Many of you have heard of Aliza Shvarts. The Yale senior presented an art project of blood samples and videos of what were claimed to be repeated abortions. It turns out that the whole thing may be a hoax, a performance-art fiction, or something not quite as grotesque.
But I'm not interested in what she did or didn't do, but how she has presented herself. When the story first broke, I told my friend Gavin that it bothered me -- not because it was outrageous, but because the gestures were so calculated, political and safe. Organic herbal abortion pills? Facilitating a discussion? The goal of an artist is not that of a dean of students. Whom is this supposed to shock? And why start contemplating ethical dimensions here?
Shvarts's self-justification in the Yale Daily News is likewise a pastiche of self-conscious, closed, lit-theory talk, of the sort that I am professionally both obligated and inclined to engage with, but here feels both safe and false. Here is a sample:
This piece — in its textual and sculptural forms — is meant to call into question the relationship between form and function as they converge on the body. The artwork exists as the verbal narrative you see above, as an installation that will take place in Green Hall, as a time-based performance, as a independent concept, as a myth and as a public discourse.Why go all Barbara Johnson on us? Ms. Shvarts must have read authors who really knew how to shake things up: Sade, Nietzsche, Marinetti, Bataille. This is what I would have written:
It creates an ambiguity that isolates the locus of ontology to an act of readership. An intentional ambiguity pervades both the act and the objects I produced in relation to it. The performance exists only as I chose to represent it. For me, the most poignant aspect of this representation — the part most meaningful in terms of its political agenda (and, incidentally, the aspect that has not been discussed thus far) — is the impossibility of accurately identifying the resulting blood. Because the miscarriages coincide with the expected date of menstruation (the 28th day of my cycle), it remains ambiguous whether the there was ever a fertilized ovum or not. The reality of the pregnancy, both for myself and for the audience, is a matter of reading.
When everything in art is dead, the only solution is to risk everything with the body.
I am not interested in your understanding, forgiveness, or help. And I am not interested in consoling you. I want housewives to vomit in their children's mouths. I want denouncers to be unable to speak my name. I want to shit on your fathers' sheets.
I am a monster. My body is a volcano. I will embrace its inhumanity.
Like it or not, that is someone to be taken seriously.