Performance art was made political in D.C. this month when the Flashpoint Gallery presented a work called Ivanka Vacuuming by Jennifer Rubell. A limited performance, it starred an Ivanka double cleaning a plush pink carpet piled high with crumbs tossed by exhibit-goers.

Lady of the house

The obvious oppositeness of a domestic cleaning tool and a privileged Ivanka made for high drama - the very stuff of theatre. But there was more to this performance art than stagecraft. Ivanka's fashion-plate looks aside, she holds a pedigreed portfolio, first as an executive in the Trump Organization and then as an advisor to the White House.

And given that she comes from wealth and was always well-compensated by her father (her severance pay from the Trump Organization alone was $2.5 million, reported by CNN), it's a good bet that she doesn't do housework. Ivanka Vacuuming, then, is a joke.

No joke

But when you think about it, you don't laugh long. As Rubell said at the opening of her exhibit, “This is the icky truth at the center of the work. We enjoy throwing the crumbs for Ivanka to vacuum...we like having the power.” Ivanka, reacting to Rubell's work, tweeted, “Women can choose to knock each other down or build each other up. I choose the latter.” Does she? How to account for last week's Newsweek's report headlined, “Ivanka Trump silent on Malia Obama attacks while former first daughters come to her defense?”

Job search

And how to account for Ivanka saying on a panel discussion at the Munich Security Conference“ this week, “I think that this idea of a guaranteed minimum (wage) is not something most people want.” She was referring to Bernie Sanders' proposal for a $15 minimum wage law.

One may wonder whether women who clean houses for a living would agree with Ivanka, who also spoke against the idea of a guaranteed job. She said that the focus should be on “upward mobility” instead. This from someone who went to work for her father straight out of college and has been in his employ ever since.

Clean up

Ivanka Vacuuming is not as non-art-like as it seems.

In fact, one might say that it's comparable to Vermeer's painting, Girl with the Pearl Earring, in that neither woman fits the picture. Just as a vacuum cleaner is alien to Ivanka's lady-of-the-house air, fine jewelry on a maid is also out of character.

Rubell's use of a vacuum in her work also is not a first in art-making.

I'm thinking of Jeff Koons' 1981 exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art of a group of actual vacuums housed in a lighted Plexiglass box, not unlike like the one encasing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. Just as Rubell's work was about more than cleaning a carpet, Koons' vacuums were about more, too. “I chose the vacuum cleaner,” Koons said at his exhibit, because of its anthropomorphic qualities.” Translation: he sees the machine as symbols of both male and female sexuality. In his words, “It has orifices and phallic attachments.” This set of readymade vacuums sold at Sotheby's in 2017 for $5.5 million. It's useful to remember that Koons once worked as a commodities trader on Wall Street.