It is time, gentle readers, that we, once again, discuss the meaning of art. Just what is it, and will it look good over the living room couch? The invaluable Dave Barry explains:
As you may recall, the last time we checked in on the British art community, it had awarded a major art prize, plus 20,000 pounds (about $30,000) to an artist named Martin creed, for a work titled ‘The Light Going On and Off.’ It consisted of a vacant room in which the lights went on and off.
Yes. Got thirty grand for that. Why? Because ‘The Lights’ ‘Going On and Off’ possesses the quality that your sophisticated art snot looks for above all else in a work of art, namely: no normal human would ever mistake it for art. Normal humans, confronted with a room containing only blinking lights, would say ‘Where’s the art? And what’s wrong with these lights?
Fast forward to New York City, circa 2017. A normal human walks into an art gallery and instead of lights going on and off, beholds an attractive bikini clad girl with pink hair–head and pubic– bound to a 4X4 and suspended in midair as a bearded fellow in a pseudo tuxedo whips her. As Barry suggests, that normal person would likely ask: “Where’s the art? Why is that girl tied to a 4X4? Why is he whipping her? Should I call the police, and why does she seem to like it?” Barry continues:
This kind of thing drives your professional art snots CRAZY. They cannot stand the thought that they would like the same art as the stupid old moron public. And so, as the public has become more accepting of modern art, the art snots have made it their business to like only those works of ‘art’ that are so spectacularly inartistic that the public could not possibly like them, such as ‘The Lights Going On and Off.
Or perhaps “The Mattress Girl Bound, Suspended and whipped?”
You remember, don’t you, gentle readers, the mattress girl? Emma Sulkowicz? I first wrote about her back in 2015 in Emma Sulkowicz: The Rape Of Credibility.
Like most, I first became aware of former Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz when she made a claim of rape against a fellow student, and thereafter began to carry around a small mattress, earning the appellation: “The Mattress Girl.” Considering most actual victims of rape have no intention of calling attention to themselves, I thought this odd, to say the least. So many “rape” accusations on campus these days are a result of the “rape culture” hysteria ginned up by Obamites and bear no resemblance to actual rapes.
As I’ve often written, rape is a serious crime with very specific elements, normally including penetration and lack of consent. If there was no penetration, whatever happened was not rape. If there was consent, it wasn’t rape. Whatever occurred may fulfill the elements of some other crime in the various states, but lacking the elements of rape, it’s not rape.
Unfortunately, one of the articles of faith of the social justice tyranny that prevails in academia is if a woman feels violated, or even disrespected, she has been raped. The emphasis is not on the elements of a crime or on reality, but on feelings. This is partially why most campus rapes aren’t reported to the police, and if they are, most are not prosecuted. While there is inevitably a surfeit of aroused feelings, there is commonly no evidence to fulfill the elements of the crime.
This is where campus rape tribunals enter, stage left.
The other problem is witness credibility. Rape is often a “he said/she said” situation. Actual rapists tend to avoid witnesses, and for most people—Ms. Sulkowicz excepted, as we shall see–sexual acts are something better conducted in private. Even if no alcohol or drugs were involved, much rests on the credibility of the accuser. This is so even if physical evidence exists that supports the accuser’s account, and even if there is evidence to fulfill every element of the crime. Some people are simply poor witnesses. They don’t communicate well on the witness stand and juries won’t believe them.
Another aspect of the campus social justice rape culture narrative is that all women must be believed, regardless of the evidence, which is normally ignored, just as the due process rights of the accused are denied. In fact, all men are rapists, even if they haven’t yet been convicted of it, so they deserve no due process.
Then came Emma Sulkowicz. She reported her “rape” months later, and as is common in such cases, electronic communications were found post-rape expressing not only her continuing sexual interest in her supposed rapist, but her love for him and desire to continue their sexual relationship. As is also common, the police declined to prosecute (actually, the local prosecutor declined to prosecute), but as is most uncommon, even Columbia’s rape tribunal cleared Sulkowicz’s supposed rapist, a rare and amazing feat.
As if carrying around a mattress wasn’t strange enough, the tale of Emma Sulkowicz became stranger yet. Not only did she earn college credit—in art, of course—for carrying around her mattress, she built her senior thesis on it. And when she graduated, in defiance of the orders of the college administration, carried her mattress across the stage. All of this garnered substantial national—even worldwide attention for Sulkowicz.
And then, things got really strange. Sulkowicz made a porn video depicting her “rape,” filmed by four separate cameras, and posted it on the Internet. Not only did it lack the production values of the lowest quality contemporary porn, it was a graceless, rather sordid spectacle. Sulkowicz is an attractive young woman, but managed to make herself look tawdry. Brietbart reviewed the video:
At the start of the tape, Sulkowicz enters a dorm room, blue-haired — for that is the uniform of the Internet feminist and masturbatory social justice warrior — pursued by a bear. Online critics have expressed dismay at the fact she hasn’t bothered to make the carpet match the drapes by dying her pubic hair blue. It’s a recent innovation known to the social justice community as “the full San Francisco.” Perhaps this fashion-forward intimate grooming trend is yet to appear on the east coast.
