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#AskAMogulAnything:Hi,I'mEmmaSulkowicz.I'mtheartistwhocarriedamattressaroundColumbiaUniversityformonthstoraiseawarenessaboutsexualviolence.Askmeanythingyou'dlike!YourquestionswillbeansweredLIVE10/24@12pmET.

Emma Sulkowicz
Emma Sulkowicz Performance Artist, Carried Mattress Around Columbia University for Months to Raise Awareness About Sexual Violence on Campus
3y New York, NY Conversation

Your questions will be answered on Monday, October 24th at 12 pm ET. To ask a question, click here to create a Mogul profile, then post a question in the comment section below!

Hi, I'm Emma Sulkowicz.

I'm an artist who lives and works in my hometown, New York City.

In 2015, I made headlines for carrying around a dorm mattress everywhere I went on Columbia University's campus. I did this for as long as I attended the same school as my attacker. It cast a spotlight on the issue of sexual violence on college campuses. It was also part of an endurance performance artwork that served as my senior thesis at Columbia. I earned a BFA in Visual Arts from Columbia University in 2015.

Currently, I am studying studio art at the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program. My  recent works include Ceci N'est Pas Un Viol, an Internet-based participatory artwork, and Self-Portrait (Performance With Object), which was my first solo gallery show.

Some more information about me: I used to have a pet turtle named Turtle. I eat kale in some form every morning. When I go for a long time without eating sugar, I have dreams about cinnamon rolls. And I haven't eaten meat for a decade but my dad still asks, "When is your vegetarian thing going to be over?"

Now's your chance to ask me anything! Please write your questions in the comments section below and I'll answer the questions live on Monday, October 24th at 12 pm ET. 

43 replies

As a guest user, you can still reply to conversations. Just press the "Reply" button below, which will prompt you to sign in or sign up on Mogul before your Reply posts.

  • Jan Johnston Osburn
    Jan Johnston Osburn Mogul Influencer | Career & Life Coach | Helping People Turn Dreams into Realities
    3y ago Washington, DC, United States

    Hi Emma! When you were carrying the mattress around, tell me more about the reaction by your classmates? Did you receive much support? For as much as society changes, it still still in the dark ages on some levels. Thanks, Jan.

    Hi Emma! When you were carrying the mattress around, tell me more about the reaction by your classmates? Did you receive much support? For as much as society changes, it still still in the dark ages on some levels. Thanks, Jan.

  • P A O L A
    P A O L A creative
    3y ago

    EMMA - YOU GO GIRL! I want to preface this message by first letting you know I have followed your story closely since it first made the news (and thrown it in the faces of both the Carnegie Mellon School of Art as well as every living thing that enters my range of motion) and that I am so honored to be granted this opportunity to have a conversation with you on Mogul. This is powerful art and this is an important reality. Neither takes away from the other. Yet, as an artist also studying this practice within a university context, I have realized that too often people shrug off the message of a piece we create because they lack the ability to believe we're not dramatizing for the sake of art. What was your experience overcoming that type of invalidation from people who insisted you were just another dramatic artist? Do you believe making your story part of your practice was harder or easier for your own healing process? Thank you so much for taking the time and courage to answer all of these questions - it can't be easy. I adore you and can't wait to see what more you create!

    EMMA - YOU GO GIRL! I want to preface this message by first letting you know I have followed your story closely since it first made the news (and thrown it in the faces of both the Carnegie Mellon School of Art as well as every living thing that enters my range of motion) and that I am so honored to be granted this opportunity to have a conversation with you on Mogul. This is powerful art and this is an important reality. Neither takes away from the other. Yet, as an artist also studying this practice within a university context, I have realized that too often people shrug off the message of a piece we create because they lack the ability to believe we're not dramatizing for the sake of art. What was your experience overcoming that type of invalidation from people who insisted you were just another dramatic artist? Do you believe making your story part of your practice was harder or easier for your own healing process? Thank you so much for taking the time and courage to answer all of these questions - it can't be easy. I adore you and can't wait to see what more you create!

    • P A O L A
      P A O L A creative
      3y ago

      Also - Do you think that making your experience an art piece helped or hindered the actual case against your attacker/reform school policy on sexual assault? I'm bombarding you with questions but honestly it's because I'm much too happy you're here.

      Also - Do you think that making your experience an art piece helped or hindered the actual case against your attacker/reform school policy on sexual assault? I'm bombarding you with questions but honestly it's because I'm much too happy you're here.

