Remember Emma Sulkowicz, the “mattress girl” who accused a fellow student of sexual assault (without any proof) and then walked around campus with a mattress on her head until graduation because nobody believed her? Well she’s back, and her degeneracy levels are off the charts. Between Shia Labeouf and this woman’s crazy projects, I’m starting to think that “performance art” is just a euphemism for “stupid people doing stupid things and calling it art”. After fading into obscurity for a while since her last project, the Feminist performance “artist” decided to gain more attention by doing a performance art piece that opposes Trump – because there aren’t enough of those already.
She walked into an art museum and allowed a trained dominatrix to bind, berate and hang her from a ceiling, because “ART BRO”. “Its just like art, man, like just tie me and beat me up, this is art because art is just like so cool man. Like I’m so deep and dark, man, like, like, just so edgy man” – This is the level of critical thought that went into creating this art piece. According to Vice, the purpose of the art piece is to “tackle the question of the value of art under the Trump administration”. How getting spanked in public does this exactly, I have no idea:
At the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts Project Space, Sulkowicz’s hair was a bright pink. In the second floor gallery, guests milled around looking at various projections, photographs and documents, and other works of art by Sulkowicz’s peers. But what provoked the most intrigue was Sulkowicz’s tableau: right by the open-bar wine table was a large rug; upon it, a single chair with a seated, bearded man wearing a suit and a tie emblazoned with the Whitney Museum’s logo.
Sulkowicz, wearing a black coat and nude high heels, was looking out a nearby window, holding a hot pink Nalgene. Two beams hung from the ceiling. A crowd slowly formed around the artist and her set, including a college-aged girl wearing a handmade T-shirt the read “Team Emma.” As the crowd milled about, I heard whispers as people tried to figure out what would happen, and when it might occur.
“What good is art hung on the wall of a sinking ship?” Sulkowicz asks when we first meet three weeks before her performance. She’s explaining a Bertolt Brecht essay she read for the Whitney program, wherein he compared the nation to a sinking ship.
“If our country is falling to pieces and you have artists running around saying they’re political artists, but really their art is hanging on a sinking ship, the ship is still sinking,” Sulkowicz explains. “I was thinking a lot about this—is it really possible for political artists to make work that makes the ship stop from sinking?”
Quickly and without pause, Sulkowicz continues, “The answer is: Whatever. I’m making work about that question.”
As Sulkowicz explored that question in relation to performance art, she realized that by design, every sinking ship has a sinking woman on its masthead. “So, I told my classmates I was going to wear an American flag bikini and hang from the wall of the gallery in the shape of a figurehead of a ship, making a statement about the impotence of artwork during our given circumstances.”
As she developed this idea, Sulkowicz began incorporating her thoughts on art as an institution. “[I chose] to have a white man tie me up while wearing a business suit with a Whitney necktie, while I wear a Whitney ISP thong bikini,” Sulkowicz said. Her intense questioning of art and politics, the two worlds that surround her, resulted in The Ship is Sinking, 2017.
As the performance started, this man in a suit, named Master Avery, started to berate Sulkowicz. “Your boobs are too small,” he spat. “You can’t even stand up straight.” He pulled a long, gnarled rope out of a black leather bag and started tying intricate knots around her upper thigh. Once the knots covered both of Sulkowicz’s legs, Master Avery started around her waist, moving her body as he worked quickly. At one point, the rope almost hit Sulkowicz’s eye. After a few shocked blinks, she looked up at the audience and laughed.
“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.
After what seemed like days—but was was really about 45 minutes—Master Avery had completely tied Sulkowicz up to a large wooden beam. Using a pulley system attached to the ceiling, he used his whole body to lift her from the ground, and after a few tries, Sulkowicz was suspended with her arms and legs wrapped around the beam, rendering her immobile. The rope visibly cut into her skin as Master Avery took off his belt and started hitting her with it.
Sulkowicz continued to smile at the audience.
Later, she’s taken down from the ceiling but hung back up. The second time around, Master Avery’s beatings became more intense. At one point, he called out to the crowd, asking if anyone else wanted to partake. To everyone’s surprise, one man in the audience volunteered, walking up to Sulkowicz and slapping her hard across the face.
“Everyone in the audience was shocked,” she told me after the performance.
Weeks before, she had disclosed to me that Master Avery was her close friend and a trained professional dominatrix. No one else in the room seemed to know this. While Sulkowicz was tied up during the performance, a distraught audience member walked over to her to ask if she wanted to be untied. Master Avery, noticing this, leaned over to say something to the concerned viewer, and they walked away.
Later, I ran into the concerned viewer in line for the bathroom. They told me that they had just come from a workshop on combating gender violence, and added that there should have been a trigger warning before Sulkowicz’s performance. But the viewer was left perturbed and questioning what it meant to be an unsuspecting spectator to such violence against women, taking their time to enunciate and practically spit out the word “violence.”
This isn’t the first time this nutjob has done something like this; a few weeks after graduating college and facing criticism for her seemingly false rape accusation, Emma starred in a self-made porn video, which according to her, was also “art”. In the video, Sulkowicz and an anonymous actor are in a Columbia University dorm room, and engage in consensual kissing, oral, and vaginal sex, before what appears to be non-consensual anal sex.
艺术家Emma Sulkowicz两年前从哥伦比亚大学毕业时，完成了一场持续一年的行为艺术作品《Mattress Performance》并引发了大量报道。两年后，她又再一次引起了轩然大波。
Sulkowicz在完成哥大的毕业论文时，扛着床垫在校园里抗议学校对于自己受到的性侵行为采取视而不见的态度，这也让她成为了反校园强奸行为的代言人。她还因其对于女性平等问题的关注而获得了国际妇女组织（National Organization for Women ，NOW）颁发的2016年度勇敢女性奖。“Sulkowicz做到了许多强奸受害者不能做的事情。她用公共展示的方式传达出自己的恐惧，让大家关注到了她对于强奸犯控诉以及这些人所受到的过轻的惩罚，“NOW主席特里·奥尼尔（Terry O’Neill）曾在邮件中对artnet新闻表示：“她是我们所有人的榜样。”
Emma Sulkowicz在自己的哥伦比亚大学毕业典礼上肩扛床单，作为《承受重量》的结尾。 图片：Columbia Spectator
Emma Sulkowicz在自己的哥伦比亚大学毕业典礼上肩扛床单，作为《承受重量》的结尾。 图片：Columbia Spectator
不过，她也因此受到了很多批评，人们对她的目的及行为都发出了质疑，而Sulkowicz的新作品似乎就是为这些批评者量身定制的。在这件名为《The Ship Is Sinking》的作品当中，她身穿着带有惠特尼博物馆的白色比基尼，一位名叫“Master Avery”的职业S&M男性则扮演一位叫做“惠特尼先生”的人物，将Sulkowic紧紧绑在一根木桩上并吊在天花板上，不断对其鞭打并且进行羞辱。
题目《The Ship Is Sinking》的灵感来源于德国戏剧家贝托尔特·布莱希特（Bertolt Brecht），他曾经写过“他们就像是给正在沉没船只的墙壁进行装饰的画家”这样的句子（在准备这件作品的时候，Sulkowicz曾经写了一篇新的文章，文章中提到惠特尼美国艺术博物馆正在沉没。这篇将博物馆形容为正在沉没的大船的文章在展览时被发放给观众。）