Rosella Castello is an Italian artist currently in her last year of studies in Photographic Arts at University of Westminster. In her work Careful Dissipation Rossella looks at the experiences and difficulties of living with eating disorders.
In your work Careful Dissipation you look at what it’s like to live with anorexia. Can you explain a little about how this work came about from your own personal experiences and how living with the condition translated into the work?
My project Careful Dissipation is about eating disorders, in particular anorexia and bulimia. I have to admit that I have never suffered directly from anorexia or bulimia, but I suffered for a while from general eating disorders. I was absolutely sure that food and everything related to the idea of eating was damaging my body, and that was making me feel sick every day. Therefore, I started avoiding eating too much, limiting myself only to a little amount of food. I was having only a little bit for three days in a row. At the fourth day, I was starving. Thus, I was stuffing myself until I was feeling sick, since my body was not used to taking that big amount of food anymore. The following day, I was avoiding eating again, thinking that the food itself was what made me feeling sick.
Years later I decided I wanted to translate into an artistic work what might be the difficult conditions of living with an eating disorder. I decided to exaggerate them, translating them into a proper physical installation in order to make the viewers experience some certain feelings. I did not want to show directly what it means to live with anorexia or bulimia, like showing images of bodies as we are used to see in visual media, but I wanted to use a more subtle way to communicate the same meaning.
The room installation created for Careful Dissipation is small, borderline claustrophobic even. What was your intention for the viewers experience?
The description you gave about the room is absolutely complete. My intention was to create a narrowed and claustrophobic space where the viewers could feel uncomfortable, surrounded only by the red colour that does not make feel them at ease. When someone is experiencing a mental health problem, in this case an eating disorder, they feel like their health condition is like a huge burden that is oppressing them.
Has making artwork about your eating disorder been therapeutic in any way. If so, how?
I have to admit that my eating disorder was already solved when I created this installation. At the beginning, my eating disorder was causing me personal and social problems and I did not want to deal with it or solve it. Once I understood that I completely overcame the disease, I was ready to translate my feelings into artwork. My art has been therapeutic since it has helped me to feel that I had completely overcame the disease, since I was ready to express it and make everyone aware of it.
How has it felt to share such personal work? What have responses to the work been like?
At the beginning, I did not want to admit that the installation was related to personal experiences. However, since my attempt was to make the public more aware about common diseases that are often underestimated, I thought that sharing this artwork with the public would have been really constructive both for me and my viewers. In fact, the responses were positive, and most of the viewers were surprised by the visual strategies I used in order to make the public aware of this disorder.
How do you see your practice evolving? What inspires you and what are you working on now?
In terms of future projects, I would love to keep creating artworks related to mental health.
I am currently working on my final major project for my last year at university. The idea beyond it was born when I started noticing how the tendency to document wars, mental illness, poverty, crime (negative facts in general) etc. is always more popular in photography. I decided I wanted to show that shocking images are not extremely necessary in visual media to make the public aware of the current problems. I often consider some images really intense just because the subjects are powerful themselves. Portraying someone who has a disease makes an image strong enough to achieve viewers’ feelings and make them reflecting. However, I think that using allegories or other visual strategies would be a more subtle way to influence the viewers. Since I am still working on it, I will stop myself from revealing too much.