  • Emma Sulkowicz
    Emma Sulkowicz Performance Artist, Carried Mattress Around Columbia University for Months to Raise Awareness About Sexual Violence on Campus
    3y ago New York, NY

    Hey everyone, my time here is up. Thank you so much for your amazing questions. It's been so much fun connecting with you. To follow me in the future, I'm on Facebook and Instagram @emsulk. My website is www.emmasulkowicz.com. I don't really use Twitter, but maybe I'll get more into it someday ;)

    Hey everyone, my time here is up. Thank you so much for your amazing questions. It's been so much fun connecting with you. To follow me in the future, I'm on Facebook and Instagram @emsulk. My website is www.emmasulkowicz.com. I don't really use Twitter, but maybe I'll get more into it someday ;)

  • Kathy May
    Kathy May Associate at Deutsche Bank
    3y ago New York, NY, USA

    So excited to have you here! I admire you so much. Who are the top 3 public figures you admire most at the moment? What kinds of foods do you like to eat? What's your favorite book?

    So excited to have you here! I admire you so much. Who are the top 3 public figures you admire most at the moment? What kinds of foods do you like to eat? What's your favorite book?

  • Bethany Heinrich
    Bethany Heinrich Mogul Influencer
    3y ago New York, NY, United States

    Was it tiring carrying the mattress for so long? How did you build the strength to keep carrying it on campus?

    Was it tiring carrying the mattress for so long? How did you build the strength to keep carrying it on campus?

    • Emma Sulkowicz
      Emma Sulkowicz Performance Artist, Carried Mattress Around Columbia University for Months to Raise Awareness About Sexual Violence on Campus
      3y ago New York, NY

      At first, it was so painful I could barely move my neck. But by the end, I built up so much muscle! I had giant biceps! It was an interesting metaphor of "building strength."

      At first, it was so painful I could barely move my neck. But by the end, I built up so much muscle! I had giant biceps! It was an interesting metaphor of "building strength."

  • Rachel Borowicz
    Rachel Borowicz Software Engineer & Arts Philanthropist
    3y ago San Francisco, CA, United States

    It's such an honor to have you here, Emma. What is the biggest lesson you've learned in terms of heartbreak? Also, how can I support your latest work?

    It's such an honor to have you here, Emma. What is the biggest lesson you've learned in terms of heartbreak? Also, how can I support your latest work?

  • stefaniemanzi@outlook.com
    stefaniemanzi@outlook.com Mogul Influencer
    3y ago Massachusetts, United States

    Hi Emma! Thank you for standing up and using your voice to spread awareness of sexual assault on college campuses. Carrying the mattress around was brave, and most definitely gave people a shock when seeing you. I wonder, though, were some of the reactions from people more surprised at the fact you were carrying the mattress rather than WHY you were carrying it? Also, how do you think you made an impact on Columbia's campus regarding sexual assault, such as their procedures with dealing with reported incidences of sexual violence? How do you feel this impacted the number of men and women who report their sexual assault on not only Columbia's campus, but all college campuses nationwide?

    Hi Emma! Thank you for standing up and using your voice to spread awareness of sexual assault on college campuses. Carrying the mattress around was brave, and most definitely gave people a shock when seeing you. I wonder, though, were some of the reactions from people more surprised at the fact you were carrying the mattress rather than WHY you were carrying it? Also, how do you think you made an impact on Columbia's campus regarding sexual assault, such as their procedures with dealing with reported incidences of sexual violence? How do you feel this impacted the number of men and women who report their sexual assault on not only Columbia's campus, but all college campuses nationwide?

    • Emma Sulkowicz
      Emma Sulkowicz Performance Artist, Carried Mattress Around Columbia University for Months to Raise Awareness About Sexual Violence on Campus
      3y ago New York, NY

      What was shocking was that, because of the media about the piece, pretty much every single person on campus and in the surrounding neighborhood knew about my artwork. No one was surprised. There were only two people in the entire 9 months that I encountered who didn't know beforehand. One woman saw me and helped me carry it, completely not knowing why I was carrying it. English was not her first language, so it took a bit of time to explain to her why I was carrying it. When I communicated it to her, she was overcome with emotion and told me that she was going to tell her children about it. Honestly, I think that the processes are still imperfect, so I am not surprised if the number of people who report their cases has not increased. (I've mentioned this in my answers to other questions, so I won't spend much time on it here, but my main goal is to get rapists to stop raping, because I think that's the *only* way rape will stop happening. I'll leave the policy change stuff up to people in organizations who have that as their main focus.)

      What was shocking was that, because of the media about the piece, pretty much every single person on campus and in the surrounding neighborhood knew about my artwork. No one was surprised. There were only two people in the entire 9 months that I encountered who didn't know beforehand. One woman saw me and helped me carry it, completely not knowing why I was carrying it. English was not her first language, so it took a bit of time to explain to her why I was carrying it. When I communicated it to her, she was overcome with emotion and told me that she was going to tell her children about it. Honestly, I think that the processes are still imperfect, so I am not surprised if the number of people who report their cases has not increased. (I've mentioned this in my answers to other questions, so I won't spend much time on it here, but my main goal is to get rapists to stop raping, because I think that's the *only* way rape will stop happening. I'll leave the policy change stuff up to people in organizations who have that as their main focus.)

