While ‘art imitates life’ is very common, it appears that anti-mimesis, where ‘life imitates art,’ may also be coming true.
A performance art-exhibit called ‘Ivanka Vacuuming’ by artist Jennifer Rubell is perhaps the former. However, the response to her art would definitely prove Oscar Wilde true, when he said: “life imitates art far more than art imitates life.”
The art piece is defined as being “simultaneously a visual celebration of a contemporary feminine icon; a portrait of our own relationship to that figure; and a questioning of our complicity in her role-playing.” The art is an experience piece: On entering the gallery space, viewers will notice a woman bearing a striking resemblance to that Ivanka, cleaning a plush pink carpet. In front of this scene is a white pedestal with a giant pile of crumbs on top. The public is invited to throw crumbs onto the carpet, watching as Ivanka elegantly vacuums up the mess, her smile never wavering. This process repeats itself for the entire duration of the performance.
Why does this read like a commentary of Ivanka Trump constantly cleaning up her father, Donald J. Trump’s messes? As much as we don’t want to define art or limit its interpretation, that seems to be the general consensus that everyone has picked up on, because in the piece, the mess is very literal and visually out there.
“We enjoy throwing the crumbs for Ivanka to vacuum. That is the icky truth at the center of the work. It’s funny, it’s pleasurable, it makes us feel powerful, and we want to do it more.” Let’s go to DC and toss some! @JadedCreative https://t.co/usMgqneGjy
— Barbara Malmet (@B52Malmet) February 4, 2019
Although art that engages in political satire is important, neither would we see Ivanka vacuuming, nor would she go after crumbs. It would be a more realistic to see her counting money and/or like Marie-Antoinette telling the viewers to eat cake https://t.co/h3FRjegYq1
— Jeffrey Ian Ross (@jeffreyianross) February 5, 2019
— Bonita Jones (@BonitaJ0707) February 5, 2019
However, Rubell, the artist, has in an interview opened up the ‘interpretation’ about the piece. “The crumbs, they could symbolize a lot of things, said Rubell. “The cheapness of our appreciation of her. Her desire to clean things up. It’s extremely open-ended and open to many different interpretations. It could say is that we’re all complicit in this dynamic and how it relates to feminism and femininity.”
After the exhibit started picking up traction, both Trump and her brothers Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump criticized the exhibit on Tuesday as a sexist attempt to humiliate her.
Ivanka, however, had a different response.
Women can choose to knock each other down or build each other up. I choose the latter. https://t.co/MFri4xKhNI
— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) February 5, 2019
Art imitates life, or life imitates art? Your call.
The artist, Rubell, responded to Ivanka’s tweet, saying that she would invite her to viewing and encourage her for her direct response on it.
Ivanka, I would encourage you to see the piece and form your own direct response. I would be happy to arrange for you to do it alone with none of the media circus that has formed around it. Not knocking anyone down. Exploring complicated subjects we all care about.
— Jennifer Rubell (@jenniferrubell) February 5, 2019
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