Continuing the Conversation About Emma Sulkowicz’s “Carry That Weight”


About three months ago, art critic Roberta Smith published an article for the New York Times about Emma Sulkowicz and her performance art piece that she started as a way to address the rape she endured as a sophomore at Columbia University in 2012 and to protest sexual assault on campus in general.  Sulkowicz named this work Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight) wherein she carries a mattress with her whenever she is on the Columbia University campus.  Smith’s article provides a comprehensive story about Sulkowicz’s sexual assault and how her performance piece came to be, as well as reactions to the performance space.

This past Sunday, Smith and Sulkowicz continued their conversation about Carry That Weight at Brooklyn Museum, which was presented by the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art.  They started by catching up a bit and then focused on what has happened and changed since the NYT article was published.  Sulkowicz shared that since then she has started a mattress diary that she uses to record things that an outside observer would’t notice.  She also noted changes with and without the mattress – if she’s on a campus elevator without the mattress she’s treated as any other student but with the mattress she receives smiles and people are more likely to engage with her.

One of the most interesting aspects of the conversation was how boundaries played a role in the performance.  When some see her carrying the mattress and they help out by grabbing one end it throws her off balance and in turn makes it harder on her.  While she mentioned that their motives to help are sincere, they don’t communicate their intentions with her.  She followed that by saying, “And this is the language of consent, right?”, to which the audience clapped.  Others who see her with a mattress have been hesitant to help or think that they shouldn’t because they see it as an art piece that shouldn’t be interrupted.  Sulkowicz actually welcomes the help and is able to accept it, though cannot solicit it, as defined by her “Rules of Engagement”.  Other types of interactions she receives are strangers touching her as if she’s a saint and thanking her for what she’s doing, which again goes back to those who mean well but don’t communicate or take into consideration consent.  One of the most honest interactions she had was with a homeless man who offered and insisted on helping her because he had no knowledge of why she was carrying her mattress.

In this same vein, Sulkowicz talked about how being treated like a hero can be stressful.  While what she’s doing with her art is brave, she admitted to feeling powerless and powerful at the same time.  That paradox was encapsulated by Columbia University’s campus shuttle not stopping for her while carrying her mattress and the driver being told he had to do so, otherwise he’d risk being fired.

Something that was edited out of the NYT article was Sulkowicz stating that this is the piece that made her an artist. Before Carry That Weight she was making art on assignment.  At the very end of the talk, Sulkowicz had a question for Smith, which was about how she determined the performance piece was indeed art.  Smith replied that it had clarity and economy because nothing can be taken away from it – it was all needed – and that it was art of assertion and self-denigration.

Children Can Learn New Skills and Be Anyone with

Formal education isn’t the most appealing way to open up the world of curiosity and learning for those who require a more fluid form of engaging with the world. has has created a solution that offers children an opportunity to learn skills based on an occupation by completing projects and is described as, “The School We Wish We Had.”  As of now, it has over 100 occupations to choose from, including astronomer, gardener, open sourcerer, and weaver.

Membership is free but paid memberships earn awesome embroidered patches (or can be purchased otherwise) for an occupation after completing certain challenges and additional perks.  I took a peek at the challenges for astronomer and it includes ‘Protect Earth from Asteroids’ and ‘Make a Telescope.’  Yep, my elementary school self would have been into that (and my present self, to be honest).

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 3.36.59 PM provides an exciting platform and community in a creative online learning environment that allows children to contribute and connect with the world.  Just as important, it makes sure having fun is a part of the process.

Alas, their programs are only available for those that are 17 years old an under (as well as parents and educators) so us adults will have to make do with Skillshare and the like.

Polaroid Week 2014 Part II Has Arrived

It was just yesterday that I grabbed my Polaroid SLR 680 camera to take a photo and realized either it was busted and/or my expired 600 film was the culprit.  As I researched online how to do some self-repair I learned that ‘Roid Week 2014 Part II starts today.  Although I can’t participate this time around, the incoming photographs have provided a bit of comfort.

So far over 200 photos have made it to the group page – my favorites for today are below.  Each season of Polaroid Week has it’s own Flickr page so be sure to look at past weeks for some Polaroid beauty.  In the mean time, I’m going to figure out what’s going on with my cameras and film to prepare for next year!

Click on images for Flickr link:

Happy Polaroid Week!✰
Happy Polaroid Week!✰ by Fernanda

Untitled by Clare Bailey

AUTUMN POLAROID WEEK 2014! by The Gentleman Amateur

The fledgling
The fledgling by Rachael Baez

time zero
time zero by rom

Celestial Conversations

Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 5.07.41 PM
All images via NASA

Over the past week I’ve talked to two strangers about astronomy in depth.  This typically does not happen because the ever expanding universe is not quite the lightest of topics despite being fascinating.  I might casually tell a friend about a stargazing event or proclaim Saturn as my favorite planet if I can work it in a conversation somehow.  That I was able to talk to two people on separate but consecutive nights about celestial objects openly and with mutual excitement felt like a contribution to the universe.  With the blood moon and lunar eclipse just passing I felt it to be appropriate to start off Artlux with a topic that I believe expands the mind and is a major inspiration in my art and world view.

solar flare
When one realizes the size of stars, planets, galaxies and our respective human body size it can cause a feeling of insignificance.  On the contrary, being a part of an ever expanding universe is, to me, empowering.  We are a part of it, after all.

There is a post in the making about stargazing and creativity where my astronomy enthusiast self will be present in full force.  When I’m not stargazing the way I get my fix is through NASA’s Instagram feed.  I think Saturn is their favorite planet, too.

