You remember Emma Sulkowicz, right? Right? RIGHT?!? After her performance art of mattress carrying, using false accusations against Paul Nungesser to carry herself to fame and momentary importance, she flailed around with bad porn and odd naked subway pics, but aside from giggling and ridicule, realized she peaked at college and might spend the rest of her life looking back at her glory days of walking around with a mattress.
Her time as icon of the victimhood in her past, and her efforts to establish herself as something other than an uninteresting pseudo-artist, she needed to reinvent herself. And so she did.
Five years ago, while a student at Columbia, Sulkowicz lugged a dorm-issue, extra-long twin mattress around campus for as long as she had to attend school with her alleged rapist. This was Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight), a globally viral art piece that made visible the weight of campus sexual assault. It transformed Sulkowicz into an icon. Since then, her artworks have regularly roused the internet: a video of her reenacting her assault, a bondage performance at the Whitney that doubled as institutional critique. This past spring, she tweeted an image that was perhaps even more provocative: a photo of her grinning alongside two of her libertarian critics — not performance art, she insists, but a byproduct of her new curiosity about other views.
I remember that photo. It was quite odd, not just to see Sulkowicz flanked by Reason’s Robby Soave and Cathy Young, but to see her at the party at all.
At it turns out, Sulkowicz read Jonathan Haidt’s book and it changed her life.
Not having known conservatives before, Sulkowicz had to play catch up. Early in their friendship, she asked him to recommend one book to help her understand him, and he picked Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind. It’s a book that explains, in evolutionary terms, the human tendency toward political tribalism and the importance, in light of that, of learning from one another’s beliefs. She calls the book “mind-opening.” Its resonance with her new friendship did not escape her.
And inexplicably, Haidt took in this newly uncoddled mind as a dear friend.
Great profile of Emma Sulkowicz (the artist formerly known as “mattress girl.”) My wife and I have gotten to know her well, can attest that she is open-minded, loving, funny, forgiving… she is on a journey, guided by virtues badly needed these days.
It’s wonderful that she discovered the virtues of having an open mind. It’s nice that she’s loving, funny, forgiving,” although it’s not at all clear why her being forgiving bears much on her falsely accusing Nungesser and spending years dedicated to destroying a young man’s life.
But what is it that makes Sulkowicz of any interest to anyone? Her sole claim to fame is as poster girl for fake victimhood. Beyond that, there’s no evidence she can sing or dance. Her attempt at being a porn star (I’m informed) could ruin a wet dream. She’s contributed no deep thought to the world and hasn’t, as far as I know, cured cancer. So what about this person gives rise to a profile in redemption and the gushing praise of her “loving” nature?
So she’s now fun at libertarian parties?
It is, indeed, good that one person has matured to the point of having an open mind, and I wish her well. But nowhere in this profile does she recognize the harm she did to Nungesser in the one, the only, aspect of her life that raised her profile above any other random girl on campus. Is she a celebrity deserving rehabilitation? Is she a celebrity at all? Are we now in the stage of wokeness that former false survivors get a new life as a fun friend of libertarians?
Emma Sulkowicz did some damage during her 15 minutes of fame, but even so, should be allowed to move forward in her life. But she’s no celebrity, she’s no toast of the town worthy of rehabilitation because she liked Jon Haidt’s book. Yet, here she is, back in the limelight as if she contributed something greater than a false accusation. That’s not a good enough reason.