise! Girls do it, so do boys!”
Quotes like the one above (from the 1998 Bollywood film Prem Aggan) perpetuate the harmful culture of body-shaming that Kritika Trehan, 22-year-old illustrator, graphic designer and student from Bengaluru, tackles in her book. She based her final thesis project at college on body-shaming with her carefully put-together collages. (We can’t seem to get enough of artist students getting creative with their assignments!)
She describes her inspiration as Indian vernacular culture and her affinity for “Indian streets and walls,” while The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf, on which her project is primarily based, became the starting point of a personal and social enquiry into the politics of body shaming. We all lie somewhere along the spectrum that runs from excess to XS, but who can even define what excess, or for that matter even ‘XS,’ which we seem to accept as part of some universal scale, is?
When we first got our hands on the book, there were a lot of things that caught our attention. Striking a balance in her work between art and design, she seamlessly merges them to produce her book, that is hard-hitting with its impact and yet humorous in its own way. Every page reflects influences from society that young women interact with every day, and reflects their impact to illustrate how the worst inputs come from things we see around us.
The messages women receive from society — whether in the form of catalogues and advertising, film and other media, strangers consuming their body, or even trusted friends and relatives — have a harmful impact on mental and physical health. Telling women their bodies must look a certain way (often whether that way is achievable or not) has dangerous and unhealthy results. She tackles head-on this issue of women being shamed by society and reducing them to objects of the public gaze.
She herself has had to deal with conflicting ideologies policing her body, with one (Rajasthani) half of her family encouraging her to be lean and eat simpler foods and the other (Punjabi) half feeding her more “ghee” and “shakkar“. Ultimately, however, she acknowledges that you cannot possibly please everyone and so should just do what makes you happy.
We particularly loved her examples from popular culture, such as a ‘fat’ emoji, Amul wrappers, Domino’s, and references to Bollywood, she is able to accurately identify, at their source, the problematic views and detrimental influences coming in from the mainstream. One of our favourites was the page on which she satirically likens breasts, and their different sizes, to fruits in order to show how women, and all their different, dissociated parts are seen as objects.
She explains her choice of medium,
I chose to do collages, since body-shaming is something which induces one to ‘alter’ the way they look, which is what collages essentially are. One uses already existing material to change, or alter, and create something new.
The images featured here are just a glimpse into the visual delight that is Kritika Trehan’s book. You can check out more of her work here and we definitely recommend you to get the book to experience Excess for yourself!