Since she was beaten, strangled, and raped the first day of her sophomore year at Columbia University, Emma Sulkowicz has been shrugged off by her school and treated skeptically by the police. For her senior thesis, the visual arts major will carry around a dorm room mattress until her rapist is expelled, or until she graduates.
The performance is entitled "Mattress Performance," or "Carry That Weight."
"We keep [mattresses] in our bedroom, which is our intimate space, our private space, where we can retreat if we don't want to deal with anyone at that moment," Sulkowicz told the Columbia Spectator. "But I think the past year or so of my life has been really marked by telling people what happened in that most intimate, private space and bringing it out into the light."
Sulkowicz is part of a group of students who have filed federal lawsuits against Columbia, alleging the school violated their rights under Title IX, Title II, and the Clery Act, by failing to adequately respond to their complaints of sexual assault. Earlier this year, Columbia showed its commitment to the issue by decorating a sheet cake.
In the video, Sulkowicz seems to acknowledge that her performance could potentially result in her carrying the mattress to receive her diploma. "To me, it's an endurance performance arts piece…It utilizes elements of protest, because I think that is relevant to my life right now."
One of the rules of the piece stipulates that Sulkowicz may not ask for help carrying the mattress, but she can receive it if it's offered.
"I'm not hoping that everyone comes and helps, but I'm very interested in seeing where this piece goes and what sort of life it takes on."