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Davis, California

Friday, September 22, 2023

At least the pain is (not) real

Many afflicting interpretations of art exist,none of which are justified affliction of other living things,of the artwork of others and even self-affliction that is claimed to be art.But does harming yourself really send an artistic message worthy of the pain?

Yale art student Aliza Shvarts has performed quite the contentious expression of art for her senior thesis.She artificially inseminated herself several times over the course of nine months,each time followed by an herbalinducement to have a miscarriage.Shvarts documented the bloody cycle of dismissing the questionably fertilized egg using video,which Yale refused to allow to be projected on sides of a cube for her senior show onTuesday.

How does one interpret the artistic side of this disturbing but intriguing project? Art is not confined to certain mediums or by its content; it has made bold leaps to express messages that often fall on deaf ears.

Similarly,Shvarts claimed as her artistic statement referenced in a Yale Daily News article that her motive was to promote discussion of art,the human body and assumingly the larger issue of abortion.Would this instance be such an ethical controversy if it were fiction rather than fact?

Yale asserts that the project was falsified,but Shvarts denies this claim.The message would be equally powerful in the artistic senseif it were fictional.But sadly,manyartists continue to feel the need to hurt themselves to most effectively convey their points.

The only thing that is wrong about the project is the harm it does to a human being and a potential human being.Shvarts is also guilty of writing off the natural beauty that is pregnancy and birth.Is miscarriage not a horrid and emotional experience for a woman when it is unintentional or when it is necessary in a dire situation? To feel the pain and feelinspired to approach these perspectives are infinitely productive reasons to create art,but not when the art pans out in actuality.

Don’t take me as a pro-lifer; rather,ignore what this does or does not have to do with the issue of abortion.Shvartsproject should be reduced to a matter of self-infliction that many artists undergo in the name of an artistic message,which is in no way productive.

The media is putting a lot of emphasis on whether or not this actually happened,as the university and Shvarts tell different stories.For some,the truth is less relevant than the message it sends,but others must demand ethical guidelines for the interpretation of artistic activity.This is why it is doubtful in my mind that theSchool ofArt’s faculty woulddisapprove this project if it were explicitly fictional.For the sake of ambiguity,Shvarts was asked to admit it fictional or else it could not be shown.She did not budge.

And though her project did not make it to the undergraduate exhibition,did it not serve its purpose regardless? The message behind herartisticendeavor is something that I agree with wholeheartedly,but not if it were real.

Real blood or not,Shvartsproject was one that Yale officials said should not have been allowed to be undertaken in the first place,unless it was fictional.Over the weekend,the university announced that unspecified disciplinary action had been taken against two unnamed faculty members who had knowledge of Shvartsproject.And since then,Shvartshas submitted a less controversial senior project to replaceher original performance piece.

To follow the story,which has been updated almost daily this entire week,see yaledailynews.com.


NICOLE L.BROWNER believes in the message of art without evoking physical harm.She can be reached at nlbrowner@ucdavis.edu.