Abortion Used as Art

17 Apr

I am terrified by this story, not to mention the inevitable backlash (from both pro-life and pro-choice groups) that it will create. I saw the story at Feministe, and a couple of the commenters there are convinced that it’s a hoax, but the Telegraph in the UK has already picked it up, and it seems to be gaining momentum rapidly elsewhere. I don’t know if what the student did in her project is medically feasible, and it sounds like she offered little supporting evidence (I do not suspect she is expected to provide such evidence for an art project, particularly for one as private as this).

Update: This has been reported to be a piece of performance art (i.e. hoax) by the Yale Office of Public Affairs. From the website:

Statement by Helaine S. Klasky — Yale University, Spokesperson
New Haven, Conn. — April 17, 2008

Ms. Shvarts is engaged in performance art. Her art project includes visual representations, a press release and other narrative materials. She stated to three senior Yale University officials today, including two deans, that she did not impregnate herself and that she did not induce any miscarriages. The entire project is an art piece, a creative fiction designed to draw attention to the ambiguity surrounding form and function of a woman’s body.

She is an artist and has the right to express herself through performance art.

Had these acts been real, they would have violated basic ethical standards and raised serious mental and physical health concerns.


Update (4/18): A new post on the Yale Daily News site quotes Shvarts (the artist) saying that the university misrepresented her. From the piece:

But Shvarts reiterated Thursday that she repeatedly use a needleless syringe to insert semen into herself. At the end of her menstrual cycle, she took abortifacient herbs to induce bleeding, she said. She said she does not know whether or not she was ever pregnant.

“No one can say with 100-percent certainty that anything in the piece did or did not happen,” Shvarts said, “because the nature of the piece is that it did not consist of certainties.”

So now we’re back to a more disturbing, yet more ambiguous, scenario.

Update (4/21): There’s an interesting series of statements from the Yale Office of public affairs.  Apparently the administration wants a more unambiguous statement of what went into the project if the student is going to present it.  I think this is a good move.  Shvarts wants to provoke discussion, and I see value in that, but right now nobody knows exactly what they should be discussing, nor will they unless she settles down on exactly what her project entailed.


Posted by on April 17, 2008 in Alchemy


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2 responses to “Abortion Used as Art

  1. weirleader

    April 18, 2008 at 8:56 am

    A good friend of mine in college was into art. He once told me of a guy who would shoot himself and record the whole thing and call it “performance art”.

    I’m sure this is the type of statement to get me flamed, but it seems, in an effort to try something new, that people are blurring the line between “art” and “stupidity”. It feels like they wrack (sp?) their brains trying to come up with something farther beyond the bounds of sanity and/or respectability.

  2. halfawake

    April 18, 2008 at 9:05 am

    But stupidity is ok, right? It’s the ethical ground that’s in question here.

    I was thinking about the piece itself. Let’s assume that the student didn’t actually get pregnant (whether or not she did inject herself with semen), and that she gave herself something that would either induce abortion or influence her menstrual cycle. Why did she do it “as often as possible”? I mean, a very similar and shocking artistic statement could have been made by recording a single “pregnancy” and abortion, right?


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