Did The Columbia Rape Survivor Reenact Her Own Assault?

Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images.
Emma Sulkowicz, who was last in the news for carrying her now-iconic mattress to Columbia's graduation, is continuing her fight against sexual assault through art. The rape survivor and performance artist behind Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight), has released a new art film entitled Ceci N'est Pas Un Viol ("This Is Not A Rape"), in which she (or someone resembling her) and another individual have sex. Their intercourse escalates quickly, turning into violent behavior that very much resembles rape.

Alongside the controversial video, which appears to be a reenactment of her own rape, Sulkowicz released an introductory web page. It reads, "Trigger Warning: The following text contains allusions to rape. Everything that takes place in the following video is consensual but may resemble rape. It is not a reenactment but may seem like one."

What follows is both incendiary and cryptic. "You might be wondering why I've made myself this vulnerable," Sulkowicz writes. "Look — I want to change the world, and that begins with you, seeing yourself. If you watch this video without my consent, then I hope you reflect on your reasons for objectifying me and participating in my rape, for, in that case, you were the one who couldn't resist the urge to make Ceci N'est Pas Un Viol about what you wanted to make it about: rape." Consequently, she provides questions for viewers' reflection that pertain to three categories: "Searching," "Desiring," and "Me."

Sulkowicz told ArtNews that the video, which she made with Brooklyn-based artist Ted Lawson, is not a sequel to Mattress Performance. According to Lawson, the duo executed the project several months ago, during her winter break from Columbia.

As of now, the video appears to have been taken down from the Ceci N'est Pas Un Viol site. ArtNews reported that an anticipatory announcement on Lawson's Facebook page read: "A performance art video I directed for Emma Sulkowicz. Your chance to see it before the Internet has a nuclear meltdown." That post has since been edited.

Until Sulkowicz says more about the film, the interested world is, perhaps intentionally, in the dark.

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