What follows is punchy. By which I mean Sulkowicz gets punched, though she insists in the unhinged copy on her website that everything in the video is consensual. There follows much quivering of flesh and a deeply unsatisfactory blow job. As a queer, I can tell you it is probably the most lazily and messily administered head I have seen in years. If this is the sort of oral sex straight men are getting, can anyone blame them for retreating into pornography and video games?
By this point, every police officer in America was thanking his lucky stars he never had to deal with Sulkowicz as a victim/witness. There is no doubt porn stars can be raped, just as prostitutes can be raped (no, I’m not calling Sulkowicz a prostitute, simply making a legal point), but there is equally no doubt a victim/witnesses’ character and actions can render a prosecution all but impossible. Rape “advocates” hate to admit it—it’s victim blaming, don’t you know–and will often viciously attack those pointing it out, but a substantial number of rape claims are false. How many? During my police days, I experienced a false report rate as high as 50%. This was not due to misogynistic Neanderthals unwilling to believe women, but proved by the evidence, or lack thereof, and by the confessions of the women who made the false reports. Why did they lie? Jealousy, anger, trying to gain sympathy, and sometimes, they were simply nuts. They lied for all the reasons people lie.
Every false report makes it more difficult for juries to believe actual victims, and this effect is magnified when supposed victims like Emma Sulkowicz become media stars, and seem unable to avoid the limelight, trading on their supposed victimization. I sensed I would hear of Ms. Sulkowicz again. After all, post-graduation, she was just another college graduate with a degree that could not support her. What would she come up with next? BDSM posing as art.
On the third floor of a Midtown Manhattan office building, a line of guests stretches down a cigarette ash-colored hallway. In an adjacent kitchen area, a captivating, gray-bearded man wearing a black suit and a white tie with WHITNEY printed in block letters splashes cold water on his face. Two younger guys congratulate him on his work this evening. They think they’ve witnessed the end of a performance piece starring the sharp-dressed man and Emma Sulkowicz, the 24-year-old artist most famous for protesting an alleged rape by lugging a mattress through the Columbia University campus for the duration of her senior year. But tonight’s work, conceived by Sulkowicz and titled The Ship is Sinking, is still going.
‘Mr. Whitney,’ as Sulkowicz refers to him in the piece that debuted last Saturday, is portrayed by the bearded man, an S&M film star known as ‘Master Avery,’ whose Kink.com profile describes his body type as that of a ‘swimmer’ and his cock girth as ‘thick.
I shudder to imagine what my Kink.com bio would say. Not that I have a kink.com bio…or that I would want one…or, oh, you get the idea. By the way, Kink.com is perhaps the largest, highest quality purveyor of bondage and fetishistic porn, or if you will, out of the vanilla mainstream artistic expression.
So, what was that all about?’ one of the guys asks Mr. Whitney, who a few minutes ago tied a bikini-clad, pink-haired Sulkowicz to a seven-foot slab of wood and raised her to the ceiling of the gallery one floor below, while verbally and physically assaulting her.
‘Well,’ Mr. Whitney begins casually. ‘I had to kick her ass a little. She’s lazy. I can’t have her thinking she can be an artist.
Of course not.
A few days earlier, I sat with a friendly, nervous Sulkowicz at lunch and talked about her latest offering, part of the Whitney Museum of American Art’s esteemed Independent Study Program. ‘At this point I’ve read enough theory and I’m confident enough in myself as an artist to know that I can only maintain an art practice if I’m doing stuff that’s kooky, wacky and fun,’ she said, ‘and that’s why I’m really excited about this piece.’ Revealing that she would be dressed in a bikini while hanging from the ceiling in the position of a female figurehead on a ship’s mast, she giggled, adding. ‘I’m definitely going to be the most naked person in the room.
By all means, take the link and read the entire article. Ms. Sulkowicz is not, by any means, just another every day bondage model. She’s an artist, and an artist of unfathomable depth.
During the performance, Mr. Whitney uses heavy-duty ropes to bind the submissive Sulkowicz, clad in spiky, sparkling heels. Drops of sweat trickle off the tip of his nose as he muscles the ropes around her over and over again. He burns her skin while she moans as the tightest of knots is executed. As he raises her off the ground, she maintains a show of stoicism; then Mr. Whitney goes back to perusing the financial section of The New York Times in a nearby chair.
This is the point where many normal people would be wondering if Sulkowicz, bound and suspended, would look good in the living room. But what about Trump? Where does Trump fit into this?
Sulkowicz says the piece is part observation on Donald Trump’s America and the place of art within it, part critique of the art establishment, and part personal exploration of her own boundaries as an artist.
