Friday, April 18, 2008

Artistic License?

Some of you may have seen an interesting story from Yale on some online news services or blogs recently. Thursday, the Yale Daily News published a story about one of their art majors, Aliza Shvarts, and her, well, unique senior art project. Shvarts project was going to be documentation of a series of abortions she had had over the past nine months. She supposedly artificially inseminated herself as many times as possible and took abortifacient drugs to cause miscarriages. She was going to hang from the ceiling cubes of layers of plastic sheeting filled with a mix of Vaseline and blood from her miscarriages and then project videos of her having her miscarriages in her bathtub onto the side.

As can be expected, the outrage was great and immediate. For most of Thursday, this story swept through blogs and news services, with people on both sides of the issue decrying what she was doing. I felt pretty disgusted myself. While I think abortion is wrong, I normally don't have some huge emotional response to hearing about it, but this ... what she did was something way more, and much, much sicker.

This, however, was exactly what she wanted to happen. Later on Thursday, it was revealed that the entire thing, from the story getting into the student newspaper to it spreading and everyone's reactions, was her art project. She never had a miscarriage; she was never pregnant. It was a performance art project to "draw attention to the ambiguity surrounding form and function of a woman's body."

Frankly, I'm pretty impressed. It did exactly what she wanted: it got everyone talking about the issue. Some people, once again from both pro-choice and pro-life groups, have said they are still outraged and angered by Shvarts' actions, even though she didn't really have the abortions. I, however, think it was fairly brilliant. Not only did she get people to talk about it, she got people on both sides of an incredibly volatile issue to agree on something.

So what do you think? I imagine there would be virtually unanimous agreement that her proposed art project would be reprehensible, but what about the "real" one? Do you think it was worth it to draw attention to the issue, or is abortion too serious to even use in that way? Let us know in the comments.

AP Article


DM said...

My brother had a great line once when he said "the abortion issue exists to serve politicians."

This is just one more sensationalist thing to happen in a debate that is overwhelmingly dominated by sensationalism. There are a few intellectual people who are engaging the abortion issue in a resposible way, paying respect to the daunting philosophical, legal, and moral questions that it involves. But those few are shouted down and drowned out by the chanting crowds on both sides. This is a debate that is waged in bumper stickers, not in arguments.

That being said, it is also an issue that is largely irrelevant in today's political climate. Abortion gets a lot of people excited and angry, and it is a useful get out the vote tool, but it is not really a salient issue in our electoral politics. It does, however, tend to distract people from the real election issues that are going to be decided; this time around, the top issues are economic policy, Iraq, and health care. It would be good if people were more focused on these issues that are actually going to change depending on which candidates we select in November.

Jeremy said...

I agree; most of the time, the "discussion" of abortion serves no useful purpose, because those on either side are too entrenched with their preconceptions (conception, heh heh) already. I like what happened, though, not so much because it brought up the issue of abortion in a new light or even got people thinking or talking about it, but because it's a study in human reactions.

All the disgust and anger that was heaped on the girl was amazing to behold. I really appreciate the fact that there are still some things that shock and appall our society enough for a public outcry like that. I can't think of another thing that had such unanimous antipathy towards it. There are always people to argue both sides of virtually every religious and political issue there is, from the Iraq War to drugs to the death penalty to abortion, but this galvanized people into, if not action, at least making a noise, together.

-F- said...

You me crazy, but if she had actually made that "fake" project her real project it probably would have won a bunch of awards quite honestly.

It would be a terrifying piece of art, but that's what it would have been made to do: terrify.

Admittly making art out of a human fetus would have been very controversial, but arn't we already seeing a similar artistic contribution from the Body World exhibit?

The proposed exhibit would have been more engenious than the flash and the pan sensationalism that was delivered through the newspaper. It would have left images that seared the imagination for a lifetime, instead of just a few weeks as with the story.

/scary objectivity

Jeremy said...

You know, I agree about the awards.

The thing about body worlds is, those people are already dead, and if we are to believe the makers of it, the bodies come from legitimate sources. Having many abortions is just crazy ... regardless of your belief on the morality of it, there have been studies showing psychological effects on the woman, and I'm sure there are physical ramifications.