Abortion as Art
April 17, 2008 8:41 AM   Subscribe

Abortion as Art To quote: "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."
posted by GuyZero (500 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
WTF?!
posted by illiad at 8:45 AM on April 17, 2008


Jeez.

I'm as big a liberal as any, but that is f*cked up. Get thee to a nunnery.
posted by ELF Radio at 8:47 AM on April 17, 2008 [7 favorites]


Wow. Art truly is dead.
posted by brautigan at 8:47 AM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Our site is temporarily down due to routine server maintenance."

That's a relief...
posted by afx237vi at 8:48 AM on April 17, 2008


What an idiot.
posted by waitingtoderail at 8:49 AM on April 17, 2008


On the upside, this could not end less well than it was begun.
posted by DU at 8:49 AM on April 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


Maybe you just had to be there
posted by wabbittwax at 8:50 AM on April 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


As outraged as some were over Piss Christ, one can expect this art project to generate even more outrage.
posted by ericb at 8:52 AM on April 17, 2008


I'd give it a C-.
posted by DenOfSizer at 8:52 AM on April 17, 2008


I'd give it a C+ if she called it "An Immodest Proposal."
posted by DenOfSizer at 8:53 AM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Gawker: Weirdest Grossest Abortion Art Project Ever.
posted by ericb at 8:54 AM on April 17, 2008


This link worked for me, even though the one in the OP didn't.
posted by Perplexity at 8:56 AM on April 17, 2008


WTF indeed.
posted by chunking express at 8:56 AM on April 17, 2008


"...Shvarts insists her concept was not designed for 'shock value.' 'I hope it inspires some sort of discourse,' Shvarts said. 'Sure, some people will be upset with the message and will not agree with it, but it's not the intention of the piece to scandalize anyone.'

...she said she believes it is the nature of her piece to 'provoke inquiry.'

'I believe strongly that art should be a medium for politics and ideologies, not just a commodity," Shvarts said. "I think that I'm creating a project that lives up to the standard of what art is supposed to be.'"
posted by ericb at 8:56 AM on April 17, 2008


I, for one, believe that this will result in mature, reasoned, intelligent debate about the nature of life, and the meaning of art and its place alongside religion in our culture.
posted by Cookiebastard at 8:56 AM on April 17, 2008 [38 favorites]


I don't know much about art but I know what I like and I wouldn't hang that in my rumpus room.
posted by mazola at 8:57 AM on April 17, 2008 [6 favorites]


Not designed for shock value. Just to provoke a reaction.

What exactly is the difference?
posted by DU at 8:57 AM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


But Shvarts insists her concept was not designed for "shock value."

Uh, huh.

The goal in creating the art exhibition, Shvarts said, was to spark conversation and debate on the relationship between art and the human body.

Uh, huh

...lined between layers of the sheeting will be the blood from Schvarts' self-induced miscarriages mixed with Vaseline in order to prevent the blood from drying and to extend the blood throughout the plastic sheeting.

OK, this is fucked up.
posted by AD_ at 8:57 AM on April 17, 2008


Michelle Malkin: Move over, Jose Serrano and Karen Finley: Here comes blood-smearing Yale art student Aliza Shvarts. Heh!
posted by ericb at 8:59 AM on April 17, 2008


It was funnier when William Wegman did it.
posted by docpops at 9:00 AM on April 17, 2008 [8 favorites]


That is a nice masthead.
posted by JBennett at 9:00 AM on April 17, 2008


[epiphany] Hey, maybe Art works just like a Front Page Post in MetaFilter! If its only merit is the discussion that results, you shouldn't be posting/creating it at all... [/epiphany]
posted by alasdair at 9:00 AM on April 17, 2008 [10 favorites]


I think it's interesting. Brave, even.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 9:01 AM on April 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


Huh.
I've never wished Choriocarcinoma on anyone before. First time for everything.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 9:02 AM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


So, like, the human body is a beautiful thing, man.
posted by hellphish at 9:02 AM on April 17, 2008


Yale University School of Art website.
posted by ericb at 9:02 AM on April 17, 2008


This is so wrong.
posted by oddman at 9:03 AM on April 17, 2008


"Its my hot body, I'll do what I want"
posted by clearly at 9:04 AM on April 17, 2008 [5 favorites]


I, for one, believe that this will result in mature, reasoned, intelligent debate about the nature of life, and the meaning of art and its place alongside religion in our culture.

