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Emilia Fart: the performance artist of her generation

Who is this woman who juggles transparency and theatrics so seamlessly?

On the 14th of August this year, a young woman published an eight minute YouTube video under her channel moniker – Emilia Fart. It is titled: I want to be normal.

When you click play, you find her wandering absently around a park. There is none of the peppy, royalty-free welcome jingles that other YouTubers favour as an introduction to their vlog. There is only disorientating silence, then diegetic white noise: the whizz of a bicycle wheel passing on the pathway, the rattle and squeak of a man landing a wheelie, and the wind whistling through the tripod set-up beneath the camera.

Emilia is not even up close, just a squiffy mirage popping in and out of focus through various bizarre jump-cuts. First she perches, pigeon-like, on the edge of a bench and smiles with too many teeth at a woman walking by. Then she is crouching, not really hidden, just a head and a pair of arms dangling over the back of the bench. Then she is lounging in regal repose, legs stretched out, chin tilted towards the sun like a funky Gustav Klimt impression (‘Lady in Armchair’) — a well-dressed meterosexual cannot help but double take as he strolls on by.

Cut: She’s facing the camera now. She starts to speak — then checks herself.

Screenshot from Emilia Fart's YouTube video

Off she pops a wig of carefully straightened blonde locks to reveal her real hair underneath — frizzy waves, a bit Einstein in texture, all pastel green apart from a strip of dark roots across her scalp. Now she is ready to speak. Here’s some of what she says:

“Normal, weird: all the words that we use to trick ourselves into thinking that we’re not all the same.”

“Telling myself I am weird. Not enough. Worse, better. ‘They are normal. I am not’. All of it keeps me distanced. There is me, and then there is them. What if… all of it is a lie?”

Truth and lies: the permanent conundrum, and playthings, of every great performance artist. And let me be clear, I believe Emilia Fart is the great millennial performance artist. But this is not for the fact that she’s a good liar (like most great actors). In fact, she is a terrible liar; she tells the truth to everyone and everything. There are entire swathes — playlists upon playlists, minutes upon minutes — of her telling and enacting out her truth to startled civilians. These episodes take place in shops (‘How to dye your hair blue in a grocery store’) on her bedroom floor (‘Calling my family and telling them secrets then hanging up’), and out on the town (‘I’m in a therapist’s office having a crisis so I’m filming it’).

Miss Fart is such a superlative performance artist because of her natural, wicked humour and penchant for rendering ninety per cent of her conversations as bizarre a possible (“What do I smell like?” she gently accosts a man that’s just trying to enter his car, wafting any evidence up his nose with her feather boa when he hesitates, before informing him she uses twice the recommended detergent ratio). But, really, it’s more than that.

Her content is currently drawing just under 800,000 online subscribers to her channel worldwide. It trumps other skit-shows or prank channels on the platform. To an invisible arena of thousands, she is making tom-foolery from pain, pantomime art from deepest, darkest realities, and satire from the most utterly devastating universal truth that we all feel when the lights go down at night and we are alone: ‘That we do not fit in’.

As revealed in frequent to-camera asides in the middle of her sketches, this vlogger is a sexual assault survivor, an eating disorder surviver, and in treatment for trauma and mental illness. She is plus size and neuro-atypical; she is gay, she is hungry on camera, and she is hurt out in the open. Whoever she would grow up to be, she was not going to fit into narrow patriarchal narratives.

And thus, she became the prodigal Emilia Fart: she who screams on public transport and wears glitter and feathers and turtlenecks so garish and oversized they double as wizard-garb or fire blankets. She orders pizza to graveyards at night or eats entire raw peppers in the bathtub and she sits back and sucks on a literal scorpion tail as she relays the details of her depression and childhood abuse, and — to anyone, and everyone, and at times even any object that listens — cries, and screams, and cries some more.

In this way, whether she is a real personality or not, Emilia Fart as-a-concept is as flawless an expression of female trauma, rage, and insurgent unrest as any high-art

All this is performative, gloriously so, but only of something that’s real. Each of her screams is a for others: another woman who was body-shamed, another woman who was raped, another woman who starved herself or kissed a man because the world said ‘That’s How You Fit’. In this way, whether she is a real personality or not, Emilia Fart as-a-concept is as flawless an expression of female trauma, rage, and insurgent unrest as any high-art. She is just doing it her way — like illegally swimming in a public pond with a giant inflatable pizza slice.

One of my favourite of her pieces is a 5 minute sequence called ‘The most rebellious video in the history of the world’. She’s wearing sunglasses and tangerine eyeshadow up to her temples in the middle of a snowdrift. “I’m gonna live by own rules man, I’m a renegade - I’VE GONE ROGUE” she hollers, shortly before heading inside a cafe to demurely sip on a hot chocolate with marshmallows. “The truth is…” she concludes — marching home over the frost, one end of her boa flapping in the wind — that she isn't “rebellious to her core”. Actually, she thinks rules that protect us from “hurting each other” are “cool”.

Screenshot from Emilia Fart's YouTube video

It is lovely, and confusing, and sweet, and stupid; it is an Andy Kaufman level of oscillation between brutally honest and completely, wildly inappropriate (she’s sketched F A R T in capitals in the snow before leaving). There is something about this particular woman: not just daring to exist but magnifying every iota of her existence (the beautiful and the ugly) through the medium of self helmed short films. By turning her life into a Truman Show — something freaky that trends on Youtube’s ‘most watched’ pages — she has touched me, even as she confuses me.

Perhaps it moves me because she is precisely the type of person the establishment would rather beat down than look at, let alone uphold as art. Because, irregardless of anyone else’s approval, she has made herself art — a walking theatre-show, unfolding the machinations of her plot to a stunned audience as and when she pleases.

Who is this woman — juggling transparency and theatrics so seamlessly?

Thank god for this auteur, the Fart — and for her utilising the creative female gaze in its purest form. Quite literally; for who else’s eyes are reflected back on her from the camera lens as she monologues, dances, burps, undresses, dresses up, and sobs — who else's, first and foremost, but her own?

I suppose what I mean when I say ‘Emilia Fart is the performance artist of her generation’, and slide my phone under your nose so you can better see the clip I’m watching of her twerking barefoot outside of a Value village, is this: who the hell is this woman?

Who is this woman — juggling transparency and theatrics so seamlessly? Who is this Woman? She is a nightmare. She is my hero. She is all these things and more. Because she is Emilia Fart, as every one of us should be.

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