Sexual assault and rape on college campuses, and college administrations’ response to it, is about as hot-button an issue as there is at the moment. Among those keeping the conversation going is Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz, who is very literally dragging her experience into the open, by carrying a mattress around campus until her alleged rapist is expelled. It’s part of a performance art piece for her senior thesis that she’s calling “Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight).”
You may have read about Sulkowicz any number of places, most notably in a profile by New York Times art critic Roberta Smith, who talked with her about the senior thesis, and will now continue the conversation with Sulkowicz at the Brooklyn Museum this Sunday at 2pm.
In September 2014, Sulkowicz, a visual arts major, began carrying a mattress (the same model as those in Columbia dorm rooms, an extra long twin, weighing 50 pounds) around campus. This was in response to the man who allegedy assaulted Sulkowicz during consensual sex that turned violent being found “not responsible” in a hearing in front of the Columbia administration.
She then filed a federal complaint (Title IX) against Columbia for mishandling of the case, yet the accused remains on campus. By her own self-imposed rules for “Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight),” she must have the mattress with her at all times on campus and may not request help, but can accept help carrying the mattress if it is offered. She has committed to continue carrying the mattress on campus until the alleged rapist is disciplined.
At the conversation at the Brooklyn Museum, Smith and Sulkowicz will discuss her experiences carrying the mattress around campus. The event is free with Museum admission, a suggested donation of $16.