Performance art and sexual assault.

Date of Award


Document Type



College of Liberal Arts

Degree Name

Bachelor in Arts


This paper creates an art historical lineage to Emma Sulkowicz's 2014 performance Carry That Weight: Mattress Performance. Carry That Weight and Sulkowicz follows in the footsteps of works of Suzanne Lacy, Ana Mendieta, and Karen Finley. While the works selected span more than forty years they employ similar tactics, such as the involvement of the audience, shock value, and community outreach. This paper contends that these artists used these tactics to publicize the private affront of sexual assault and by doing so, created socially activated art. The performances by Lacy, Mendieta, Finley, and Sulkowicz examine the power dynamics of sexual assault and its effect on communities and the female body. These works are representative of contemporary artists' engagement with feminist thought and activism. The changes in this movement will be assessed through the differences in these artists' approach to the same subject matter. This paper uses visual evidence as well as scripts and recorded audience responses to fully support these performances as socially minded works of art.