New York based artist Jennifer Rubell’s Nutcracker exhibition is likely to get the debate about whether modern art is actually artistic or not going again and will probably get more than a few people talking about sexuality and female empowerment as well!
The Nutcracker exhibition features 18 life-sized, nude female mannequins that are positioned horizontally, held up two metal poles, one going into the upper torso and the other into the leg just above the knee. One leg is slightly elevated and separated from the hip, so that when the leg is pulled down into the space, a nut can be cracked there – hence the name.
Rubell prides herself on creating ‘interactive’ art, for putting on exhibitions where the viewer can be actively involved in the art. The biography on her website states; “Viewers are encouraged to partake in the work, violating the traditional boundaries of art institutions and engaging senses usually forbidden in or absent from museum and gallery contexts.” In the case of this exhibition, placing your nuts inside the thighs of the mannequin and cracking them!
A statement by Rubell about the exhibition read: “These interactive sculptures embody the two polar stereotypes of female power: the idealized, sexualized nude female form; and the too-powerful, nut-busting überwoman.”
Honestly speaking, I wouldn’t have come to that interpretation about the exhibition on my own – but then I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no expert.
In the comment streams under the various articles about the exhibition on the web, some men and women have expressed a criticism of the ‘Nutcrackers’. Some women have argued that the exhibition is more fetishizing and exploitative than it is empowering. Others have been much more complementary and seen a positive aspect to the nutcracker analogy. Personally, I can see what Rubell is trying to get at with the whole leg-crushing thing and while I don’t find it particularly offensive, I very much doubt that I would bother myself to go to a gallery to see it – I like my art a lot more Salvador Dali!