NASA has made great use of their Instagram account by posting breathtaking photos of cosmic objects, from black holes to solar flares, and even astronauts in action. Each image is paired with a detailed description to enhance your knowledge of outer space exploration.  Leave it to NASA to make Instagram an educational tool.

I have a feeling more celestial conversations are in my future.  With that, I must ask: are you interested in astronomy and/or have a favorite planet?  Please share if so.

Weekend Links 5.30.14

In honor of Artlux being back this weekend, here are not 6 but 9 links to pump you up to get more creative.  I certainly feel pumped myself coming up with so many ideas and working on them one step at a time.  Enjoy the weekend!

1.  YIKÁÍSDÁHÁ is the Navajo word for the Milky Way and the name of this short film about it – watch it in awe

2.  5 classic books that have inspired the realms from creativity to entrepreneurship (partial to The Power of Myth)

3.  Act on your passion with these creativity exercises

4.  Maya Angelou’s creative process – I like her style

5.  3 simple ways to foster creative thinking

6.  Take a break – you might get a eureka moment

7.  Ideo’s David Kelley talks about how to cultivate creativity in businesses

8.  No baby, if you’re going to create… – Bukowski on ideal conditions/myth of creativity (illustrated!)

9.  For those who have graduated, 10 Ted Talks with some great insight on what’s next

Editor’s Letter: May 2014

Yes, it’s true.  After a two month hiatus Artlux is back!  The time away gave me much to reflect on and to think about what direction to take this space and endeavor in.  I’ve learned a lot about capacity, focus, and energy since the last post was made and then the moment came when it was time to bring it all back.  Before that I wanted to make sure what Artlux is doing was more defined.  So I determined that what it will focus on is creativity’s role in society, supporting others to be creative, and experimenting with creativity.  This is what will be a part of the next iteration of this space, including interviews, toolkits, tutorials, and other exciting things!

I’m currently working on the next update for the website and structure of Artlux, which will be ready by the end of June/early July.   In the meantime new content will be posted a few times a week until the regular rhythm is figured out.  That said, watch out for some weekend links later today for some great reads.

Till then,


March Giveaway: Steal Like an Artist + Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon

If you have been wanting to take your creativity to the next level, Austin Kleon can show you how.  His tumblr is a rich resource full of quotes, recommended readings, and what his process for his endeavours looks like.  His newest book, Show Your Work!, is a guide on sharing your creativity and its predecessor, Steal Like An Artist, is about stealing influence from others.  A few days ago I got to meet Kleon for his book talk in NYC and was able to get signed copies of each of these books to giveaway for one Artlux reader!  See details below!  *We can still only accommodate U.S. entries at the moment.*

ALmarchgive1 ALmarchgive2

The Details (U.S. entries only please)

There are four ways to enter using the form below.  All entries are due by March 31, 2014.  We’ll randomly announce a winner on April 1st (no joke!).  Best of luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Weekend Links


Taking a “Think Week” sounds great right about now.  Learn about what it’s all about, as well as creative apps and messy desks, below:

1.  Why You Need a “Think Week” Like Bill Gates

2.  Famous Modern Artists’ Work Transformed Into Stunning Architecture

3.  Learning to Think Outside the Box: Creativity Becomes an Academic Discipline

4.  App Smart: Creativity – three apps that can help with the creative thinking process

5.  Why Creative Geniuses Often Keep a Messy Desk

6.  Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Crucial Difference Between Success and Mastery

Playlist: Pathways

It’s the first day of spring in the western hemisphere and this season is known for rebirth, life, and growth. To start off this time of renewal here’s a playlist of 10 songs about life reflection, perspective, and making choices.  Happy Spring Equinox!

In Every Direction – Junip

Silver Timothy – Damien Jurado

Biggy – Warpaint

Apocalypse Dreams – Tame Impala

Pieces of What – MGMT

Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.) – Monsters of Folk

Maybe Not – Cat Power

Helplessness Blues – Fleet Foxes

White Oak – Kalen Nash

Paz – Zoé

Austin Kleon Draws and Talks About His Book “Show Your Work!” in NYC

Earlier this evening, Austin Kleon gave a book talk about his new book Show Your Work! at Kinokuniya Bookstore in NYC.  As he introduced the book, which is a guide on sharing your creativity, and throughout his 20 minute talk, Kleon drew on a tablet so that the images appeared on a TV screen for his audience to see.  He started off talking about perceptions of a genius, depicting one as a god-like figure (with hair blowing with the wind, a lightning bolt, and everything) and how we often don’t see the process of what it took a genius to produce work.  He then brings in a concept from Brian Eno called scenius, which involved more of a community of talent rather than one individual.

Kleon made a point of not wanting to only talk about his own book and in the spirit of sharing process and things of interest, he presented a few books that he’s really into and recommends:

Japanese Death Poems: Written by Zen Monks and Haiku Poets on the Verge of Death

Grapefruit: A Book of Instructions and Drawings by Yoko Ono

Shovel Ready: A Novel

The Freddie Stories

I Like It. What is it?: 30 Detachable Posters

How to Look

In the questions part of the talk someone asked about making a living out of something and Kleon asserted that  no one can be guaranteed to make a living out of writing or art or anything really.  But doing those things equates to making a life rather than making a living.  He then said that showing your work can also mean meeting your wife, your best friends, and important people in your life.  His talk and book provided great advice on sharing creativity and process, whether it be to further a career or make a meaningful life and connections.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a chance to win signed copies of two Austin Kleon books!