Bailey on Ichiuji
The Postmodern Art Joke of Suffering
By James W. Bailey
The jokes in the world of high art often write themselves. Indeed, we were recently treated to the rare spectacle of an immensely funny postmodern art joke with artist Melissa Ichiuji, as reported in the Washington Post article, "Calling a Halt to Suffering for Her Art."
Ichiuji, who was suppposed to stand in the semi-buff in front of the Corcoran Gallery of Art for 36 straight hours, was forced to call a 14 hour early halt to her "non-performance" piece "Stripped" after nearly collapsing from heat exhaustion from excessive exposure to the balmy weather as enhanced and amplified by the unnatural elements of Washington, D.C. concrete and asphalt.
Mrs. Ichiuji supposedly shed herself of the excesses of her life (Starbucks, NetFlix, Whole Foods, Politics and Prose, those types of things I guess) in an attempt to explore something about who she really is outside of the unnatural products that she takes into her body and mind.
We are told in this supremely funny high profile Washington Post article that her only company prior caving in to upper middle class reality was a homeless man who lay down nearby to watch Mrs. Ichiuji struggle through her "non-performance" in all her sunburned and diarrhea-stricken agony – no doubt the homeless man could identify with that low profile real life struggle.
We’re also told Mrs. Ichiuji tried to contact her husband for emergency rescue from her plight. Apparently, her husband never bothered to return the desperate messages that were left on his cell phone. It’s also reported that one of the other luxuries in life that Mrs. Ichiuji swore off for her art was sex – I guess that might help explain the husband’s failure to respond to those text messages.
Although her husband is a banker, poor Mrs. Ichiuji, apparently penniless (I guess her sports bar didn’t have a change holder), was forced to thumb a ride in a cab back to the modern comforts and conveniences of her home. That must have been an interesting cab ride. One can easily picture Mrs. Ichiuji, half-starved, jumping out of the cab at every delicious chain restaurant in the District begging the management to freely inhale at will from the salad bar.
Now, nobody loathes postmodern art theory and theorists more than I do, but I just can’t help but deconstruct Mrs. Ichiuji "Stripped" to discover a greater truth and meaning about her project. There's a remarkable parallel between her self-imposed bodily denials leading to her near collapse and the refusal of a banker to assist her with the similar bodily denials (usually state enforced against the will of the child and their parents) that are found among hundreds of millions of impoverished children throughout the world and the refusal of the World Bank to assist them.
But unlike Mrs. Ichiuji, those kids don’t have a cell phone to call a high ranking bank official, let alone the ability to hitch a ride in an air-conditioned cab to a safe, cool and well-stocked abode.
James W. Bailey
Force Majeure Studios