Iiu Susiraja’s Self-Portraits Are More Than a Dare

The use of food items as fraught props is not new for Susiraja. “Ankle Weights,” from 2017, shows a view of her legs and abdomen, with her arms hanging at her sides. What look like links of sausages are coiled around each ankle, to resemble grotesque fitness accessories or shackles. “Unicorn (chocolate),” from the same year, shows her before an orderly wardrobe with an ice-cream cone smashed into her forehead. Dark rivulets of the melted cream cover her face and fleck a white tank top: she’s both mythic creature and archetypal slob.

To the extent that such vignettes are funny—they are and they aren’t—Susiraja practices a perilous form of physical comedy. A fat woman is by cultural default already an object of ridicule; inviting laughter by clenching a baguette between her legs, or ironing a pizza to her chest, could easily spin out of her control. Perhaps Susiraja’s blank affect is the key to her peculiar power to retain the upper hand. Indifference is one of the purest forms of defiance, but her disciplined impassivity, her refusal to cue the viewers’ reaction, is more than that. Her unwillingness to feed us meaning is more provocative, and disquieting, than an obvious dare, and it leaves a more lasting impression.

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