24 May 2006

Idyllic Domesticity




that above is
Jeff Wall’s 1978 Destroyed Room.

If you look closely at the image (it’s small, I know.) you’ll see high heels, ladies under-things, etc. This is the destroyed room of a woman. Does that matter? For a lot of reasons, I’ve been thinking about femininity and its unrelenting equatedness with domesticity, as though cleanliness is a prerequisite to true womanhood. Maybe that’s why when I see the Destroyed Room my knee-jerk reaction is imagine the room’s owner has a boyfriend, and to blame said boyfriend for the havoc doubtless generated by some kind of jealous rage. The heels indicate the woman, and the destruction indicates the man.

How sexist. Especially in view of what was happening in the 1970s and what life is actually like now, I’m really shocked by my own gender bias that this reveals.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mary Ann, you really missed this one. I recognize that room. It belonged to Terra and this is what it looked like after it was cleaned up. Grandpa Dan

katperkins said...

Maybe that's why Terra looks so young. She can't be considered a woman because she doesn't clean. It keeps her forever young.

It is very thought provoking that a man would create a destroyed bedroom of a woman. There are several possible scenarios that come to mind after viewing. I think that's what creates good art, keeps the viewer thinking and looking.

Mary Ann said...

it is fun to think of reasons why the room is destroyed.

1. Does it indicate Wall's aggression toward women?

2. His aggression toward the generalization of feminine domesticity?

3. His perception of women as trapped by domesticity?

Maybe none of these. Maybe its a visualization of the general upheaval gener roles got in the 70s. Maybe the destruction here symbolizes the destruction there. I don't know about that.

Arthur Danto wrote that maybe the woman destroyed the room herself, as a statement against gender expectations of order and cleanliness.

But to be sure, there is no indication of a man in that room, and the fact that I invented one to explain the mess is telling--about me.

Matthew said...

The room was clearly destroyed by the underpants gnomes.

suz said...

looks pretty close to the state of my room right now....i even have half of my old bed propped against my wall. and at least 3 loads- worth of laundary on the floor

Bonnie said...

Here's my two cents: This room appears actively, and violently "destroyed", (even defiled if one considers the bedroom as a personal sanctuary) not merely neglected. If Wall was making a statement about domesticity, I think the kitchen would have been the room to target.

Mary Ann said...

I agree with Bonnie that this in not a neglected room, but as labled, a destroyed room.

However, I think the bedroom was the ideal choice because it is far more personal than a kitchen.