FAT Life, 2020/2022

Performance flexible / HD-video 09:40min

Performance, Every Body In. Festival, Reaktor, Vienna (AT), 2020

Video, Dom Museum, Vienna (AT), 2022-23

Performance, Vienna Art Week, Vienna (AT), 2022

Performance, Salon Parcours, Vienna (AT), 2023

“You can now wear black again!” promises the saleswoman, who in the video FATLife is advertising a supposed dietary supplement that guarantees a weight gain of one kilo per week. Under the motto “The Fatter the Better”, the artist Veronika Merklein appropriates the rhetoric of the dietary supplement industry and the imagery of long-term sales programs to denounce the billion-dollar business of self-optimization products and the stigmatization of the body that is read as fat.



Merklein, who takes on the role of the saleswoman in the equally critical and humorous video, assures with a beaming smile that taking the FATLife pill not only guarantees health and a youthful appearance, but also a fulfilling professional and family life. Food supplements are legally considered food in the EU and are therefore not allowed to be advertised as curing, alleviating or preventing diseases. Instead, superfoods, diet pills, endurance-enhancing and muscle-building miracle drugs serve the broad field of physical optimization with the promise of increasing the chances of success in all areas of life. Today, the body is subject to a relentless pressure to perfect itself: physical integrity, optimal functionality and attractiveness are the required Western social norm. If this politically, socially and economically motivated body ideal is not met, there is a risk of stigmatization, paternalism and exclusion.


Ideals of beauty have always been a social construct, shaped by morals, power and gender roles. Since Christianity sees the vice of gluttony as a weakening of the spirit, the full body could be interpreted as a sign of loss of control. In the early modern period, the usually male fat body was accused of antisocial behavior and political disobedience, and it was often associated with the professional groups of the lowest social classes. With FATLife, Merklein not only shows that hierarchical body images are still confirmed, produced and reproduced by the media today, but she also directs a pointed look at the relationship to her own fat body as well as social expectations and attributions to it.


Catalogue text: Dom Museum Vienna, 2022