      • Emma Sulkowicz
        Emma Sulkowicz Performance Artist, Carried Mattress Around Columbia University for Months to Raise Awareness About Sexual Violence on Campus
        3y ago New York, NY

        I just decided to copy a bit from my diary on one of those days and share it here: "Normally, I treat my diary as if it were an assignment. Last night, however, as soon as I closed up my diary and went to this week’s Visiting Artist Lecture Series, something happened that made me want to write in my diary. I got excited. I was struggling to get my mattress from my studio on Broadway to the shuttle stop on Amsterdam, when a homeless man on the street started trying to get my attention. This is one thing I’ve been pretty anxious about with my piece. I don’t want to make fun of homeless people, who sometimes have to carry everything they own with them everywhere they go, and don’t have the luxury of owning a mattress! I’m trying to be respectful. That is one reason why site-specificity—keeping the mattress on Columbia property—is so important to this piece. Of course, Columbia is not a self-contained campus, and something like this was bound to happen. I was nervous, but also interested to see how this would play out. The man came up to me and asked if I needed help. I said I thought I would be fine. He saw that I needed help, though, and insisted that I let him help. He said that we could use his shopping cart, which had a boom-box in the little rack compartment where you are supposed to stick your child. For the record, I’m not into using wheels or straps or things that would fetishize the mattress. I have been trying to put this into words for a while: the reason I carry the mattress without straps or wheels or contraptions is because it feels more honest that way. To me, the piece is about an honest struggle. I’m honestly trying to grapple with something larger than me. But this man was not in danger of fetishizing the mattress. Perhaps more so than most people, he had an honest relationship with the mattress. He didn’t even know why I was carrying it. In fact, he was the first person in the history of this performance to offer help because he saw me struggling, rather than because he saw me on the news, or heard about me from a friend or fellow activist, etc. He was coming to this piece with a clean slate. It made me think about how many people October 15, 2014 I got cut off by the arrival of the guest I had been waiting for while working on that entry and never finished that sentence. It made me think about how many people don’t help because they know what I’m doing: all the people who will walk beside me for ten blocks and ignore me the entire time because they know about the art piece. If no one knew what the mattress represented, maybe I would get more help—who knows? It shows how our thoughts color our vision. Maybe, if people didn’t know about the art piece, they would see me struggling to carry this heavy mattress. Maybe, their prejudices distance them from what they are seeing and allow them to think about it as reprehensible, not to be engaged with, or annoying. Well, the struggle is real, and I wish that the people who ignore me would see that I need help."

        I just decided to copy a bit from my diary on one of those days and share it here: "Normally, I treat my diary as if it were an assignment. Last night, however, as soon as I closed up my diary and went to this week’s Visiting Artist Lecture Series, something happened that made me want to write in my diary. I got excited. I was struggling to get my mattress from my studio on Broadway to the shuttle stop on Amsterdam, when a homeless man on the street started trying to get my attention. This is one thing I’ve been pretty anxious about with my piece. I don’t want to make fun of homeless people, who sometimes have to carry everything they own with them everywhere they go, and don’t have the luxury of owning a mattress! I’m trying to be respectful. That is one reason why site-specificity—keeping the mattress on Columbia property—is so important to this piece. Of course, Columbia is not a self-contained campus, and something like this was bound to happen. I was nervous, but also interested to see how this would play out. The man came up to me and asked if I needed help. I said I thought I would be fine. He saw that I needed help, though, and insisted that I let him help. He said that we could use his shopping cart, which had a boom-box in the little rack compartment where you are supposed to stick your child. For the record, I’m not into using wheels or straps or things that would fetishize the mattress. I have been trying to put this into words for a while: the reason I carry the mattress without straps or wheels or contraptions is because it feels more honest that way. To me, the piece is about an honest struggle. I’m honestly trying to grapple with something larger than me. But this man was not in danger of fetishizing the mattress. Perhaps more so than most people, he had an honest relationship with the mattress. He didn’t even know why I was carrying it. In fact, he was the first person in the history of this performance to offer help because he saw me struggling, rather than because he saw me on the news, or heard about me from a friend or fellow activist, etc. He was coming to this piece with a clean slate. It made me think about how many people October 15, 2014 I got cut off by the arrival of the guest I had been waiting for while working on that entry and never finished that sentence. It made me think about how many people don’t help because they know what I’m doing: all the people who will walk beside me for ten blocks and ignore me the entire time because they know about the art piece. If no one knew what the mattress represented, maybe I would get more help—who knows? It shows how our thoughts color our vision. Maybe, if people didn’t know about the art piece, they would see me struggling to carry this heavy mattress. Maybe, their prejudices distance them from what they are seeing and allow them to think about it as reprehensible, not to be engaged with, or annoying. Well, the struggle is real, and I wish that the people who ignore me would see that I need help."

