Emma Sulkowicz, the recent Columbia graduate who carried her dorm room mattress around campus for the majority of her senior year to protest the University's handling of rape allegations against a fellow classmate, has released a new video in which she and an anonymous man act out sex acts that turn violent.
The video, Ceci N'est Pas Un Viol ("This Is Not A Rape"), went live Wednesday evening, and is directed by video artist Ted Lawson. It is eight minutes long, and depicts Sulkowicz and a man with blurred facial features engaging in sexual acts inside what appears to be a college dorm room. From Jezebel:
The unidentified man open-palm slaps Sulkowicz, chokes her, removes the condom, then continues to have very rough sex with Sulkowicz, who whimpers and protests from pain.
Sulkowicz's piece is prefaced with a 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. If at any point you are triggered or upset, please proceed with caution and/or exit this website.
She goes on to explain that the video "is not about one night in August, 2012," differentiating this new project from her senior thesis, Carry That Weight, and her alleged rapist, who was never charged with a crime. She then asks a series of questions of her viewers, many of which touch on Sulkowicz's objectification—both by those who support her message, and those who detest it. "How well do you think you know me? Have we ever met?" she asks. And, "Do you refuse to see me as either a human being or a victim? If so, why?"
In an interview with Artnet, Sulkowicz explained that she was inspired to make the video, at least in part, by her relationship with the media ("It's been terrifying"). Asked if she feared that Carry That Weight would forever pigeon-hole her as "Mattress Girl," Sulkowicz responded:
Yeah, I mean, when people call me "Mattress Girl" I find that really infuriating. It's like, okay great, so you think that I'll never progress beyond that point. That I'll be a "Mattress Girl" rather than a living, breathing person who has the ability to change.
As for how this latest piece came about, "I honestly am going to hold off on that question," Sulkowicz told ArtNet. "Because I don't want to color the way people read this piece yet."