The conventional response to this story (translated below) is one of horror at the conniving ruthlessness of the interloping family and relief at the eventual reward of the modest and virtuous Cinderella, who embodies a bourgeois Christian ideal of the wife-in-waiting. Vo, however, has a different interpretation:
‘The tales say that if you’re nice and good, you’ll succeed, but I identify myself and my father with the ugly sister. Society uses these constructions to pacify the poor, but in real life tougher sacrifices are needed. My father constructed his own dream of a better life and did what he needed to achieve it.’
(taken from Danh Vo,Take My Breath Away, Guggenheim, New York 2018.)
For those outside the given power structures, virtuous passivity is a prohibitive luxury.
The artwork text is an excerpt fromAschenputtel, Grimm Brothers (1812 Edition):
‘The eldest went to her room to try on the shoe, and her mother stood by. But she could not get her great toe into it, for the shoe was too small; then her mother handed her a knife, and said, “Cut the toe off, for when you are Queen you will never have to go on foot.” So the girl cut her toe off, squeezed her foot into the shoe, concealed the pain, and went down to the Prince. Then he took her with him on his horse as his bride, and rode off. They had to pass by the grave, and there sat the two pigeons on the hazel bush, and cried, “There they go, there they go! There is blood on her shoe; The shoe is too small, Not the right bride at all!”
Then the Prince looked at her shoe, and saw the blood flowing. And he turned his horse round and took the false bride home again, saying she was not the right one, and that the other sister must try on the shoe. So she went into her room to do so, and got her toes comfortably in, but her heel was too large. Then her mother handed her the knife, saying, “Cut a piece off your heel; when you are Queen you will never have to go on foot.” So the girl cut a piece off her heel, and thrust her foot into the shoe, concealed the pain, and went down to the Prince, who took his bride before him on his horse and rode off.'