News & Politics

'Mattress Girl' Returns With Performance Art No One Gets

If you say the name Emma Sulkowicz in most places, people will look at you funny. She’s not a household name by any stretch of the imagination. But when you explain that she is the student who lugged a mattress around campus to bolster her claim that she’d been sexually assaulted, people may well remember her.

Sulkowicz continued her performance art, and even was allowed a special privilege by Columbia University to do so at graduation, despite all the evidence which refuted her charge of sexual assault.

“She persisted.”

Now she’s back, using her “art” to protest again. This time, her target is an exhibition of Chuck Close’s paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Sulkowicz donned black underwear and asterisk pasties, and had herself photographed next to Close’s work.

Hmm.

Apparently, she is protesting against allegations that Close asked models to disrobe. Close is known for some of his nude paintings. He allegedly made off-putting remarks about some who chose to comply, and offered to pay them. Close is a paraplegic in a wheelchair, and is not alleged to have threatened or intimidated any of the women.

Newsday published the linked article defending Close and criticizing the museum for postponing his exhibition.

While most people don’t really get modern art, Sulkowicz’s protest performances take the seeming nonsense to a whole new level. Sulkowicz is protesting the potential exploitation of women by being scantily clad? Isn’t that a bit like protesting oil dependency by driving a Hummer?

The “art” makes no sense, even in context. No one will look at this and think: “You know, she has a point.” They’ll just look at her glorified tantrum — which appears to be a hallmark of Sulkowicz’s work up to this point — and simply roll their eyes. They won’t dig any deeper.

Instead, they’ll just move along.

Here’s a tip: If you want to make people think, you have to give them something worth thinking about. Standing around in your underwear with some tape covering your nipples near some paintings isn’t going to do it.

Sulkowicz’s behavior is simple attention-seeking. She’s exploiting the allegations these women made to promote herself.