Sulkowicz is interviewed about her performance art piece, The Healing Touch Integral Wellness Center, where she will take on the role of a doctor, seeing ‘patients’ for 30-minute appointments from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for two weeks at the Philadelphia Contemporary gallery.
If the thesis of this project is that art heals in ways that medicine can’t, I’m trying to figure out what that means. I want this to be a space where people can safely explore their emotions—that’s what I think a ‘safe space’ is—and figure out what they need from art, not just as an intellectual journey but to really feel why art is important to them…It sounds corny, but if my goal with art is to actually change the world for the better, I think performance art is going to be the most effective tool for that.
Yes [I resent him], because people accused me of launching a bullying campaign against him. But no one knew his name until he put it out there…I’m doing other things now, but he still has a pending lawsuit. What’s he doing with his life? It’s crazy to me.
On whether she wishes she could escape the notoriety of her mattress performance:
Absolutely. It’s really depressing to not be anonymous. It’s an ongoing conflict because on the one hand, I’m happy that the movement needed someone to step up and be the face of it and humbled to have been chosen, but the sacrifices I’ve had to make for that have been really stressful. I’ve lost friends. It was a very tumultuous year and I was very depressed.
Sulkowicz talks about her upcoming show in LA’s Chinatown. On the creation of multiple 3D figure of her image:
The idea is that I’ve been so widely publicized in the media, which was completely unexpected and unprecedented for me. I’ve seen my image become so mass-produced. Now, if anyone wants to mention anything about campus rape, they’ll invoke my name even if I’m only marginally related to what they’re talking about. My image has sort of become this currency that you use if you want to talk about anything related to these topics.
On her appearance with Emmatron, her life-size robot that answers question on her behalf:
I’ll be there during gallery hours every day that it’s open, and I’ll just be doing my thing. You can come talk with me. You can ask me whatever you want. [Emmatron] is a separation between me as a human being versus this sort of way that people can treat me as if I’m a robot when they ask me very repetitive, insensitive questions…The truth is that I was never able to cope [with Internet harassment]. It’s not like any amount of support was going to cancel out that people were Facebook messaging me to kill myself…It’s been fun to record these questions for Emmatron, and I think that she’ll be fun to play with, if you know what I mean. She’ll have fun things to say. Hopefully, the end result is lively and entertaining, but I’m also trying to drive home a serious point.
Sulkowicz talks about her sex tape project to the art site.
Question: One of the things that really struck me about the text accompanying the video is when you write “You might be wondering why I’ve made myself this vulnerable…I want to change the world.” Is it that thinking that made you want to become an artist?
I don’t know that it’s why I want to be an artist, but it’s why I’m forced to be an artist. It’s more that being an artist is the only way I know how.
Question: Do you think that making yourself vulnerable is what it takes to change the world these days?
Question: Are you concerned at all about being stigmatized or pigeon-holed byMattress Performance?
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.
After nine months Sulkowicz completes her performance art project, laying the mattress to rest in her parents living room, with the intent to later sell the art piece to a museum. With Nungesser and herself having both graduated, she says that she has no further use for the mattress.
I’m not going to just throw it away. It tells of all the times when things didn’t really go according to plan and all the fucked-up things that happened. People think I was supposed to have this warlike relationship with it and it was supposed to be this object that I was angry with, but for me, that related to how people chose to read my piece rather than the way I lived with it … I have a scenario planned for the exhibition of my piece…If some sort of museum wants to buy it, then I’m open to that. But I’m not going to just throw it away.
Sulkowicz’s ideal scenario for exhibiting the piece includes the mattress, the collection of plastic bed-wetting sheets that protected it in the rain, instructions to re-create the “Rules of Engagement” she had painted on her studio wall, and a 59,000 word diary that tracked her experiences.
It [the diary] tells of all the times when things didn’t really go according to plan and all the fucked-up things that happened. It’s the real record of the piece…To me, the piece has very much represented [the fact that] a guy did a horrible thing to me and I tried to make something beautiful out of it…I’ve had the most crazy two years of my life, so I’m ready to go incognito and try to make a life where not everyone is recognizing me. Maybe I’ll change my hair color.
Sulkowicz is interviewed in New York magazine’s The Cut section. She talks about the mattress project, her alleged rape, and the reaction so far:
Physically, I’m really sore. 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.
On the student response:
So far students I have never met before have helped me carry it. As I was walking across campus last night I heard someone shout, “Go, Emma!” and I’ve gotten such an overwhelming positive response on the internet. One girl seems to be organizing some sort of website that will allow students to organize and figure out how to help me carry it to all my classes.
On the perception of the protest:
In the news, people have been calling my piece a protest, and just ignoring the fact it is not really a protest but a performance-art piece. Yes, I would like for my rapist to get kicked out of school, but I realize that the university is so stubborn that it may never happen and I may be carrying this mattress for a while.
She also claims to have dropped the police action:
It got transferred to the district attorney’s office, and I decided I didn’t want to pursue it any further because they told it me it would take nine months to a year to actually go to court, which would be after I graduated and probably wanting to erase all of my memories of Columbia from my brain anyway, so I decided not to pursue it.