She is Everywhere, But Does She Really Exist?

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“Kim Kardashian knows exactly what you think of her.

She presses the cloth tighter against her skin

Her smile is a promise she never intends to keep”

                                                   – Clementine Von Radic, ‘Kim Kardashian Redux’

In 2015 the number one review on Amazon of Kim Kardashian’s Selfish read “A narcissistic talentless bimbo”.  In 1967 Lucy Lippard – critic and feminist -wrote that the late Hannah Wilke’s work was “so laden with narcissism as to all but obscure any other point”. Wilke is now considered to be one of the most important feminist artists of her time. Equally, in 2004 New York Times critic Gey Trebay called artist Andrea Fraser, “the hooker with the heart of gold” in regards to her Untitled (2003) piece which screened a video of Fraser having sex with an art collector who paid $20,000 to be involved in the piece.

What do all these women have in common? Each became the artist, the subject, and the muse of their own work. Their body became the artistic commodity, and while the words ‘exploitation’ come to mind, don’t be fooled – each one knew exactly what they where doing. These women were always in control; they just never cared what you thought.

Published in 1985, Donna Haraway’s feminist text A Cyborg Manifesto claims the cyborg “is oppositional, utopian, and completely without innocence. No longer structured by the polarity of public and private . . . the cyborg is a condensed image of both the imagination and material reality”. As a society we sit in the midst of this amalgamation of reality and imagination, of what is deemed public and what is private. We are able to use the Internet to construct our own identities and warp what is real and what is not.

Kim knows this better than most. Currently, Kim Kardashian has 39.9million followers on Twitter, 59.3million on Instagram and a video game based on her life. She is the ultimate cyborg; blurring the line between reality and imagination, public and private. Her artistry has enabled her to create a ‘cyborg’ of herself where everybody believes they understand her, but nobody really knows who she is. She is this generation’s greatest magician, the Cyborg version of Houdini himself.

Artist Carolee Shneeman said that her work with the body “was like a bridge, built so that other women could pass over it”. At a dinner, a writer for the Vulture heard Kim Kardashian refer to her ass as a piece of art. Referring to Andrea Fraser’s Untilted (2003) video as mentioned before, Andrea claimed “My first thought was, If I’m going to have to sell it, I might as well sell it”  in regards to her art, but her art was herself and her body – she was the commodity to be sold. Kim’s artistic medium is herself; she is her own artistic commodity, but do we own her? Kim is the paradox of artistic ownership – we may buy it but she still owns everything. She is playing the game and winning.

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In an interview with Broadly, Paris Hilton said “I learned that from a young age, if my boyfriend got mad at me and I was a teenager, I’d [say in a baby voice], ‘I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to’. Then [boys would] just forgive you”. Paris Hilton is a performance artist, and didn’t she ‘make’ Kim Kardashian? Gender performing should be considered an art form; Kim is the piece of art she is performing.

Nobody has one identity, yet Kim has many. It is the fusion of flesh and technology, a cyborg, a myth. By owning technology, she has created a fiction of herself. Telling her own story, as she wants it to be told. Her private life is ours to hold, a contradiction in itself, but the private life we hold is the private life she has constructed. Does Kim Kardashian exist when the cameras have gone, when Instagram and Twitter are no longer? The Kim Kardashian we know only exists in parallel to technology we possess. She is a hybrid of everything we love to hate, and she has made it so. A fascinating myth, a cyborg and an artist, or maybe she is neither. Maybe she is just simply Kim Kardashian, and maybe we are reading too much in to it.

“Kim Kardashian made $12million dollars this year

Yesterday, uncountable men in their miserable jobs,

Told their miserable friends that Kim was a “dumb whore”

Kim Kardashian will never learn their names.”

                                                   – Clementine Von Radic, ‘Kim Kardashian Redux’

Words by Ella Sweeney

Illustrations by Laura Hollingworth

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