At Yale: Where Is The Outrage?

Some of us have been tracking the strange events surrounding Yale art student Aliza Shvarts, Class of ’08, whose alleged "art project" calls into question a great deal about the young woman and, perhaps most importantly, officials at Yale.

In 1701, when Yale was first granted a charter, the document "was granted for a school 'wherein Youth may be instructed in the Arts and Sciences [and] through the blessing of Almighty God may be fitted for Public employment both in Church and Civil State.'" Note if you will that at its founding Yale was a school where young people could be assured of training in the genre of Christianity and its ethics. It would appear that a great deal has changed since those days.

On April 17 of 2008, 307 years later, reporter Martine Powers originally wrote about Shvarts’ project, Powers reported that 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 report went on to explain that Shvarts wanted to provoke discussion with her project and that she believes "art should be a medium for politics and ideologies, not just a commodity." Shvarts told the reporter that she would present videos that would document her miscarriages in "her bathroom tub" and similar videos were to be shown on the walls of the room where her project was located. 

In point of fact, as far as I’m concerned, this "art project" would have been a display of killings, each of which would take place methodically and with planning so as to execute the impact with the greatest effect possible.

Some students echoed concerns about the ethics of such a project, and a few even found the entire idea unsettling. The actual art show in which this celebration of death was to be shown opened last Friday, but not with the Shvarts’ project.

You see, plenty of debate ensued in the days following the original article in Yale’s student newspaper. Just a day before the show was to open, an official from Yale explained that after scientific testing, it was discovered that there were "no traces of human blood" in Shvartz’ art studio, "although there was no way to determine whether the project in its entirety had been examined." And, I might add, no way to prove that the project ever existed.

Further the dean of the Yale University School of Art, Robert Storr, released a statement about the alleged art project, saying that the very nature of the project "remains in doubt." Storr went on to remind everyone that nobody should overlook the work of the other students who were exhibiting art in the same show. 

In his statement, he opined:

Among the many regrettable consequences of the furor that this hypothetical project has engendered is the way in which it has overshadowed attention to the fully realized works by that student’s contemporaries. I would like therefore to draw attention to the fact that the exhibition of their senior projects has opened as scheduled in the galleries of the School of Art. At such time as the phantom work so excessively debated becomes known to us and its substance and genesis is clarified beyond any doubt it may join the work already on view.

As of today the project, which I now believe was nothing but a fiction, created in the mind of a very troubled young lady, is nowhere to be seen. For all intents and purposes it is safe to assume that either there never was such a project or that Shvarts started on it and became too ill due to the excessive abuse her own body would  have taken if she had indeed induced repeated miscarriages. This would have forced her to abandon her idea.

While she certainly did gain the attention of the public for a few days while coyly making certain nobody could actually confirm or deny her claims, one has to wonder what is really going on in her mind.  And as one Yale Herald reporter wrote:

The stalemate over art major Aliza Shvarts’, DC ’08, senior project – an alleged attempt to inseminate herself and herbally terminate the ensuing pregnancies – finally ended this week. The drama pitted the University against one of its students in debate over the nature of performance art, and the minor detail of whether or not Shvarts was telling the truth.

Yet one is left wondering what would tempt any thinking person to fabricate such a scheme and carry on with it in the first place. Perhaps it was only a mere attention-getting device. Of that nobody can be sure – that is until she writes a book or collaborates with Hollywood on a movie version of her intellectual escapades with human destruction.

But one thing still nags at my consciousness and that is simply this: With all his statements, and beseeching of the public to make room for artistic expression while questioning whether or not Shvartz was actually creating what she claimed, the dean of the Yale University School of Art never once suggested that such projects crossed the line, should be prohibited or simply were not in good taste since the subject matter so closely resembled direct acts of murder by the mother of those allegedly miscarried babies. Not a word of condemnation could be heard or read, at least not from the elite at Yale!

Do you wonder why not? Perhaps you could ask him:

Robert Shorr, Dean
Yale University School of Art
P.O. Box 208339
New Haven, CT 06520-8339

Today was the last day of classes so Shorr should have plenty of time to explain it all to you.