Vulture Fascinated by Mattress Girl Mattress as Museum Art; Ignores Hoax Proof

May 28th, 2015 2:53 PM

The appropriately named Vulture section of New York magazine has circled over what all proof indicates is a rape hoax and swooped down to gorge itself on speculation about the museum art future of the mattress carried around by the infamous Columbia University "Mattress Girl," Emma Sulkowicz. Amid all the really bizarre fascination by writer Andy Battaglia in the mattress as an art piece, not a bit of thought is even given as to the legitimacy of the rape charges by Sulkowicz despite very strong documentary evidence that it was a hoax.

Battaglia's determination to avoid the facts of the case and indulge in his fanboy fascination with the mattress as art begins with the title, Will Emma Sulkowicz’s Protest Mattress Wind Up in a Museum? and goes straight downhill from there:


Emma Sulkowicz’s Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight) concluded this month with her graduation from Columbia University. Now that it’s put to bed, so to speak, a series of questions arises. Among them: What should become of the mattress itself?

She herself told the Times on Class Day: “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.”

Mattress Performance has been admired for, among other things, its ability to catalyze a conversation outside the bounds of art. It has also been controversial for that same reason.

Of course that conversation in Battaglia's fanboy piece carefully avoids the strong evidence that the rape is a hoax which gives lie to the Mattress Performance with which he is so enamored.

Many have noted that Mattress Performance resonates with historically weighty works by Vito Acconci, Tehching Hsieh, and Marina Abramovic. And these days, props from performances by Acconci, Hsieh, and Abramovic are displayed in museums and, in some cases, sold in galleries.

It also resonates with A Rape on Campus by Rolling Stone. Meanwhile Battaglia goes on and on and on in this pretentious vein ad nauseam:

The mattress itself is of course just part of the art, a prop to instigate all that happened around it. In that, it falls into another lineage as an artifact of performance art that can be difficult, if possible at all, to document and show. Artists like Chris Burden, Carolee Schneemann, and Mike Kelley were known early in their careers for performance pieces that, later on in time, took on different aspects as objects stood in for actions. And in any case, the question remains: How do you meaningfully exhibit a performance piece that already happened?

...Sulkowicz says her ideal scenario for exhibiting the piece, which she’s still figuring out, would involve the mattress along with her collection of plastic bed-wetting sheets that protected it in the rain. Along with the bed parts would be instructions to re-create the “Rules of Engagement” she had painted on her studio wall — a reproducible wall painting “sort of like a Sol LeWitt,” she says — and an aspect of the piece that she has never talked about before: a diary that tracks her experience over the course of a performance that ended just last week.

Believe it or not, Mattress Girl also kept a diary totaling 59,000 words about her experiences carrying around her "art."

The document, totaling 59,000 words (the length, more or less, of a novel) and typed up in Microsoft Word, tells of her interactions with fellow students and strangers, she says — including one with a homeless man who was among the first to help her haul the mattress around. “He was the first person who helped without some sort of preconstructed belief for why they were going to help,” she says. “He was like, ‘Oh, look, a struggling girl — let me help her and be a nice human being.’ That was probably the most honest interaction I had.”

The diary also takes stock of “a lot of misreadings,” including a failure on most observers’ part to notice the nine months of her endurance feat for what it was: the same as the term of a pregnancy. That was part of the project from the beginning, the artist insists: “When I started, I knew that Columbia was not going to kick him [the subject of her protest: her alleged rapist] off campus just because I was carrying a mattress. That’s ridiculous. I knew I would be carrying it for nine months, and that was a very important part of the piece to me.”

That reference to the "alleged rapist" is as close as Performance Mattress fanboy Battaglia gets to the actual facts of the case. To find out why he carefully avoided this, check out the excellent Daily Beast article of last February that focuses on the facts, not silly performance art:

While Sulkowicz has always said that they started out having consensual sex, her account diverges drastically from [Paul] Nungesser’s at this point. According to Sulkowicz, he suddenly and brutally assaulted her, then picked up his clothes and left without a word, leaving her stunned and shattered on the bed. According to Nungesser, they briefly engaged in anal intercourse by mutual agreement, then went on to engage in other sexual activity and fell asleep. He says that he woke up early in the morning and went back to his own room while Sulkowicz was still sleeping.

Sulkowicz has said in interviews that she was too embarrassed and ashamed to talk to anyone about the rape, let alone report it; an account of her mattress protest by New York Times art critic Roberta Smith says that she “suffered in silence” in the aftermath of the assault. Yet Nungesser says that for weeks after that night, he and Sulkowicz maintained a cordial relationship, and says she seemingly never indicated that anything was amiss.

...On Aug. 29, two days after the alleged rape, Nungesser messaged Sulkowicz on Facebook to say, “Small shindig in our room tonight—bring cool freshmen.” Her response:

lol yusss

Also I feel like we need to have some real time where we can talk about life and thingz

because we still haven’t really had a paul-emma chill sesh since summmmerrrr

On Sept. 9, on a morning before an ADP meeting, it was Sulkowicz who initiated the Facebook contact, asking Nungesser if he wanted to “hang out a little bit” before or after the meeting and concluding with:

whatever I want to see yoyououoyou

respond—I’ll get the message on ma phone

On Oct. 3, Sulkowicz’s birthday, Nungesser sent her an effusive greeting; she responded the next morning with, “I love you Paul. Where are you?!?!?!?!” Nungesser claims that these exchanges represent only a small portion of their friendly communications, which also included numerous text messages.

These communications plus subsequent investigations of the case demonstrate that rather than being a rape victim, Mattress Girl comes off as behaving like a desperate spurned lover. However the injustice done to the accused is beside the point for fanboy Andy. All that counts to him is the silly art of the utterly false Mattress Performance.