Just not on the internet.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 9:05 AM on April 17, 2008


Murderer
posted by caddis at 9:06 AM on April 17, 2008


When Art Becomes Inhuman.
posted by ericb at 9:06 AM on April 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


Serial murder
posted by caddis at 9:06 AM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm voting fake. Who would ever know if the blood was just menses?
posted by peep at 9:07 AM on April 17, 2008 [5 favorites]


I'd be interested to hear criticisms of Shavart's work that go beyond "this is fucked up" or "what an idiot." (What's the point, anyhow, of posting such inane criticism on the internet?)

Obviously, if one's pro-life, Shavarts's work is objectionable, just as all abortions are. But if one is "pro-choice", what exactly is the problem here?
posted by washburn at 9:07 AM on April 17, 2008


What are the odds this is a hoax?
posted by Nelson at 9:08 AM on April 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


To: Aliza
From: PlusDistance
Re: The abortifacients

YOU'RE NOT HELPING.

Thank you for your time.
posted by PlusDistance at 9:08 AM on April 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


"Her exhibition will feature video recordings of these forced miscarriages as well as preserved collections of the blood from the process."

That's really gonna take the edge of the free wine and cheese.
posted by DenOfSizer at 9:09 AM on April 17, 2008 [16 favorites]


The freaky thing is that this would totally match my couch.
posted by padraigin at 9:10 AM on April 17, 2008 [14 favorites]


I made this lovely hat from stem cells.
posted by Dizzy at 9:10 AM on April 17, 2008 [7 favorites]


Big thinkers in this thread, I see.

The most telling part of this article was the line about how, according to one person, the artist was "abusing her constitutional right to her body".

That's the crux of the matter, right there.

Also: anyone who thinks that "right" and "wrong" apply to art may need to go back to school, maybe take an art class, do a little water color... I don't know. Something.

Carry on.
posted by ewkpates at 9:11 AM on April 17, 2008 [6 favorites]


Playing the contrarian, I will say that this is not as bad as skinning a cat alive, videotaping it and calling it "art". Playing the reasonable human being: holy christ, this is not cool.
posted by Lemurrhea at 9:11 AM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


How does one come to have an idea like this? Did she have an unplanned pregnancy that ended in a miscarriage and think to herself, "hey, this could spark debate! I should do this again!"
posted by wabbittwax at 9:12 AM on April 17, 2008


I wonder if it will be displayed next to the longest poop?
posted by anthill at 9:12 AM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


Shvarts emphasized that she is not ashamed of her exhibition, and she has become increasingly comfortable discussing her miscarriage experiences with her peers.

I can imagine that, yes. Bunch of kids sitting around a table in the dining hall, one them asking "Hey, you guys up for a game of ultimate?", Shvarts being all, "I'd love to, but I'm having another miscarriage this afternoon. Did you guys hear about my important miscarriage project? I'm trying to start a dialogue", everyone else clamming up for a minute or two. I remember conversations like that with art students in college.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:13 AM on April 17, 2008 [9 favorites]


...also, is this really likely to spark legitimate debate about abortion and a woman's right to her body and the relationship between the body and art? Or is it more likely to spark debate about whether this particular artist is batshit crazy? It seems provocative a propos of nothing.
posted by wabbittwax at 9:14 AM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


But if one is "pro-choice", what exactly is the problem here?

It's possible to be pro-choice without believing that an abortion is the equivalent of squeezing a pimple. "Safe, legal and rare," as the saying goes.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 9:15 AM on April 17, 2008 [29 favorites]


In all seriousness I think it's fascinating and brave, though I don't agree with her premise and I think she's a little delusional if she thinks she's going to spark much intelligent discourse. But I was similarly idealistic at her age, if not as willing to risk the wrath of my mother over such a project.
posted by padraigin at 9:15 AM on April 17, 2008


I'm stunned by this. Even though I hold that art is subjective, and that one is free to view anything they please in the context of art, I can't help but feel every fibre of my being screaming "THIS. IS. WRONG."

