Thursday, April 17, 2008

Abortion a medium for art, political discourse

From the Yale Daily News: For senior, abortion a medium for art, political discourse

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 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.

I'm not sure how I feel about the project yet but it's an interesting idea. The mixing of the sheets with the video is really unique - a demonstration of the tangible and intangible, the stillness of the sheets and the vividness of the film while both have the potential to evoke very emotional responses.

I want to see the actual installation before I make any sort of opinion on the work itself. If anyone's in the New Haven area and wants to check it out, the exhibit is in Holcombe Hall on Chapel Street, open from April 22 to May 1.

What do other people think about it?

UPDATE:

Yale released this press statement today:

Ms. Shvarts is engaged in performance art. Her art project includes visual representations, a press release and other narrative materials. She stated to three senior Yale University officials today, including two deans, that she did not impregnate herself and that she did not induce any 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.

She is an artist and has the right to express herself through performance art.

Had these acts been real, they would have violated basic ethical standards and raised serious mental and physical health concerns.

Change anyone's opinion?

11 comments:

Jezabel said...

I think that that is quite possibly the most disgusting and despicable thing I have ever heard in my entire life. Inducing miscarriages in the name of art is beyond terrible. Not only is it morally apprehensive, but it may be even worse than abortion itself. She purposely impregnated herself just so she could miscarry inorder to get her fifteen minutes of fame. People like her sicken me.

Amelia said...

I am for allowing all women to have complete freedom over their reproductive lives (which isn't the case for all women in America today, even with mostly-legal abortions, but that's a bit off topic), but I am confused by this exhibition.

The article says that the goal of this display is to "spark conversation and debate on the relationship between art and the human body" and that it was "not designed for 'shock value.'"

Why then, choose to purposely miscarry? Why, if not for shock value, would she choose to turn something like that into art? I feel like, perhaps, if the exhibit was truly meant for the purpose stated above, it could have been more successful using some other medium, because I feel like this will merely derail conversations so that they merely center on abortion.

Anyway, I am curious to know how the artist feels that a miscarriage (through a woman's body) relate to art.

Please write another post after you see this, Lindsay. Unfortunately, Illinois is a bit far away, and I have classes to attend. :P

OutcrazyOphelia said...

I'm not sure what kind of discourse she anticipates coming from this. It's likely that people will focus only on the abortions and not on the underlying message (whatever it's supposed to be).

It also occurred to me that it doesn't seem particularly sensitive to women who have experienced uninduced and unwanted miscarriages--what message does the artist think they'll take away from it?

Jezabel said...

I want to know what the artist believes the underlying message here would be... because I've thought about it for most of the day, and I can't come up with anything.

Amelia said...

Lindsay, perhaps you could catch up with the artist and ask her some of these questions yourself? I would be all over that...if the distance wasn't such an issue.

It could be very interesting and helpful.

Martha said...

I'm personally never a fan of manipulating life "for the sake of art." I guess the artist technically has the right to do whatever she wishes to her own body, and I see how she is exercising her own "reproductive rights" but she seems to be harshly abusing her body and her reproductive rights.

I also agree that this seems like it could be highly offensive and inconsiderate for women who have experience miscarriages, or even abortions.

It doesn't seem like any type of productive discourse is going to come from this either, it seems like the kind of thing that will only polarize people further.

OutcrazyOphelia said...

"Had these acts been real, they would have violated basic ethical standards and raised serious mental and physical health concerns. Change anyone's opinion?"

I'm glad Yale realizes this. In another discussion thread this issue was brought up, as in, who on earth would approve of someone doing this to themselves with no medical intervention or examination. I'm glad it's a hoax, and I'm still not sure I get the supposed message.

Anonymous said...

Freedom of speech. As disgusting as this is.

dirtyrottenfeminist said...

I'm with anon on this. I think this is a matter of free speech, and if we are talking about morals here, it gives anti-choicers fuel about how a fetus is a person and deserves moral agency. Now, I find this a little strange and harmful to her health and such, but I still think it is in her complete rights to do such. I am not surprised it was actually a fake, however, and actually a story constructed to make us talk about it.

However, I was disturbed by the http://www.itchmo.com/costa-rican-artist-under-fire-for-starving-dog-as-part-of-art-exhibit-3485>starving dog art which happened only once, but I still find it upsetting. Maybe its wrong I find that a dog has more moral agency than a fetus, but I do.

Lindsay said...

I wonder if the abuse the right to choose trivializes it. Pro-life people are already jumping all over this, so that's bad enough...

To put this idea in a fucked-up comparison - you know how "true love waits" people are always saying that having sex with people before you're married ruins it for when you are finally married (not that I agree or live by it in ANY way...) but the over-abuse of the right to choose may damage the right when someone actually has to make that choice. I'm sure there are women in Yale College (and everywhere) who have had to make that choice and to see that decision overplayed and abused for the sake of art must be horrible.

In a similar vein, the right to free speech might be damaged too. Let's hope not, because the right to choose and the right to say whatever I want are two of my favorites.

Amelia said...

Seems like the original article was very misleading...it didn't led me to believe at all that this was merely performance art. Was this the artist's intended purpose? To keep that kind of important fact a secret? I can understand that, but if that was what happened, then it shouldn't surprise her that it has gotten a bit of negative feedback.

But I agree, she has the right to express herself in this way if she chooses to, but why do I feel so misled?