Uh, I’m pretty broad-minded when it comes to art, but this is borderline, even for me:
Art major Aliza Shvarts ’08 wants to make a statement.
Beginning next Tuesday, Shvarts will be displaying her senior art project, a documentation of a nine-month process during which she artificially inseminated herself "as often as possible" while periodically taking abortifacient drugs to induce miscarriages. Her exhibition will feature video recordings of these forced miscarriages as well as preserved collections of the blood from the process.
The goal in creating the art exhibition, Shvarts said, was to spark conversation and debate on the relationship between art and the human body. But her project has already provoked more than just debate, inciting, for instance, outcry at a forum for fellow senior art majors held last week. And when told about Shvarts’ project, students on both ends of the abortion debate have expressed shock . saying the project does everything from violate moral code to trivialize abortion.
But Shvarts insists her concept was not designed for "shock value."
"I hope it inspires some sort of discourse," Shvarts said. "Sure, some people will be upset with the message and will not agree with it, but it’s not the intention of the piece to scandalize anyone."
The "fabricators," or donors, of the sperm were not paid for their services, but Shvarts required them to periodically take tests for sexually transmitted diseases. She said she was not concerned about any medical effects the forced miscarriages may have had on her body. The abortifacient drugs she took were legal and herbal, she said, and she did not feel the need to consult a doctor about her repeated miscarriages.
Shvarts declined to specify the number of sperm donors she used, as well as the number of times she inseminated herself.
Art major Juan Castillo ’08 said that although he was intrigued by the creativity and beauty of her senior project, not everyone was as thrilled as he was by the concept and the means by which she attained the result.
"I really loved the idea of this project, but a lot other people didn’t," Castillo said. "I think that most people were very resistant to thinking about what the project was really about. [The senior-art-project forum] stopped being a conversation on the work itself."
Although Shvarts said she does not remember the class being quite as hostile as Castillo described, she said she believes it is the nature of her piece to "provoke inquiry."
"I believe strongly that art should be a medium for politics and ideologies, not just a commodity," Shvarts said. "I think that I’m creating a project that lives up to the standard of what art is supposed to be."
The display of Schvarts’ project will feature a large cube suspended from the ceiling of a room in the gallery of Green Hall. Schvarts will wrap hundreds of feet of plastic sheeting around this cube; lined between layers of the sheeting will be the blood from Schvarts’ self-induced miscarriages mixed with Vaseline in order to prevent the blood from drying and to extend the blood throughout the plastic sheeting.
Schvarts will then project recorded videos onto the four sides of the cube. These videos, captured on a VHS camcorder, will show her experiencing miscarriages in her bathrooom tub, she said. Similar videos will be projected onto the walls of the room.
UPDATE: Possible hoax?
NEXT DAY UPDATE: Not a hoax, but not real either. It’s a "creative fiction" by the art student.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Then again:
The supposed senior art project of the Davenport College senior was a “creative fiction,” a Yale official said Thursday afternoon as students on campus and bloggers across the country expressed colossal outrage over what Shvarts described as a documentation of a nine-month process during which she claimed to have artificially inseminated herself “as often as possible” while periodically taking “abortifacient drugs” to induce miscarriages.
“The entire project is an art piece, a creative fiction designed to draw attention to the ambiguity surrounding form and function of a woman’s body,” Yale spokeswoman Helaine Klasky said in a written statement e-mailed to the News this afternoon.
But Shvarts stood by her project, calling the University’s statement “ultimately inaccurate.”
Klasky said Shvarts informed three senior Yale officials today — including two deans — that she neither impregnated herself nor induced any miscarriages. Rather, the entire episode, including a press release describing the exhibition, was “performance art,” Klasky said.
“She is an artist and has the right to express herself through performance art,” Klasky said. “Had these acts been real, they would have violated basic ethical standards and raised serious mental and physical health concerns.”
But Shvarts reiterated Thursday that she repeatedly use a needleless syringe to insert semen into herself. At the end of her menstrual cycle, she took abortifacient herbs to induce bleeding, she said. She said she does not know whether or not she was ever pregnant.
“No one can say with 100-percent certainty that anything in the piece did or did not happen,” Shvarts said, “because the nature of the piece is that it did not consist of certainties.”