  • Emma Sulkowicz
    Emma Sulkowicz Performance Artist, Carried Mattress Around Columbia University for Months to Raise Awareness About Sexual Violence on Campus
    3y ago New York, NY

    Hey, it's Emma! It's time to answer your questions. For the next hour, I'll be answering questions that have already been posted as well as new questions that are added - so now's your time to ask me anything!

    Hey, it's Emma! It's time to answer your questions. For the next hour, I'll be answering questions that have already been posted as well as new questions that are added - so now's your time to ask me anything!

  • Johanna Hartford
    Johanna Hartford MOGUL Influencer
    3y ago Boston, MA, United States

    Hi Emma, thank you for taking the time to answer questions about your important work. I know that your art helped to inspire me when I wrote about my own experience with date rape. My question is did you fear retaliation from your attacker, whether it be verbal, physical, or social, when you considered this very visible demonstration? How did you overcome that fear?

    Hi Emma, thank you for taking the time to answer questions about your important work. I know that your art helped to inspire me when I wrote about my own experience with date rape. My question is did you fear retaliation from your attacker, whether it be verbal, physical, or social, when you considered this very visible demonstration? How did you overcome that fear?

    • Emma Sulkowicz
      Emma Sulkowicz Performance Artist, Carried Mattress Around Columbia University for Months to Raise Awareness About Sexual Violence on Campus
      3y ago New York, NY

      Aw, thank you! I'm glad. Definitely! I was always scared. I think I was lucky that I was on a campus with many progressive, like-minded individuals, so I felt safer than I would have felt somewhere else, but there was always the constant threat that something bad *could* happen. Ultimately, he chose to retaliate by filing the lawsuit against the school, the president of the university, and a few of my professors. This allowed him to submit a public document to the judge where he could write anything he wanted about me or my "character". (I put character in quotes, because he made up so many lies about my character!) When you file a lawsuit, the words you write in the document that you submit to the judge are not liable for libel. In other words, it gave him an opportunity to publicly say whatever terrible things he wanted about me and not worry that he would have to prove any of it.

      Aw, thank you! I'm glad. Definitely! I was always scared. I think I was lucky that I was on a campus with many progressive, like-minded individuals, so I felt safer than I would have felt somewhere else, but there was always the constant threat that something bad *could* happen. Ultimately, he chose to retaliate by filing the lawsuit against the school, the president of the university, and a few of my professors. This allowed him to submit a public document to the judge where he could write anything he wanted about me or my "character". (I put character in quotes, because he made up so many lies about my character!) When you file a lawsuit, the words you write in the document that you submit to the judge are not liable for libel. In other words, it gave him an opportunity to publicly say whatever terrible things he wanted about me and not worry that he would have to prove any of it.

      • Johanna Hartford
        [deleted]
        3y ago Boston, MA, United States

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        • Johanna Hartford
          [deleted]
          3y ago Boston, MA, United States

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  • Johanna Hartford
    [deleted]
    3y ago Boston, MA, United States

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  • Erin Ormsby
    3y ago New York, NY, United States

    Hey Emma! I admire your courage, strength, and want to thank you for taking such a terrible, personal experience and turning it into an opportunity to spark a worldwide, well-needed conversation about sexual violence. We talked about your response with the mattress quite often in one of my uni classes. I'm going to bombard you with questions, feel free to answer/don't answer as many as you'd like! Unfortunately, there is still a stigma about women who report sexual assault, as well as victim blaming. Even sadder is that it's often women doing the blaming. What advice would you give to help combat this attitude amongst men and women and normalize the conversation about sexual assault? As a survivor of sexual assault, what did you find was the best system of support? What is the best way a friend can help a survivor? Did most of your fellow students support you or react negatively to carrying the mattress? Most universities have a sexual assault workshop as a part of freshman orientation. Obviously, looking at stats of sexual assaults on college campuses, something isn't working. What kinds of steps do you think colleges should take in order to prevent assaults? Is this something that we should be educating people about even before college?

