“Ivanka Vacuuming” is now a thing in the nation’s capital. Because art, or something.
The exhibit, on display at CulturalDC’s former Flashpoint Gallery in Washington, D.C., is a piece of “performance art” where an Ivanka Trump lookalike wearing a pink dress with bows and stiletto shoes vacuums crumbs off a plush, pink carpet. To make the spectacle interactive, onlookers are encouraged to take crumbs from a pedestal and throw them at her to vacuum up.
“Inspired by a figure whose public persona incorporates an almost comically wide range of feminine identities – daughter, wife, mother, sister, model, working woman, blonde – Ivanka Vacuuming is 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,” a press release on the project reads. “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.”
The irony, of course, is that the exhibit reflects every stereotype feminists claim to stand against, oversexualizing Ivanka’s body and ignoring her hard work. (One can only imagine the feminist rage if it were, say, Michelle Obama on display.)
In addition to mocking Ivanka for her looks, the exhibit demeans the First Daughter’s success as a business woman and White House advisor to that of a woman with a vacuum—as if something’s wrong with that, too. Worse, in the process of shaming stay-at-home mothers, “Ivanka Vacuuming” encourages onlookers to throw trash at her. Again, because “art,” or something.
Therein lies the only interesting insight offered by artist Jennifer Rubell, who is of course female because no male could get away with such sexism masked as art.
“Here is what’s complicated: 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,” Rubell said. “We like having the power to elicit a specific and certain response. Also, we know she’ll keep vacuuming whether we do it or not, so it’s not really our fault, right?”
Rubell is right that under President Donald Trump, Americans get a rise out of insulting the first daughter or anyone who dares to wear a MAGA hat. Therein lies the truth of this exhibit: There’s far more wrong with the person who revels in hurling trash at others than there is with the person who’s willing to pick it up.
Anyone who cares enough to go see “Ivanka Vacuuming” or watch the spectacle on its livestream is likely too blinded by his own hate to realize the joke of the whole thing is actually on them. It’s not Ivanka’s vacuuming that’s the problem, but the heart of the person who feels pleasure from bullying and humiliating others.
It’s more than “icky” to feel this way. It’s immoral. That is why, for “Ivanka Vacuuming,” the real exhibit worth going to see is the people throwing the crumbs, not the person picking them up.