Studying in the Sun

carpet, cups
commissioned by

“For me, a feminist is someone who advocates for the civil and social rights and liberties of all people, regardless of their gender; anyone who believes that women should have the same choices and opportunities as men when it comes to education and employment, their bodies and their lifestyles.”                                                                                                       Kim Kardashian

The carpet titled Studying in the Sun shows an image of Kim Kardashian’s instagram account preparing for her law exam. The second part of the installation - the collection of coffee mugs - are displaying love letters by fans,IG images published by the Kardashian family and ‘facts’ published in online media outlets about Kim.

Many struggle to understand Kim Kardashian as a feminist, herself included who, in fact, does not believe in the label ‘feminist’. At the same time, Kim is undoubtedly one of the most powerful female figures in social media; her Instagram account counts over 300 million followers, a global reach that is incredibly influential. And this influence has long surpassed the online sphere: Kim enjoys economical success – ranking in the Forbes billionaires list –, she was invited to speak on prison reform in the Trump White House and has, together with her mother, strategically built up a matriarchal clan structure, through which she subtly but firmly controls most other family members. Still, she remains an ambivalent, if not controversial female figure. Not unlike Ivanka Trump’s, Kim’s “brand” of feminism is regularly criticized as capitalist pseudo-feminism, mainly aimed at selling woman products – rather than ideas. In addition to this claim, the affinity of Kim and her sisters to share sexy selfies – to sell even more products –, led to feminist-identifying actor Jameela Jamil calling the Kardashians “double agents for the patriarchy.”

Against these seemingly unbridgeable binaries, Franziska Pierwoss new work Studying in the Sun traces the ambivalence of Kim Kardashian’s multifaceted persona: To the world, Kim confidently (self-)presents simultaneously as a sex symbol, business woman, and traditional mother figure. Concurrently, Kim is even pursuing a career in law, which might lead to future political engagements. Successful or not in this ambition, Kim and her family, the famous Kardashians, represent the long outdated but still prevailing US-American (capitalist) promise of economic and therefore social success: if you work hard enough you can “make” it. On Instagram, Kim and her sisters make “working hard” certainly seem incredibly leisurely and fun. It is this promise that makes Kim a role model for millions of young women, not only in the United States, while she simultaneously remains one of the most scrutinized celebrities.