    Hey Emma! I admire your courage, strength, and want to thank you for taking such a terrible, personal experience and turning it into an opportunity to spark a worldwide, well-needed conversation about sexual violence. We talked about your response with the mattress quite often in one of my uni classes. I'm going to bombard you with questions, feel free to answer/don't answer as many as you'd like! Unfortunately, there is still a stigma about women who report sexual assault, as well as victim blaming. Even sadder is that it's often women doing the blaming. What advice would you give to help combat this attitude amongst men and women and normalize the conversation about sexual assault? As a survivor of sexual assault, what did you find was the best system of support? What is the best way a friend can help a survivor? Did most of your fellow students support you or react negatively to carrying the mattress? Most universities have a sexual assault workshop as a part of freshman orientation. Obviously, looking at stats of sexual assaults on college campuses, something isn't working. What kinds of steps do you think colleges should take in order to prevent assaults? Is this something that we should be educating people about even before college?

    • Emma Sulkowicz
      Emma Sulkowicz Performance Artist, Carried Mattress Around Columbia University for Months to Raise Awareness About Sexual Violence on Campus
      3y ago New York, NY

      Thank you! 1. Ultimately, every voice counts. So when we see someone victim blaming someone else, it really means the world to the person hearing the victim blaming words if we stand by them and speak up, too. 2. Best system of support? FRIENDS that believe in what you're doing. It is impossible to be strong if you don't have an even stronger group of friends to back you up. If a friend starts to question your motives, or expresses disbelief in your story, they're not the kind of person you need to have around while you're going through such an intense process. 3. The best way to help a survivor? Listening, not interrogating. The worst thing about being a survivor in the first place is the fear that you won't be heard or understood. If our friends won't even make us feel heard or understood, then how can we feel confident that the rest of the world will, too? 4. People that actually knew me were supportive. My peers know the way I think, and understand the meaning of my art. I can't really say how people who didn't know me reacted. I heard rumors that there were students on campus who doubted me, but no one was brave enough to say it to my face. 5. I always say that rape won't stop until rapists stop raping. So, no matter what a university does, it won't help that much unless the actual campus culture changes. That's why I think it is so important for students to educate *each other* about how to be good campus citizens.

      Thank you! 1. Ultimately, every voice counts. So when we see someone victim blaming someone else, it really means the world to the person hearing the victim blaming words if we stand by them and speak up, too. 2. Best system of support? FRIENDS that believe in what you're doing. It is impossible to be strong if you don't have an even stronger group of friends to back you up. If a friend starts to question your motives, or expresses disbelief in your story, they're not the kind of person you need to have around while you're going through such an intense process. 3. The best way to help a survivor? Listening, not interrogating. The worst thing about being a survivor in the first place is the fear that you won't be heard or understood. If our friends won't even make us feel heard or understood, then how can we feel confident that the rest of the world will, too? 4. People that actually knew me were supportive. My peers know the way I think, and understand the meaning of my art. I can't really say how people who didn't know me reacted. I heard rumors that there were students on campus who doubted me, but no one was brave enough to say it to my face. 5. I always say that rape won't stop until rapists stop raping. So, no matter what a university does, it won't help that much unless the actual campus culture changes. That's why I think it is so important for students to educate *each other* about how to be good campus citizens.

  • Default
    Guest
    3y ago

    What was your opinion on the Brock Turner case? I couldn't believe he got off so easily. What got you through right after being violated? You've started a movement and I think it's wonderful. Have you ever thought about starting an organization of some sort surrounding sexual assault or something to continue the mattress movement on college campuses?

    What was your opinion on the Brock Turner case? I couldn't believe he got off so easily. What got you through right after being violated? You've started a movement and I think it's wonderful. Have you ever thought about starting an organization of some sort surrounding sexual assault or something to continue the mattress movement on college campuses?

    • Emma Sulkowicz
      Emma Sulkowicz Performance Artist, Carried Mattress Around Columbia University for Months to Raise Awareness About Sexual Violence on Campus
      3y ago New York, NY

      Thank you so much! It sounds like we have the same opinion on the Brock Turner case ;) Totally upsetting and BAD. What got me through? Definitely my friends. Friends are EVERYTHING. Actually, while at Columbia, I helped co-found No Red Tape, which ended up becoming a huge force for organizing all the campus rallies and events surrounding anti-sexual violence activism.

      Thank you so much! It sounds like we have the same opinion on the Brock Turner case ;) Totally upsetting and BAD. What got me through? Definitely my friends. Friends are EVERYTHING. Actually, while at Columbia, I helped co-found No Red Tape, which ended up becoming a huge force for organizing all the campus rallies and events surrounding anti-sexual violence activism.

  • Default
    Guest
    3y ago

    What would be your dream company or artist to work for?

    What would be your dream company or artist to work for?

    • Emma Sulkowicz
      Emma Sulkowicz Performance Artist, Carried Mattress Around Columbia University for Months to Raise Awareness About Sexual Violence on Campus
      3y ago New York, NY

      I would work for myself and create my own art! ;) ;) ;)

      I would work for myself and create my own art! ;) ;) ;)

  • Default
    Guest
    3y ago

    Lastly, how are you healing since being attacked. I have a friend who was and it's taken a long time for her to be able to date again.

