You Can’t Take Selfies at Emma Sulkowicz’s New Brooklyn Party

The artist will engage party guests in private conversations.

Emma Sulkowicz at "If You Don't Like Me Unfollow Me" (Alex Israel and Bret Easton Ellis) opening in LA. ©Patrick McMullan. Courtesy of Clint Spaulding/PMC.

It might sound like your average weekend party, but the three-day event at Obie-winning performance space JACK, in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, is actually the latest work from Emma Sulkowicz.

In her latest performance, I.D., she is promising to personally interact with each and every person who shows up. (There will also be a DJ and cash bar, and the walls of the venue are covered in crushed tin foil.)

The young performance artist is best known for her controversial endurance piece, Carry That Weight, which saw her carry a standard-issue dorm mattress around campus for her senior thesis at New York’s Colombia University in protest of the institution’s handling of her rape allegations.

Since graduating in May 2015, she has been studying studio art in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Independent Study Program, and is focusing on more interactive work.

A generic party image being used to advertise Emma Sulkowicz's latest performance piece. Courtesy of JACK.

A generic party image being used to advertise Emma Sulkowicz’s latest performance piece. Courtesy of JACK.

Sulkowicz’s first solo show, at Los Angeles’s Coagula Curatorial gallery, titled “Emma Sulkowicz: Self-Portrait,” had the artist on hand for the duration of the exhibition. The work, Self-Portrait (Performance With Object), invited visitors to ask her questions, but a life-size “Emmatron” robot answered inquiries Sulkowicz didn’t like with pre-programmed responses. At I.D., these conversations will occur amid drinking and dancing, as guests lose themselves in the party.

This one-on-one interaction recalls the work of Marina Abramović, including 2010’s The Artist Is Present, and her more recent 2014 show at London’s Serpentine Galleries, which saw her quite literally do nothing. A raging party seems like the opposite of a meditative experience, but Sulkowicz’s work echoes Abramović’s mission to personally engage with viewers.

“I’m exploring the ways in which participants shape artwork, especially performance artwork,” wrote Sulkowicz in an email to artnet News. She acknowledges the connection between her work and that of Abramović’s, but notes that “where Marina seeks to mystify, I do my best to demystify.”

Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present. Photo by Marco Anelli. © 2010 Marco Anelli. Courtesy Sean Kelly Gallery.

Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present. Photo by Marco Anelli. © 2010 Marco Anelli. Courtesy Sean Kelly Gallery.

The I.D. event description notes that by conversing privately with guests, “Sulkowicz drives the piece towards a reflection about the ‘identity’ that we choose to share, or not to share, with others.”

Don’t expect to follow the party on social media, however. “Attendees may not share photos or videos of I.D., either in-person or online,” notes the description. “They must use other means—speech, drawing, writing, dance, music, or other artistic media—to communicate their experiences.”

“Emma Sulkowicz: I.D.” will take place at JACK, 505 1/2 Waverly Ave, Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, at 8:00 p.m. October 20–22, 2016. Tickets are $10. 

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