Emma Sulkowicz, 22, the former Columbia University student and anti-rape activist whose art piece “Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight)” made her a lightning rod in the crusade to tackle sexual assault on college campuses, released a new video art piece online Thursday that was quickly taken down.

Set in a dorm room, the eight-minute video "Ceci N'est Pas Un Viol" ("This Is Not a Rape") shows Sulkowicz and a man with his face blurred having what looks like consensual sex that turns violent. In the video, which was taken down on Friday, Sulkowicz cries as the man strikes her and rips off his condom before forcing her to have sex with him.

Sulkowicz first provides a set of questions to the would-be viewer: "Are you searching for proof? Proof of what?" "What do you want from this experience?" "How well do you think you know me? Have we ever met?" and "Do you refuse to see me as either a human being or a victim? If so, why?"


Text that precedes the video does little to explain how the viewer is supposed to interpret the video -- or if the video should even be viewed.

"If you watch this video without my consent, then I hope you reflect on your reasons for objectifying me and participating in my rape, for, in that case, you were the one who couldn’t resist the urge to make Ceci N’est Pas Un Viol about what you wanted to make it about: rape," she writes.

"Everything that takes place in the following video is consensual but may resemble rape. It is not a re-enactment but may seem like one," Sulkowicz writes.

The name "Ceci N'est Pas Un Viol" plays off the name and themes of a famous work by surrealist painter René Magritte that shows an image of a pipe accompanied by the caption "Ceci N'est Pas Une Pipe." Some art critics argue that the painting asks the viewer to distinguish between reality and representation.

Many detractors in the comments section of Sulkowicz's video were not so interested in reflecting on the nature of representation or their participation in watching the video. "No rape victim would do this, especially not one who claims to be as traumatized as you claim to be," wrote one person. "This is some disturbed self-satisfying b------t,” another commenter wrote. “I am all for discussion and expression to help overcome and rise above what's been done to you, Ms. Sulkowicz, but this is a perverse way of doing so.”

But at least one commenter on Jezebel was willing to see the work as thought-provoking -- rather than gratuitously provocative: "I think it’s a really interesting piece," she wrote. "Unlike so many anti-campus sexual assault activists who argue that consent is a really straightforward and obvious idea, this piece seems to complicate ideas about consent and objectification."

Director Ted Lawson, who first posted a link to the video on Facebook before it was live on the website and subsequently taken down, introduced it by writing: "A performance art video I directed for Emma Sulkowicz. Your chance to see it before the Internet has a nuclear meltdown."