    Lastly, how are you healing since being attacked. I have a friend who was and it's taken a long time for her to be able to date again.

    • Emma Sulkowicz
      Emma Sulkowicz Performance Artist, Carried Mattress Around Columbia University for Months to Raise Awareness About Sexual Violence on Campus
      3y ago New York, NY

      I think that everyone's healing process is different. Some people may feel fine for a few months, but then get reminded of it (through triggering) and start to feel the hurt all over again. It's a non-linear process. Some people don't want to heal immediately, and that's okay, too! I definitely have my good days and my bad days.

      I think that everyone's healing process is different. Some people may feel fine for a few months, but then get reminded of it (through triggering) and start to feel the hurt all over again. It's a non-linear process. Some people don't want to heal immediately, and that's okay, too! I definitely have my good days and my bad days.

  • Default
    Guest
    3y ago

    Hi Emma, I applaud you for what you did to raise awareness on sexual assault. It's unfortunate what is happening on college campuses. What is the update on what Columbia is now doing to prevent sexual assault as a result of your effort?

    Hi Emma, I applaud you for what you did to raise awareness on sexual assault. It's unfortunate what is happening on college campuses. What is the update on what Columbia is now doing to prevent sexual assault as a result of your effort?

    • Emma Sulkowicz
      Emma Sulkowicz Performance Artist, Carried Mattress Around Columbia University for Months to Raise Awareness About Sexual Violence on Campus
      3y ago New York, NY

      Thank you! They have definitely updated their policies, but I think that the biggest changes have been in the realm of campus culture. I think that there is a much better awareness of what sexual assault means now, so I think that, while it still happens, less people are likely to commit those crimes.

      Thank you! They have definitely updated their policies, but I think that the biggest changes have been in the realm of campus culture. I think that there is a much better awareness of what sexual assault means now, so I think that, while it still happens, less people are likely to commit those crimes.

      • Emma Sulkowicz
        Emma Sulkowicz Performance Artist, Carried Mattress Around Columbia University for Months to Raise Awareness About Sexual Violence on Campus
        3y ago New York, NY

        And yes, I am a New Yorker through and through! ;)

        And yes, I am a New Yorker through and through! ;)

    • Default
      Guest
      3y ago

      Do you see yourself wanting to stay in New York?

      Do you see yourself wanting to stay in New York?

  • girl
    girl not yet a woman
    3y ago

    from an artist pov, is performance art more vulnerable for you? i find it to be more intimate or does it depend on the context? thanks :-)

    from an artist pov, is performance art more vulnerable for you? i find it to be more intimate or does it depend on the context? thanks :-)

    • Emma Sulkowicz
      Emma Sulkowicz Performance Artist, Carried Mattress Around Columbia University for Months to Raise Awareness About Sexual Violence on Campus
      3y ago New York, NY

      Yes! Definitely! And that's why I'm so interested in it as an art form. I think that the interpersonal interaction is one of the most vulnerable things we can experiment with!

      Yes! Definitely! And that's why I'm so interested in it as an art form. I think that the interpersonal interaction is one of the most vulnerable things we can experiment with!

  • Bethany Heinrich
    Bethany Heinrich Mogul Influencer
    3y ago New York, NY, United States

    Hi Emma, thank you for being here and it's an honor. How has your life changed since carrying the mattress to make a statement? How do you think you will look back on college 5 years from now?

    Hi Emma, thank you for being here and it's an honor. How has your life changed since carrying the mattress to make a statement? How do you think you will look back on college 5 years from now?

    • Emma Sulkowicz
      Emma Sulkowicz Performance Artist, Carried Mattress Around Columbia University for Months to Raise Awareness About Sexual Violence on Campus
      3y ago New York, NY

      I can't even imagine what my life would be like had I not done Mattress Performance. I think my life has turned into a crazy rollercoaster ride. Already, only a little over a year later, I look back at college and think, "How the fuck did I go through all that?????? I can't believe that all happened!"

      I can't even imagine what my life would be like had I not done Mattress Performance. I think my life has turned into a crazy rollercoaster ride. Already, only a little over a year later, I look back at college and think, "How the fuck did I go through all that?????? I can't believe that all happened!"

      • Emma Sulkowicz
        Emma Sulkowicz Performance Artist, Carried Mattress Around Columbia University for Months to Raise Awareness About Sexual Violence on Campus
        3y ago New York, NY

        And thank you!

        And thank you!

  • Sally22
    3y ago

    Also wondering - who are your favorite artists? Who has most inspired you and why?

