In 2017, the trans artist Miro Spinelli’s installation “Trans Fat” couldn’t make it through the programmed three days of performance because of the unbearable smell of fat spread on the floor and on the performers’ bodies. One ton of fat and four bodies in action enacted the existence of fat trans bodies, but also made a statement in defense of the thickness of fat in times of planar virtuality. Fat is energy, defense, mediation between the outside and the inside. It works under and on the skin, a layer in the architecture of our bodies: the skin of the skin is the fat. Fat is generosity, for a life fat in pleasures is a good life.
The gay architectural literature of the 1990s was prolific in analyzing the relationships between sexuality and surfaces. The bathroom was seen as a place of production of pleasure, and of reproduction of gender divisions. This suspended space of body physiology faces one of the hardest architectural challenges, that is, to protect the whole building from human fluids. The increasingly complex system of pipes that brings clean water for body purification—mainly, superficial fat dissolution—and expels our excrement needs both to get as close as possible to our bodies to absorb its fluids, and stay far enough way that it can keep its integrality. The ceramic membrane of bathroom walls is an architectural armory invented to better mediate the relationship of the construction to our own skin. In this surface war, we are always dragged in and expelled from the bathroom.
A clean bathroom is one of the most repelling ambiences a body can experience. The strong acidity of bleach can hurt our eyes, alongside the aseptic shine of tiles and mirrors. On the other side, a dirty bathroom is repulsive. Its stickiness invites us to adherence; its strong odors are an open archive of our bodily history, a mixture of familiar residues that we want to forget; and the yellow, brown and black of its corners presents a repulsive palette made of universal elements produced by our organs.
By reminding us that there is no Self without a Body, fat is anti-modern par excellence. The modern obsession with transparency and light has always struggled with the body and its fat. Fat works against transparency. It is opaque, thick, slippery and anti-crystalline. There’s nothing worse for a glass building, and nothing more irritating to Apple’s minimalistic creations, than greasy trails on their surfaces. But, ironically enough, the most advanced gadgets have added fat as a layer of information security. What better way to identify ourselves than through fingerprints—the fat decal left by the geography of our fingertips. Like a building without people, a person without fingertips ultimately doesn’t exist, is a ghost. Bodies and buildings need fat. Fatness is their very condition of existence.