performance art

Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz has a twofold purpose in carrying around her twin mattress everywhere on campus: It’s her senior thesis (performance art) and an attempt to shame the school into punishing her alleged rapist.

New York reports:

Sulkowicz is one of 23 students who are part of a federal Title IX complaint filed against Columbia in April for mishandling sexual-assault cases. Though she and two other students reported that the same student had assaulted them, all of their claims were swept under the rug, and the male student was not expelled from campus.

Sulkowicz said in a Time essay in May she was raped on her own bed during her sophomore year. She talks about her project in a Columbia Spectator video. (Sulkowicz actually had consensual sex twice before with her alleged rapist, according to the police report, noted in the Spectator’s original report.)

In a new interview with The Cut, the fashion site for New York, the student blames the media – the lawsuit and her performance art drew wide coverage –  for making her relive the horror of rape:

The reporter response has been really aggressive and not what I expected. It is a sensitive subject, and I can’t be accosted in the middle of campus to talk about it. One guy, while I was carrying the mattress, he just opened up my backpack and threw his business card in, which was a real violation of my space and made me really upset and triggered a lot of memories of being raped.

Yesterday was really stressful because of the reporters on campus. I had a class at 8:40, so my boyfriend helped me carry the mattress to class — we slid it along the sidewall so it wasn’t distracting. Then my next class was at 2 p.m. and that was when two news stations started following me and taking pictures of me. I finally got to class and the people waited outside. I received an email from one reporter, “Subject line: Mattress Girl. Content: I have her contact info and I am going to get her.” I didn’t know that he was a reporter at first so I thought I was going to die, and so I was so scared and really fearing for my life. My boyfriend came and picked me up because I was so afraid of the reporters. [emphasis added]

As dumb as that reporter’s email phrasing was, it’s a little hard to take Sulkowicz’s media criticism seriously when she acknowledges the point of performance art:

I thought about how I was raped in my own bed at Columbia; and how the mattress represents a private place where a lot of your intimate life happens; and how I have brought my life out in front for the public to see; and the act of bringing something private and intimate out into the public mirrors the way my life has been. Also the mattress as a burden, because of what has happened there, that has turned my own relationship with my bed into something fraught. [emphasis added]

Sulkowicz has revealing thoughts about the police investigation into the alleged rape and why she’s not pursuing criminal charges or a civil suit. She also criticizes Columbia’s new sexual-assault policy, which as noted by The College Fix allows both parties to retain lawyers and seeks judges to serve on hearing panels:

Columbia just released a new policy, but in the new Columbia policy it is even harder than it was before to try a serial rapist, and have him expelled. Now they have explicitly stated that each case will be treated separately until the first one has closed. If one person rapes three girls in one night, those girls won’t be able to testify at each other’s cases, the way it currently stands. That to me is really sickening. 

She’d still rather have the school lead rape investigations than law enforcement:

The police don’t seem very well equipped either. It is going to take an administration that is willing to admit that they have done wrong, and make real tangible changes. I think administrations are actually in a better place to make these changes than the police right now. …

I feel like it would take that much longer for [the police to] change, but the universities are filled with people who are progressive thinkers, and who can come up with creative strategies to solve these problems. We have so many intelligent students who think about and care about this issue way more than any of the administration. [emphasis added]

Read the full Cut interview here, and earlier New York article here.

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IMAGE: YouTube screenshot

A Northern Kentucky University art student got creative in downtown Cincinnati this week.

Clad in skimpy sportswear, she asked strangers to write secrets and confessions on her half-naked body with a black marker.

She laid on a towel with a blindfold over her eyes and a big yellow sign next to her that read: “WRITE ON ME! Write your secrets, confessions or anything on your mind. Free yourself.”

It was accompanied by a lot of exclamation points and a peace symbol.

The performance artist was identified as Northern Kentucky University student Elani Sininger, 18, by WCPO/ABC, which quoted the young woman as saying “I wanted people to come and write their secrets, or something they’ve been keeping bottled inside of them, something they just wanted to release. Let them write it on my body and then just walk away and release all of their negative energy with me.”

“… It was so liberating — I had no idea what was going on around me and then  having someone come up and write their feelings on me is the most liberating  feeling that I’ve felt.”

People ended up writing some pretty interesting stuff. WCPO reports:

On her chest someone wrote, ‘I’m gay and my dad doesn’t know.’ Another confessed a case of alcoholism. On one of her feet read a note that said, ‘I  like feet’ and inside one knee someone wrote, ‘Good luck.’ Others weren’t as kind. One person wrote, ‘weirdo.’

A video the news station took of the young lady also showed that someone wrote “666” on her upper right leg. Creepy.

By the way, there’s no indication the project was part of an assignment of any sort.

Read more.

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IMAGE: Sininger’s Facebook/screenshot

A science professor at Columbia University on Monday began a quantum mechanics lecture by stripping into his boxers and eating a banana while rap music played in the background.

Then it got weird.

The professor, Emlyn Hughes, proceeded to redress himself in black, complete with sunglasses, and hug himself on stage at the front of the classroom, a large theater.

As Hughes sat in the fetal position, two “actors” dressed in ninja costumes walked onstage and placed white stuffed animals – lambs – on stools before the audience, according to a student-recorded video of the incident posted on Vimeo.com by “Bwog,” a campus news website run by Columbia students.

The ninjas blindfolded the lambs, then a ninja impaled one of the stuffed animals with a long sword and banged it against the stool – right as an image of a plane hitting one of the Twin Towers on 9/11 started rolling on a large screen behind the performance.

Students in the video could initially be heard laughing and giggling and questioning the performance when it started, even squealing in shock with Hughes had first undressed.

“I am so confused,” one female student said on the video. “What is happening.”

After the lamb’s grisly “death” and the images of 9/11, the footage turned into a montage that included clips of Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and Hitler – as well as numerous shots of war images – tanks rolling, bombs exploding, people hanging upside-down, troops marching, and the like.

As the footage continued, a rap song called “Drop It Like It’s Hot” played in the background.

Students’ reaction turned from laughter and amused surprised to concern, according to comments heard on the video.

“What the f**k is happening,” one female student asked. “Is this real life? … How does this relate to anything?”

Eventually, the film ended and the professor began his lecture. But when he first grabbed his microphone, at least one student mistook it for a gun, saying with concern: “He has a gun, he has a gun.”

The bizarre episode lasted less than ten minutes. The Vimeo clip included the very first part of Hughes’ lecture, in which he told students that “in order to learn quantum mechanics, you have to strip to your raw, erase all the garbage from your brain and start over again. … Everything you do in your everyday life is totally opposite of what you are going to learn in quantum mechanics.”

The Columbia Daily Spectator, the student campus newspaper that reported the news Monday of the professor’s performance, quoted several students who said they were troubled and confused by what unfolded.

Student Maura Barry-Garland told The Spectator that “the incident was all the more disconcerting because Hughes did not provide an explanation for using those images.

“It was very disturbing, and I don’t think anyone in the audience got what he was doing. He didn’t explain it or provide a context, and that’s why it was offensive to me and to other people,” she told the student newspaper.

The Spectator also reported Hughes’ performance Monday was not his first “stunt,” noting in a 2011 lecture “he showed students nude photos of Woodstock attendees.”

According to his bio page on the university’s website, Hughes stated that “via my background in nuclear physics activities, I have a deep interest in issues relevant to nuclear proliferation.”

WARNING: Video contains some profanity. (NSFW)

FroSci Gone Wild from Bwog on Vimeo.

Click here to read the Columbia Daily Spectator article on the incident.

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IMAGE: Bwog/Vimeo.com