A Texas State student’s performance art piece has once again garnered attention after she laid on a table outside the cafeteria in the LBJ Student Center in her underwear and allowed observers to put fast-food on her body.
Monika Rostvold, studio art senior, attracted national attention last April after she sat on the steps of Alkek Library in only a flesh-colored thong and pasties in a performance piece about the objectification of women for Sexual Assault Awareness month.
This time, Rostvold said she intended her performance to create conversation among Bobcats about how dating mobile applications like Tinder and Grindr have changed young people’s view of romance and have created a “hook-up culture,” she said.
However, she did not want to project her personal opinion on her audience.
“People can take whatever they want from my performance,” Rostvold said. “I’m very open to opinions (about hook-up culture). Is it good? Is it bad? Is it healthy?”
The performance was originally supposed to take place inside the cafeteria, but Rostvold was concerned about it being shut down because of “sanitary purposes,” she said.
“People will be eating,” Rostvold said. “I want to be following boundaries and stay compliant.”
Natalie Williams and Allie Carino, both psychology freshmen, were eating lunch on the steps of the LBJ Amphitheater and saw the performance play out.
Williams and Carino said they saw Rostvold smear ketchup all over her mouth and stomach and lay a carton of Chick-fil-a fries at her side. As she gained more attention, they said the audience began to place other objects on Rostvold.
“We’ve been seeing people put stuff on her,” Carino said. “She hasn’t done anything about it.”
At one point, someone placed a red carnation on her torso, they said.
There was a group of people near Rostvold that Williams and Carino agreed were reacting inappropriately. Carino said she saw them yelling at Rostvold and taking pictures for social media.
“Those guys are jerks,” Carino said. “They’re being really rude about it. They’re just straight up making fun of her, which I think is stupid.”
Williams said much of the crowd was just curious about the performance, but thought that particular group was behaving disrespectfully.
“They’re definitely seeking attention for themselves,” Williams said. “It’s not like they’re trying to figure out the message to it.”
Following the performance, Rostvold seemed shaken, but said the piece achieved what she intended.
“I feel like people were debating and talking about what I was doing, so it got people talking about it,” Rostvold said immediately after the performance ended.
Rostvold said she was surprised when people began to eat the waffle fries off of her torso.
“That was very interesting that they were taking away a part of the performance,” she said.
Brenda Lenartowicz, associate director of Student Involvement, said Rostvold did not violate any university policy during the performance.
Lenartowicz went to the performance after receiving information about “something going on in the amphitheater,” she said.
The role of Student Involvement in student art performance pieces is just to monitor, Lenartowicz said. They wanted to ensure there wasn’t any distress on Rostvold’s part.
“We want our students to be able to express themselves, and the campus is open to that,” Lenartowicz said. “We do ask, if possible, that they just inform us.”
Their main concern is the safety of the performer, she said.
About an hour and a shower later, Rostvold called the piece a “success.”
“I’m really happy that I did it,” she said.
The reaction to her piece was more involved than when she sat on the stairs of Alkek nearly nude last April, Rostvold said.
“People ate off of me and saw me as an object,” she said. “Every time I moved, they would take a step back, but then when I would go into a pose they would quickly go back to seeing me as an object.”
Rostvold said the idea of the performance was to compare hook-up culture to fast food.
“(Both fast food and hook-up culture) are quick fixes and quick satisfaction, and I just wanted do a commentary on that,” Rostvold said. “Is this healthy? Is this normal? Is this what we really want?”
Rostvold wanted to make a point about how someone may crave a casual hookup. But like fast food, after they get it they aren’t fulfilled for very long.
“Like with hook-up culture, you’re still hungry. You’re still empty,” she said.
The idea came from Rostvold’s previous major: nutrition.
“I didn’t think there was a relationship between (nutrition and art) whatsoever, but recently in my work I’ve been having a lot of food in my (painting) pieces,” she said.
She has used her painting to explore themes like the satisfaction a meal brings and how it is comparable to dating someone.
Rostvold has not taken much time to check social media to see the reactions to her work, but said she heard some of the audience members’ discussions.
“What I’ve been hearing is that people have their own view of it,” she said. “It’s interesting how people’s opinions go in different directions, but they’re all in the same realm.”
Rostvold is currently in her last semester at Texas State, and is not sure if she’ll take part in a third performance piece at the university.
“I have one (in mind) that I’ve actually had in mind before I did my first piece,” she said. “But I’m just waiting for the right time, the right place and the right crowd.”
This story has been updated throughout.