Photographer Simon Keitch was asked by Francesca Steele to take photos of her latest work Routine for the book accompanying the forthcoming Pigs Of Today Are The Hams Of Tomorrow performance. Her performance will take place at The Slaughterhouse – a nearly 200 year old dis-used slaughterhouse – at Royal William Yard in Plymouth. Simon spoke to her about her work, which saw her become a bodybuilder – in the name of art
For her current project, Routine, Francesca transformed her body over a year through adoption of bodybuilding training, diet, and finally competition.
“I was working with the body in a dislocated, close up and visual way, using microscopes to examine, and learning more about bodily and cellular structures… the idea formed to use my own live body as more than a ‘tool’ within my work. To attempt to make the body/ life into an artwork.
“As a woman the focus had always been on eating less and losing weight, lots of cardio etc, but to body-build I had to completely change my diet and actually eat all the food I was told too and aim to gain weight. It did take me a while to really understand – and stop fighting what I’d been brought up culturally to believe about my body.
“Although I was the same weight at the beginning and the end of the year I looked completely different.
“Now this year is coming to an end it feels more that the process of making work has just started rather than finished. Competitive bodybuilding has two main elements – the work that you put into your body, lifestyle, food & exercise – and the showmanship of posing and performing on stage. For the Pigs Of Today Are The Hams Of Tomorrow project, I am going back to my established one-to-one performance practice with some of what I have learnt from the performative side of bodybuilding. I am looking at the piece as a long slow tense piece of choreography where viewers have the opportunity to view one at a time.”
(Image: Francesca Steele by Simon Keitch)
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