‘If our country is falling to pieces and you’re like, I’m going to make political art!, you’re just kind of weighing the ship down,’ Sulkowicz says. ‘The only art that’s really going to fix things are going to happen outside the walls of the institution,’ meaning, in this case, the Whitney.
Nevertheless, ‘Every one of the artists in the room that night asked to be a part of this structure, we all want to be bound to the institution,’ she continues, referring to her peers in the program. ‘In spite of all this pain, we still want it.
Uh, right. Trump. Institution. Got it. It’s interactive art too:
As Sulkowicz hangs several feet above the performance space’s floor – with pink tufts of pubic hair sprouting from the top of the bikini bottom and from her armpits [pubic hair is sprouting from her armpits?!] – a woman pushes through the gallery goers. ‘Do you want me to get you down?’ she asks Sulkowicz, looking up at her.
‘No, it’s O.K.,’ Sulkowicz says. ‘I have to show Mr. Whitney I have what it takes to be an artist.’ She’s repeated that phrase over and over tonight, even as friends greeted her upon arriving, not realizing that the performance had already begun.
Here, gentle readers, is where we must pause to consider what’s happening. Bondage is a relatively common sexual practice, and many enjoy it. One supposes there can be a sort of artistry in the tying and placement of ropes, the positioning of the bound, nude or semi-nude female form, and perhaps even in the endurance necessary to deal with a lengthy suspension, but is the desire, the ability to be bound and tortured—of a sort—for lengthy periods, demonstrative of one’s artistic talent? And of course, what does Sulkowicz have planned for the future?
Since graduating, Sulkowicz has offered commentary on the rape case through a collection of silkscreened images and newspaper clippings, and dressed up as a doctor and played the role of therapist to see how ‘art heals in ways that medicine can’t,’ as she told The Daily Beast in January. She hopes to restage this collaboration with Master Avery in other venues, and is ‘always working on something’ art related.
How, one wonders, does Sulkowicz top this?
An eager Sulkowicz attaches the wooden post to the makeshift pulley system hanging from the ceiling, approaches Mr. Whitney and pleads with him, again, to ‘make me an artist.
So that’s how one becomes an artist! Forget all those years of education and practice.
You know it’s going to hurt,’ Mr. Whitney retorts.
‘I know what it takes now,’ she says, steadfast. ‘I know what to expect.’
Mr. Whitney goes to work again, but much more fiercely this time, grabbing Sulkowicz harder, tying the knots tighter, making her moan louder.
He moves quicker this time, once again positioning her like a figurehead atop the gallery. He pulls Sulkowicz’s hair, slaps her face, and invites an audience member to join – a heavyset dude, dressed in a black tee and torn black jeans, wearing some lipstick and face powder. He’s been here since the doors opened, and now he and Mr. Whitney are both slapping her ass.
As the clock strikes eight, the gallery’s lights go out, signaling the end of the performance. But Mr. Whitney continues the onslaught, pinching Sulkowicz’s nipples.
Onlookers fire up the flashlight function on their iPhones, once again illuminating the gallery corner.
Shortly thereafter, Sulkowicz ‘gives up’ again. Mr. Whitney takes her down and continuously chastises her as he unravels the knots.
‘Ah, this is a waste of my time,’ he suddenly ejects. Then, addressing the crowd says, ‘Why don’t you all untie her instead?’
Eight or so people surround Sulkowicz as she lies on the ground and pull at the ropes. In a couple minutes she’s free, and everyone applauds.
As the crowd thins, Sulkowicz and Master Avery embrace. With her eyes shut, she smiles widely.
She’s an artist. A rope-marked, sweaty artist with exposed tufts of pink pubic hair, some apparently reaching to her armpits, but an artist nonetheless.
Thus continues the story of The Mattress Girl. I wonder how much one gets paid for that sort of art? Does it pay the bills in New York City?
I don’t criticize Sulkowicz’s artistic endeavor in and of itself. There is, after all, a certain esthetic in a nearly naked, attractive women artistically bound. It’s a compelling image, and she’s an adult, able to make such choices for herself. It’s not something most would seek on a daily basis, but stumbling upon it, we’d likely feel obliged to watch, not only for the arousal aspect, but to see what was going to happen next. Besides, pink pubic hair in armpits is something one doesn’t see every day.
The problem is we begin with a young woman riding what appears to be a false charge of rape, a charge that damaged not only the innocent man thus charged, but the institution they both attended. In her apparent inability or unwillingness to abandon that deception, she continues to damage the cause of genuine rape victims, because unlike most women, her notoriety has given her a national, even international, platform to spread unfortunate misconceptions about rape, not only on campus, but elsewhere. Unless Ms. Sulkowicz is merely cynically exploiting her initial lie, obsessing about such a thing can’t be good for her long term well-being.
Like politicians past their sell-by date, Emma Sulkowicz’s persona of the Mattress Girl needs to be relegated to the past. It’s time for a new birth of art.