Marina Abramović is Down With Emma Sulkowicz’s Mattress Piece

Portrait of Marina Abramovic, 2012 © 24 ORE Cultura S.r.l. and © Laura Ferrari Courtesy of the Marina Abramovic Archives.

Emma Sulkowicz, the Columbia undergraduate making headlines this semester after vowing to carry a mattress around the Morningside Heights campus until the man she claims raped her either withdraws from the university or is expelled, has drawn the admiration of another artist and feminist icon–Marina Abramović.

Abramović told NY Mag “I really want to meet her,” adding that, in her view, “Many people don’t have the willpower to stick to something no matter what, and that’s what she’s doing.”

With occasional help from her fellow students, Sulkowicz, a senior studying visual arts, has been carrying the large dormitory mattress around with her everywhere she goes on campus as part of a performance piece titled “Mattress Performance: Carry That Weight”. The performance also doubles as her senior thesis (see “Columbia Student’s Striking Mattress Performance“).

Abramović plans to meet the young artist next week and wants to inquire about any future performances that she has planned. The 67-year-old has lots of advice for the 22-year-old Sulkowicz, and says it’s important for artists like her to make their name not just with a single piece that garners a lot of attention, but rather with a developed oeuvre that brings together a number of works in order to articulate what the artist sees in the world. “An artist doesn’t make a name with one piece,” she told NY Mag, “they have to make a body of work.”

For now, Sulkowicz will continue to be an important voice for campus advocates in the fight against sexual violence (see “Columbia Student’s Performance Art Catalyzes a Full-Fledged Protest Movement“) that many artists, including Abramović, have been trying to bring to the center of national attention for decades.

“It’s about changing consciousness, changing the state of mind,” Abramović  said. “Only then can you change the world.”


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