Is it art? Sure, if you say it is, but that doesn't mean it is moral or ethical.
posted by owtytrof at 9:16 AM on April 17, 2008


I will fire the opening salvo with "crazy"
posted by DoctorFedora at 9:17 AM on April 17, 2008


Maybe it's a hoax intended to create a debate which will itself be art...
posted by wabbittwax at 9:17 AM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Whoops, should have previewed. That was in response to Wabbitwax
posted by DoctorFedora at 9:18 AM on April 17, 2008


I was an art major for the first three years of college. Among the reasons I quit the department and ended up with a completely different major was the overwhelming number of my peers that merely wanted to use "art" as a way to piss people off or disgust them. One student decided that he wanted to use a piece of rotting meat covered in maggots as his senior project. He placed his fabulous work of art in a supposedly sealed plexiglass box and proceeded to babble about the rottenness of society and the rotting of the meat as a metaphor. Not too long after his show, the entire building was overrun by big nasty blow flies. Because the dingbat never considered the possiblity that the maggots might get out and turn into flies.

I'm fine with the idea that art can create a dialogue, either between the viewer and the artist or among the viewers. But I'm not fine with art that is solely designed and steered by the artist to create some sort of scripted dialogue. That's not daring, that's not avant-garde, it's just annoying and pretentious and can result in flies.
posted by teleri025 at 9:18 AM on April 17, 2008 [24 favorites]


I remember conversations like that with art students in college.

My exact feeling. Is the YDN site just completely banjaxed for anyone else? I can't even get to the site, much less the article.
posted by jessamyn at 9:19 AM on April 17, 2008


Actually, I think this is a good and interesting piece, on of the more interesting than I've seen for some time. People upset or condemning this work are doing so out of an assumed framework that abortion is bad, an evil but perhaps sometimes necessary act that should be performed in a solemn, contrite manner, as if publicly bearing shame is a way to displace the sin of the act, and thereby not incur the wrath of spiritual beings.

But what if an abortion were no more significant or sinful an act than brushing your teeth?
posted by cytherea at 9:19 AM on April 17, 2008 [5 favorites]


But if one is "pro-choice", what exactly is the problem here?

That she got pregnant specifically for the purpose of getting an abortion. Further, that her project has no concrete benefit to human health. You might argue that it's similar to breeding mice, or whatever other animal, specifically for the purpose of killing them during research. If you're against such scientific research, then the argument might end there. But if you believe such research is acceptable because it benefits humans, this project still doesn't really qualify. There's no concrete benefit. The only good it does is "fostering discussion".

I'll point out, this argument is just intended as a start. Mice are alive, but not human. Embryos are arguably not alive, but share some characteristics with humans that should give them some moral standing. My point is just that they're both things that most would agree have some intrinsic moral value. We can't just do whatever we want to them. It wouldn't be right to breed mice just so we could kill them later for art. Similarly, I don't think it's right to intentionally get pregnant only to end the pregnancy for art.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 9:20 AM on April 17, 2008 [12 favorites]


Horror movie or pasta sauce commercial?
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 9:21 AM on April 17, 2008 [14 favorites]


But regardless of one's opinion on the matter, an abortion or miscarriage is medically nothing like brushing your teeth. It can have lasting physiological effects.
posted by wabbittwax at 9:22 AM on April 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


My partner and I have been trying for over a year to get pregnant. She's done artificial insemination a dozen times, with only a single miscarriage (very early on) to show for it. We're up to trying in-vitro now.

So seeing someone continuing to inseminate herself often for the purpose of inducing miscarriage really hurts.
posted by evilangela at 9:23 AM on April 17, 2008 [6 favorites]


I think it's genius, but only because I am positive she is putting everybody on. Wouldn't chemically aborting God knows how many fetii in rapid succession be spectacularly dangerous to one's body? And wouldn't making "art" with them be an impossibly disgusting process? And smell fucking terrible? Come on: she's completely pwning the art world, and I say go for it. David Cronenberg must be thrilled.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:24 AM on April 17, 2008 [5 favorites]


This will indeed spark derious debate.
Not about abortion though...more likely it will be used as ammunition to oppose public funding of art.
posted by rocket88 at 9:24 AM on April 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


seeing someone continuing to inseminate herself often for the purpose of inducing miscarriage really hurts.

Take comfort in the fact that she has likely greatly endangered her chances of ever carrying a pregnancy to term.
posted by wabbittwax at 9:25 AM on April 17, 2008


whoops should have previewed that
posted by wabbittwax at 9:25 AM on April 17, 2008


Since the link doesn't work, I'm going to assume that the post describing it is completely inaccurate, and that it's actually an article about the sound leaves make in the autumn when you step on them.

Also, the word "art" has no real meaning anyway, so why get upset when someone uses it "wrong?"
posted by The World Famous at 9:25 AM on April 17, 2008


How does one come to have an idea like this?

