Arts & Culture

Abortion As Performance Art

Name-dropping and gossip-blogging aren't really my thing, but before I say anything about the big story out of America's oldest college daily yesterday, I had better disclose that I definitely once had a class with Yale College senior Aliza Shvarts … Read More

By / April 18, 2008

Name-dropping and gossip-blogging aren't really my thing, but before I say anything about the big story out of America's oldest college daily yesterday, I had better disclose that I definitely once had a class with Yale College senior Aliza Shvarts — if memory serves, it was either George Bealer's seminar, "Philosophy of Language: Frege's Puzzle," or (more likely) Leslie Brisman's "The Bible as Literature."

I'm sure of this because seeing somebody wear the same furry boots every day for twelve weeks come rain, snow, or sun tends to stick in your head. Still, for all the non-conformity in her fashion choices, at the time it never would have occurred to me to guess that one day, for her senior project, she would decide to spend nine months artificially inseminating herself "as often as possible" and deliberately inducing miscarriages to prevent any of the pregnancies from coming to term. To package the project for display, she is preparing a big cube wrapped in blood-stained sheets (from the miscarriages) with video monitors installed on four sides showing a highlight reel of her artistic journey. "I believe strongly that art should be a medium for politics and ideologies, not just a commodity," Shvarts told the YDN.

Or at least, that was the report that went epidemic on the intertubes within hours of being posted, prompting a surfeit of thoughtful responses like this one, which refers to Shvarts as a "murdering Jewess" and posts her e-mail address (anyone you'd like to reach at Yale, by the way, is firstname [dot] lastname [at] yale [dot] edu)†. I suppose, if you're convinced that abortion is murder and inclined to think there's a special Jewish inclination to be an executioner, the odds aren't too strong that you'll think for a goddamn minute about just how likely it is that any woman, even a wanton fornicating She-Jew whose diabolically prolific womb can nurture a brood of horned hatchlings from larvae to bankers in mere weeks, would be fertile enough to get pregnant, miscarry, get pregnant, miscarry, and then get pregnant and miscarry in a span of nine months. Or that there are such things as non-prescription "herbal" abortifacients, of the sort Shvarts claimed to have used in lieu of RU-486, that would a) be reliable in ending her pregnancies without b) killing or crippling her through repeated use in so short a time. Or that a Yalie would be committed enough to her "art" or "politics" to actually risk her life for them. (Please understand that, unlike the tortured, socially-inept auteurs at a certain safety school up on the Charles, we are all in it for the money.)

So the whole thing was (duh) a stunt, as Shvarts now admits, though the university is calling it "performance art" and awarding her credit, presumably to put the issue away and avoid further unwanted attention from resentful jackasses with basic html skills and an abundant surplus of malice built up over years to compensate for not having much else. Even if she didn't mean it this way, Shvarts' abortion tableau is at least accidentally a fairly brilliant subversion of the discursive conventions around abortion — reading through a sample of the brick-dumb responses to Shvarts' hoax provides any member of the less fair sex a rare and useful glimpse of the moral blackmail women who get abortions must experience fairly regularly — as well as a fashionable brand of "I won't draw but I'll cut my cock off or swim in feces and hang the photos in a gallery" art.

Boola boola and huzzah to murdering Jewess Aliza Shvarts '08, from this old Blue.

UPDATE: "Schvartz [sic], for my senior project, I offer to buy you a hysterectomy," says a freshman in the College. Stay classy, Cooper Lewis '11.

†If you're mulling over whether or not to let some depraved youth-corrupting monsters in New Haven know that they're on a direct path to hell and God will see to it that someone sends them there soon, bear in mind that information like this can be dangerous, that four of the last six US presidents took degrees 'neath the elms, that the CIA was founded in a small windowless building on Chapel Street near High next to the Old Art Gallery (!) and kitty corner from the philosophy department (!), and it would be wise to think very carefully about what you'd be fucking with.†

††I kid.†††

†††No, I don't.

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