Thought-provoking

‘Mattress Girl’ questioning art and politics through BDSM in new performance

Emma Sulkowicz (Burton/Getty Images)

Emma Sulkowicz, the performance artist who became known as “Mattress Girl” in 2014 when she carried a mattress around the Columbia University campus as a protest against the way the university had handled her alleged rape by a fellow student, is back in the public eye with a new performance called “The Ship Is Sinking.” Performed at the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts Project Space, Sulkowicz wears a Whitney-branded bikini, while a white man in a business suit and Whitney-branded tie, acting as the dominatrix, ties her up, beats her, humiliates her, and literally turns her into the masthead of a ship, tied around a big wooden beam and suspended from the ceiling. The piece was inspired by BDSM and a Bertolt Brecht essay that questions the value of “art hung on a sinking ship.” Sulkowicz told Broadly she sees it as a fitting metaphor the “impotence of artwork during our given circumstances” and created the piece to question the interplay between politics and art (as an institution). “We’re acting out this sadistic-masochistic relationship between the institution with all of its financial power, and this program that wants to be political but can’t be really because it’s being tied up by this institution,” Sulkowicz explained.

While she believes that the performance art piece that originally made her famous might have paved the way for women to come forward with their sexual assault allegations against President Donald Trump, she sees the fact that he was nevertheless elected as proof of how much work is left to do. “People ask me how I can be angry all the time, but I think there is a way that you can find joy in this dissatisfaction with the way things are.” Sulkowicz told Broadly. “I think that right now, it’s more important than ever. Back when I made Mattress Performance, I didn’t know it was feminist, I didn’t know what it was. Was I just making this art piece? But now, I know how important it is to set an example of [being] outspokenly feminist and angry, and also visibly having a personal life and having fun about it. It’s the only way that we can continue to make feminism contagious.”

Read the full story at Broadly.

Related

Emma Sulkowicz accused of anti-male campaign’

Title IX claim by Columbia alum accused in ‘Mattress Protest’ dismissed

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