    Also wondering - who are your favorite artists? Who has most inspired you and why?

    • Emma Sulkowicz
      Emma Sulkowicz Performance Artist, Carried Mattress Around Columbia University for Months to Raise Awareness About Sexual Violence on Campus
      3y ago New York, NY

      Ah! I have so many favorite artists. I think I learn something different from each artist, so I could never pick just one. I may have to come back to this question.

      Ah! I have so many favorite artists. I think I learn something different from each artist, so I could never pick just one. I may have to come back to this question.

  • Sally22
    3y ago

    Hi Emma - It's great that you're pursuing art as a career. What are your goals for the future? What do you want to be doing five years from now? What about ten or fifteen years from now?

    Hi Emma - It's great that you're pursuing art as a career. What are your goals for the future? What do you want to be doing five years from now? What about ten or fifteen years from now?

    • Emma Sulkowicz
      Emma Sulkowicz Performance Artist, Carried Mattress Around Columbia University for Months to Raise Awareness About Sexual Violence on Campus
      3y ago New York, NY

      Hi! Thank you. I am so deeply thankful for my professors who helped me make my art meaningful. There were certain professors who saw how much trauma I needed to express through my art and did their best to help me refine my practice so that my art would speak clearly and powerfully. So, this is what I want for my future. I want to be able to do for someone else what my professors did for me. I think they gave me a gift and I want to pass it along. To do this, I want to keep making art for the rest of my life, because I think that art is one of the most powerful communicative tools. But I also want to be a teacher or professor in some capacity, so that I can work directly with young artists who have important things to say.

      Hi! Thank you. I am so deeply thankful for my professors who helped me make my art meaningful. There were certain professors who saw how much trauma I needed to express through my art and did their best to help me refine my practice so that my art would speak clearly and powerfully. So, this is what I want for my future. I want to be able to do for someone else what my professors did for me. I think they gave me a gift and I want to pass it along. To do this, I want to keep making art for the rest of my life, because I think that art is one of the most powerful communicative tools. But I also want to be a teacher or professor in some capacity, so that I can work directly with young artists who have important things to say.

  • miranda444
    3y ago

    Hi Emma - I think what you did took so much strength. What was the reaction of the campus administration to what you were doing at Columbia? Did people ever try to talk you out of it? Did you feel like you got the support that you needed?

    Hi Emma - I think what you did took so much strength. What was the reaction of the campus administration to what you were doing at Columbia? Did people ever try to talk you out of it? Did you feel like you got the support that you needed?

    • Emma Sulkowicz
      Emma Sulkowicz Performance Artist, Carried Mattress Around Columbia University for Months to Raise Awareness About Sexual Violence on Campus
      3y ago New York, NY

      Thank you! They were wholly unsupportive. Dean Valentini turned his head away from me when we passed on campus. The president of the university, President Bollinger, refused to shake my hand at graduation. They tried to make me not carry it at graduation.

      Thank you! They were wholly unsupportive. Dean Valentini turned his head away from me when we passed on campus. The president of the university, President Bollinger, refused to shake my hand at graduation. They tried to make me not carry it at graduation.

  • glasshalffull100

    Hi Emma - I admire your courage. How did you come up with the idea to carry the mattress? When you started carrying it, what was the reaction on campus? What were the most difficult times when carrying it?

    Hi Emma - I admire your courage. How did you come up with the idea to carry the mattress? When you started carrying it, what was the reaction on campus? What were the most difficult times when carrying it?

    • Emma Sulkowicz
      Emma Sulkowicz Performance Artist, Carried Mattress Around Columbia University for Months to Raise Awareness About Sexual Violence on Campus
      3y ago New York, NY

      Hi, thank you! It came organically. I was working on a video for an art residency in which I was moving a bed, part-by-part, outside of a house and reassembling it on the front lawn. Over this video, I played the audio of a secret recording I took when I reported my assault to the police. The policemen were incredibly victim-blaming as they interrogated me about my assault. After making this video, I thought it would make more sense to create a scenario in which the image of me carrying the mattress was at the actual site of where I was assaulted--at Columbia University. On campus, people would take pictures of me as I walked by, and talk behind my back. A lot of students debated about whether or not "they believed me." Often, people forget that I'm a human being and that when they talk about me like this, it really hurts. However, many people did help me carry the mattress. It got hardest in the winter, when fewer people were open to helping me carry it. My hands were often wet and cold from the snow. Those were very lonely, isolating months.

