Thursday, April 24, 2008

Continuing Coverage: Abortion as Art

The debate around Aliza Shvarts' abortion as art project/social commentary continues as Yale officials now say that without a disclaimer clearly stating the entire project is a work of fiction/hoax and contains no human blood, and is merely performance art.
"In this case, we will not permit her to install the project unless she submits a clear and unambiguous written statement that her installation is a work of fiction: that she did not try to inseminate herself and induce miscarriages, and that no human blood will be physically displayed in her installation," Peter Salovey, dean of Yale College, said in the statement.
Additionally, Yale officials have said that Shvartz' advisers made serious errors in judgment in approving the project once they were aware of the controversial nature of the piece; the faculty involved have apparently been spoken to with "appropriate action" taken.

Now, this raises even further questions for me. First - if Shvarts presented the project to her faculty advisers as a performance piece/hoax project designed to get the rise that is has been out of us chatty media commentators, why would the faculty raise questions, or seek additional approval? On the face of it, if you want to believe that this is a performance piece and not actually what Shvartz says it is - the result of repeated attempts to inseminate and then herbaly abort resulting pregnancies - then what's the problem? Gelatin, food colouring, plastic, a controversial artist statement, and the precise results any performance artist is hoping to achieve. And if she lied to the advisers, why does this then become something that they should be punished for?

Secondly, the automatic ban on art that contains human body fluids/cast-offs strikes me as stepping very close to censoring art because it is controversial. Many modern, performance, and even "traditional" artists work in human fluids - is this really the appropriate response for officials to have to controversial art?

At this point, unless someone goes in with Luminol or DNA swabs and then runs PCRs, etc, we're never going to know if she actually did what she said - in a way, it's a wonderful example of just how flexible truth and knowledge actually is.
-Kelly Hills

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