There are lot of precedents. Duchamp's semen, The Vienna Action Group's genital mutilations, Chris Burden's crucifixion on a Volkswagon, Vito Acconci masturbating beneath a gallery floor, Petra Paul's menstrual blood paintings, holding a gun to Marina Abramovic's head, ...
posted by xod at 9:27 AM on April 17, 2008 [8 favorites]


This is an obvious hoax. Let's make fun of her.
posted by humanfont at 9:28 AM on April 17, 2008


I'm pro-choice, but all that hormone chaos has got to be bad for your body. But really, as much as this feels wrong to me, it's on about the same level as Orlan and her plastic surgery art.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 9:28 AM on April 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


Take comfort in the fact that she has likely greatly endangered her chances of ever carrying a pregnancy to term.
posted by wabbittwax at 11:25 AM on April 17

Huh.
I've never wished Choriocarcinoma on anyone before. First time for everything.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 11:02 AM on April 17

Pointing out that she is being foolish by ignoring the health risks of her project and wishing those risks upon her are very different.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 9:30 AM on April 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


Also: anyone who thinks that "right" and "wrong" apply to art may need to go back to school, maybe take an art class, do a little water color... I don't know. Something.
So, As long as I call it "art," I can do whatever I want? Sweet!

"And here's my latest piece. I call it 'Four-year-olds hit by sledgehammers.' I'm hoping it will generate a dialog."
posted by JDHarper at 9:30 AM on April 17, 2008 [12 favorites]


Oh, so that's the rumbling I heard outside today.

It was the rumbling of a thousand right-wing radio talk show hosts trembling in anticipation of their Big News for today's show.

I fully hope at least 1/8 of them suffer brain aneurysms while going off about it, hoax or no.
posted by Spatch at 9:30 AM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


Embryos are arguably not alive, but share some characteristics with humans that should give them some moral standing. My point is just that they're both things that most would agree have some intrinsic moral value. We can't just do whatever we want to them.

Mission accomplished.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:32 AM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


Well, it certainly provokes a reaction. It doesn't make me think that she's all that interesting as a person or an artist, but it certainly is an interesting activity she has engaged in.

I might be okay with this project. It's fucked up. I'd rather read an interview with her than see the work (which I can't see anyhow, due to server overload), and I'd rather that interview focus on how she feels about the process and not any of her relatively uninteresting spoutings of theory, but I'm okay with it.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:33 AM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


But regardless of one's opinion on the matter, an abortion or miscarriage is medically nothing like brushing your teeth. It can have lasting physiological effects.

So? People drive cars. People fly in airplanes and some jump out. People eat in McDonald's. People sit in front of the computer and TV all day. People do all sorts of things that can have physiological effects. I don't see anything special here.

And wouldn't making "art" with them be an impossibly disgusting process? And smell fucking terrible?

Have you even been in a tanning house? That leather jacket or shoes or purse went through an incredibly disgusting processes, that smelled far, far worse.
posted by cytherea at 9:33 AM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


Using sex, and/or sexual metaphors, devices, objects and imagery, in art is both missing the point AND a cheap shot. Sex, and its associated baggage, is such a loaded subject that you will not be able to get your point across WITHOUT a three page artist statement (something that art should do without anyway) and you'll still piss people off. To use a similie: it's like using a basketball covered in black-paint to talk about african exploitation in american sports. It's weak sauce and does nothing for discourse.

I call her a Troll and be done with it.
posted by Sam.Burdick at 9:34 AM on April 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


Simply slapping an Artist's Statement on some really fucked up shit you've done does not make it art.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:34 AM on April 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


People upset or condemning this work are doing so out of an assumed framework that abortion is bad, an evil but perhaps sometimes necessary act that should be performed in a solemn, contrite manner, as if publicly bearing shame is a way to displace the sin of the act, and thereby not incur the wrath of spiritual beings.

Or, you know, maybe they're annoyed that someone would be so unoriginal as to think that a public display of self-abuse is actually a fantastic idea for an "art" project. I didn't see Yale jumping on the "art" bandwagon when Sid Vicious cut himself on stage or when Lou Reed did innumerable nasty things to himself on stage. And even they were being completely unoriginal (all due respect to Lou Reed). I'm more upset that she is getting any attention and possibly funding for this useless, unoriginal, and self-abusive nonsense.

But what if an abortion were no more significant or sinful an act than brushing your teeth?

