Reporting by The Columbia Spectator has revealed even more bizarre details about Emma Sulkowicz’s newly-released pornographic film. While the paper wasn’t able to extract any new statements from Sulkowicz, they were also able to interview the film’s director, Ted Lawson, who was far more willing to talk. While the paper’s new discoveries were few, what they were able to discover fires the imagination. Here are five highlights below.
1. The film’s director is best known for making a selfie out of his own blood
When he isn’t directing sex tapes, Lawson is an avante-garde artist, and he’s perhaps best-known for using a robot to draw a naked self-portrait made out of his own blood, titled “Ghost in the Machine.” That wasn’t the only art he made out of “blood on paper,” either. Even when he isn’t using his own hemoglobin in the service of art, Lawson is making other odd or utterly horrifying pieces of art.
2. Sulkowicz’s partner in the film is an actor from a fetish website
While Lawson was the film’s director (how does one even direct a single-take film from a static camera angle that has no editing, anyway?), some other actor was responsible for the dutiful work of having sex with Sulkowicz. Currently, that actor remains unnamed and unknown, but Lawson tipped off the Spectator that he and Sulkowicz found the man on a fetish website.
This raises several pressing questions. Why were Sulkowicz and Lawson looking on a fetish website for their actor in the first place? What fetish was it for? What on earth did the actor do in the video that made them realize “Him! That’s the guy we need!”
3. The director has some grandiose thought on the film’s artistic value.
“To me, the video is really in three acts,” Lawson told the Spectator about the eight-minute opus. “There’s a consensual part and then there’s a beat where it becomes, in my view, a non-consensual act.”
The fascinating thing is, Lawson really isn’t wrong in this description. The film really does follow a pretty clear narrative arc, with a beginning (the normal sex at the start), rising action (the abrupt part where it suddenly becomes a surreal rape fantasy), and a resolution (where the perpetrator bolts out of the room while stark naked Sulkowicz is left to make her bed).
From there, however, Lawson take’s the film’s ability to follow the standard narrative arc for most films and offers effusive praise for his actors and their ability to execute the film’s complex plot. He told the Spectator that the actors had skillfully captured the thin line between consent and non-consent, and allowed viewers to obtain a deeper understanding about the nature of sexual assault.
“It’s hard to wrap your head around how could it be consensual and even be kinky and then become nonconsensual,” he said. “I think the video expresses the possibility that you don’t forfeit that [consensuality] ever.”
Deep, man. Deep.
4. The video was the third take.
Lawson praised Sulkowicz for her perfectionism in approaching the video, demanding that it be as realistic as possible and all done in a single take, something which (presumably incidentally) made it almost indistinguishable from regular amateur porn.
“Emma insisted on it being completely real. Everything had to be actually performed,” Lawson said. “That’s what makes it a performance art piece. You have to get it in one take and there is no trickery.”
Once again, this revelation raises more questions. What caused the take to be insufficient the first two times? Were all the takes in one go or did they take breaks? What acting advice was Lawson giving the actors between takes to ensure improvement?
5. The entire video is based on surreal French art.
The French title of the video, “Ceci N’est Pas Un Viol” (This Is Not A Rape), is apparently intended as a reference to French surrealist painter René Magritte, who produced a painting titled The Treachery of Images. The painting is a picture of a tobacco pipe that has “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (This is not a pipe) written beneath it. The intent of the art, according to Magritte, was to appear at first utterly false while actually being totally true. After all, the painting wasn’t a pipe, it was a painting. Similarly, the video isn’t a rape, just a video of an alleged one.
Sadly, while the mystery of the video’s title has been explained, a greater mystery remains unanswered: Did Sulkowicz use the mattress she was lugging around everywhere to film the video? Will we ever know?
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