I realize art is, of course, subjective. I know what I like; sometimes I can explain why, and sometimes I’m not sure what it is about a piece that draws me to it. Certainly good art evokes emotion and can stir controversy and push limits. And like the notorious virgin Mary/elephant dung uproar, an undergrad at Yale has recently caused quite a stir with her own senior art project:
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.
More after the jump…
From a health standpoint, and regardless of any of the value of the art, this is pretty atrocious. I get the whole “suffering for your art” idea, but purposely getting pregnant, then taking herbal abortifacients (which can vary in effectiveness and side effects) is, from my point of view, pretty frackin’ stupid.
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.
Because of the extremity of her project, she’s actually served to unite both those who are pro-choice and anti-abortion in speaking out against her project, with one student noting that it “turns what is a serious decision for women into an absurdism” and discounts the gravity of the situation that is abortion.” I’ll add that, though Sharvts notes the project has made her “increasingly comfortable discussing her miscarriage experiences with her peers,” the fact that she became pregnant and then induced abortion repeatedly in the manner she did minimizes the incredible sense of loss that women who have spontaneous miscarriages feel as well–so is this really bringing about the debate she was looking for?
Though she says she didn’t do this for “shock value,” it seems that at least one critic claims this type of art is “…the safest kind of art than an artist can go into the business of making today.” Certainly Shvarts’ work has gotten more attention that those of her peers, if nothing else.
[ETA: hmm, interesting. After writing a guest column insisting her project was real, the University says Shvarts has flip-flopped and says it's a work of fiction. Shvarts denies such an admission, and Yale won't allow it to be displayed without the disclaimer that it's fake. Still developing...]