Then her project would be no more worthy of attention than a movie of a woman brushing her teeth and a bucket full of toothpaste and saliva that she spat out.
posted by The World Famous at 9:34 AM on April 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


I think maybe "art" used to be a word at one time, but now it seems to mean "something which someone (anyone, anywhere) has called or could call... art."

Also, is it my imagination or did there used to be some kind of distinction between "art" and "propaganda"?
posted by prefpara at 9:35 AM on April 17, 2008


First thought is hoax, and I'm a'sticking with it.
posted by Shepherd at 9:37 AM on April 17, 2008


is it my imagination or did there used to be some kind of distinction between "art" and "propaganda"?

It's most definitely your imagination.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:37 AM on April 17, 2008


I think perhaps this is one of the best MetaFilter posts ever. Everything is here. It is the singularity.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:37 AM on April 17, 2008 [7 favorites]


Have you even been in a tanning house? That leather jacket or shoes or purse went through an incredibly disgusting processes, that smelled far, far worse.

Okay, but the leather isn't comprised of the bloody hide of one's own bloody, aborted fetus! I don't care how kewl and jaded and clove-smokey art school girl here is, you'd have to be pretty much psychotic to fingerpaint with that stuff and not completely lose your shit. It's just not gonna happen. It's a hoax, I'm sorry.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:37 AM on April 17, 2008


This art is shocking and provocative but that is not to diminish it. It is not an empty shock to me. It is filled with real and legitimate questions on how abortion and pregnancy works in our society. The way I see it is it is sort of a completly unspoken truce where most Americans don't really like abortion but they get that women generally don't take the decision lightly, they wouldn't get an abortion unless they thought it was really important.

Now in this case a women is getting pregnant and ending the pregnancy for its own sake. The abortion is the point rather than a means to an end (which is vaguely agreed to be having a child later when you can take better care of it) She is asserting and questioning her own right to do this. She is pointing out that this right which is nearly absolute is in a way contingent on the reason behind it. At the same time though, where is the harm? The fetuses were not developed, the body sometimes rejects a fetus. This is a part of life. And what about her feelings, pregnancy is supposed to have a deep bond between the mother and child what is necessary for this to occur? Is this absolute? Is there something wrong when that isn't there? What does she feel about these children, is she a monster for not thinking what we expect?

We have taken a biological reality and built this mythology around it and it might be that the mythology is an important and necessary part of what it is to be human or it might not be, and this art, I think, actually helps us answer this question.
posted by I Foody at 9:38 AM on April 17, 2008 [46 favorites]


Then her project would be no more worthy of attention than a movie of a woman brushing her teeth and a bucket full of toothpaste and saliva that she spat out.

Saaaay . . . *applies to Yale*
posted by The Bellman at 9:39 AM on April 17, 2008


Attention whore. Give her a reality show! Where's Dr. Phil?
posted by tula at 9:39 AM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


Embryos are arguably not alive, but share some characteristics with humans that should give them some moral standing. My point is just that they're both things that most would agree have some intrinsic moral value. We can't just do whatever we want to them.

So do mice, so do teddy bears, so do mannequins. I don't see how this is an argument for moral standing. People get upset about kitties, doggies, and monkeys being used in medical research or product testing, no one gets upset about little mickey.
posted by cytherea at 9:40 AM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty darn "liberal" when it comes to abortion and all that, but this rubs me the wrong way, though I'm not entirely sure of the reason why.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 9:40 AM on April 17, 2008


Has anyone ever done a study on how the psychology of progressive abortion nut absolutists mirrors the psychology of conservative gun nut absolutists?
posted by Armitage Shanks at 9:41 AM on April 17, 2008


Hoax, people. Get a grip.
posted by elwoodwiles at 9:42 AM on April 17, 2008


I for one plan to wait for snopes to get ahold of this before I get too worked up.
posted by TedW at 9:43 AM on April 17, 2008


Okay, but the leather isn't comprised of the bloody hide of one's own bloody, aborted fetus!

What about art made from fingernails? Or hair? People do where human hair wigs.

I don't care how kewl and jaded and clove-smokey art school girl here is, you'd have to be pretty much psychotic to fingerpaint with that stuff and not completely lose your shit. It's just not gonna happen. It's a hoax, I'm sorry.

But that's only because you're investing a magical quality to this. If a fetus were viewed in a completely naturalistic way, I don't see why this should be so taboo.
posted by cytherea at 9:44 AM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hmmm. . .I find it hard to have a meaningful discussion about this without reading her artist's statement. (A few posters argued that art requiring such statements is weak--that's an interesting discussion, too, but I'll step aside from that one for the moment.)