      Hi, thank you! It came organically. I was working on a video for an art residency in which I was moving a bed, part-by-part, outside of a house and reassembling it on the front lawn. Over this video, I played the audio of a secret recording I took when I reported my assault to the police. The policemen were incredibly victim-blaming as they interrogated me about my assault. After making this video, I thought it would make more sense to create a scenario in which the image of me carrying the mattress was at the actual site of where I was assaulted--at Columbia University. On campus, people would take pictures of me as I walked by, and talk behind my back. A lot of students debated about whether or not "they believed me." Often, people forget that I'm a human being and that when they talk about me like this, it really hurts. However, many people did help me carry the mattress. It got hardest in the winter, when fewer people were open to helping me carry it. My hands were often wet and cold from the snow. Those were very lonely, isolating months.

  • rob3000
    [deleted]
    3y ago

    [deleted]

    [deleted]

  • Tiffany Pham
    Tiffany Pham Founder & CEO, Mogul
    3y ago New York, NY, USA

    Hi Emma, an honor to have you here. What have been your thoughts on the recent sexual assault allegations against Donald Trump? What words would you want to share with his alleged victims?

    Hi Emma, an honor to have you here. What have been your thoughts on the recent sexual assault allegations against Donald Trump? What words would you want to share with his alleged victims?

    • Emma Sulkowicz
      Emma Sulkowicz Performance Artist, Carried Mattress Around Columbia University for Months to Raise Awareness About Sexual Violence on Campus
      3y ago New York, NY

      Honestly, I already didn't like the guy, but now I see how fucking despicable he is. I am humbled by the strength it must take to come out about violence done by a man with so much power. But also, I want to recognize how terrifying it must be. When we talk about survivors, we tend to focus so much on their valor and strength that we forget how terrifying it is to be public. I would love to send them support and solidarity as they go through what must be a surreal and triggering process.

      Honestly, I already didn't like the guy, but now I see how fucking despicable he is. I am humbled by the strength it must take to come out about violence done by a man with so much power. But also, I want to recognize how terrifying it must be. When we talk about survivors, we tend to focus so much on their valor and strength that we forget how terrifying it is to be public. I would love to send them support and solidarity as they go through what must be a surreal and triggering process.

  • MaryPflumPeterson

    Hi Emma - So great to have you on Ask A Mogul Anything. You and your mattress sparked discussions around the world about sexual violence. Was that your intent? What do you think about where things stand now with respect to how campuses handle reports of sexual violence?

    Hi Emma - So great to have you on Ask A Mogul Anything. You and your mattress sparked discussions around the world about sexual violence. Was that your intent? What do you think about where things stand now with respect to how campuses handle reports of sexual violence?

    • Emma Sulkowicz
      Emma Sulkowicz Performance Artist, Carried Mattress Around Columbia University for Months to Raise Awareness About Sexual Violence on Campus
      3y ago New York, NY

      Thank, you Mary! It's strange to think back to before Mattress Performance. I honestly didn't think people outside of Columbia campus would notice that it was happening. Also, I didn't even think that most people ON campus would realize I was doing a performance art piece. (Columbia is a giant University, with people spread out all over the northern part of Manhattan.) I thought that people who didn't know what was going on would see me carrying a mattress and just assume I was moving into a new dorm room or something. I can be naive at times. I mostly wanted to communicate my message to the people in my immediate vicinity. But in the first week, when I was inundated by reporters, I quickly realized that this was going to be a bigger deal than I had anticipated.... I think that many colleges have improved their processes. However, I think the most important changes are within the realm of campus culture. Ultimately, no amount of legislation change will affect the prevalence of rape on college campuses. Rape will only stop when rapists stop raping. That's why I see equal (and potentially more) value in ending rape culture through art and activism than changing school policies themselves.

      Thank, you Mary! It's strange to think back to before Mattress Performance. I honestly didn't think people outside of Columbia campus would notice that it was happening. Also, I didn't even think that most people ON campus would realize I was doing a performance art piece. (Columbia is a giant University, with people spread out all over the northern part of Manhattan.) I thought that people who didn't know what was going on would see me carrying a mattress and just assume I was moving into a new dorm room or something. I can be naive at times. I mostly wanted to communicate my message to the people in my immediate vicinity. But in the first week, when I was inundated by reporters, I quickly realized that this was going to be a bigger deal than I had anticipated.... I think that many colleges have improved their processes. However, I think the most important changes are within the realm of campus culture. Ultimately, no amount of legislation change will affect the prevalence of rape on college campuses. Rape will only stop when rapists stop raping. That's why I see equal (and potentially more) value in ending rape culture through art and activism than changing school policies themselves.


Emma Sulkowicz
Performance Artist, Carried Mattress Around Columbia University for Months to Raise Awareness About Sexual Violence on Campus

Emma Sulkowicz (b. 1992), lives and makes art in her hometown, New York City. She earned a BFA in Visual Arts from Columbia University (2015) and is currently studying studio art at the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program. She is perhaps best known for her senior thesis at Columbia [...]

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