Um, also:

Metafilter: annoying and pretentious and can result in flies
posted by flotson at 9:45 AM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


But if one is "pro-choice", what exactly is the problem here?

Because those of us who are pro-choice feel, generally, that women should have the inalienable right to deal with their bodies as they see fit when a pregnancy occurs, whether through misfortune (e.g. rape), accident (e.g. birth control failure), lack of knowledge (e.g. the morally reprehensible abstinence-only sex 'education' programs), health risks, or even when the pregnancy was on purpose but other factors intervened.

Purposely inseminating yourself for the sole purpose of having an abortion doesn't really fit in there.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:46 AM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]




Too many art students think that art is all about the statement they're making, instead of the actual piece itself. If there wasn't a huge "making of" tale to go along with this piece, it would be nothing but bloody sheets and some graphic, self-indulgent videos. Inflammatory political statement meant to induce controversy does not equal art.

But what if an abortion were no more significant or sinful an act than brushing your teeth?

I'm pro-choice, but I think that would be a pretty shabby situation. I don't believe in sin, so I have nothing to say about that, but not even thinking twice about the consequences of procreation seems like a shallow sort of mindset. Why can't people just learn to consistently use birth control in the same way they consistently brush their teeth?

Yes, I realize there are accidents, and even with the best of intention or foresight unwanted pregnancies occur. I don't think women need to feel guilty or traumatized about their decision, but I do think one should give a little more consideration to the nuances of the situation that one does when cutting their toenails.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:47 AM on April 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


DNAB, I think you found why this is rubbing me the wrong way.
Is it possible to feel that way without being a hypocrite, though?
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 9:47 AM on April 17, 2008


Even if you think this is legitimate as art, why the hell would you need to do it repeatedly over 9 months? It seems like you would get everything you need for the project the first time.
posted by InfidelZombie at 9:48 AM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


So much for having lunch today.

There has to be some legal limit to what you can do with your own body.
posted by desjardins at 9:49 AM on April 17, 2008


I'm going to do a work on "drinking alcohol" in which I quickly drink to excess every night, then recording myself vomiting into a bucket. The footage of me vomiting, pictures of my bloodshot eyes and burst blood vessels in my face, and the bucket will be part of the exhibit.

We can add this to the existing exhibit and call it "Induced Unfortunate Outcomes."
posted by mikeh at 9:50 AM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Abortion, like many rights issues, is a weighing of one party's interests against another's. Your right to enjoy a movie trumps my right to yell "fire" in the theatre. My right to swing my fist is denied when your nose is in its path.
For abortion, I believe the mother's rights to quality of life supercede the rights of her unborn fetus. That doesn't mean the fetus shouldn't be considered at all; that it's an inanimate property of its owner. We can support access to abortion and still find this wrong.
posted by rocket88 at 9:50 AM on April 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


Sorry. Until this is utterly-beyond-all-doubt confirmed, I'm camping-out in the "Hoax" camp. It's simply too perfect as fodder for talk-radio and Sunday sermons.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:51 AM on April 17, 2008


This Gawker comment almost makes it worth it
Now there is a suitemate from hell. I can just see the passive aggressive notes.

SOMEONE needs to start CLEANING up after their MISCARRIAGES in the bathtub because OTHER PEOPLE USE THE BATHTUB AND DO NOT WANT TO RINSE VISCERA OFF OF THEIR FEET ALL THE TIME. Thank you!!!!
posted by drezdn at 9:51 AM on April 17, 2008 [37 favorites]


desjardins, i disagree. perhaps it was intended as snark, but if you want to flagellate yourself with some spiny bits, go right ahead.
posted by craven_morhead at 9:51 AM on April 17, 2008


There was this dystopian sci-fi novel from the late 80's, early 90's that I vaguely remember (the plot revolved around a clone of Elvis) which had a character, an artist, who created work like this. In the future society, all abortions were illegal even though the rate of miscarriages and birth defects were very high for natural births. The artist would get pregnant often and would create mournful sculptures out of the fetal remains.

Wonder if she read this obscure book?
posted by pandaharma at 9:53 AM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


If a fetus were viewed in a completely naturalistic way, I don't see why this should be so taboo.

Because it would still be self-abuse as spectacle.
posted by The World Famous at 9:54 AM on April 17, 2008


Teddy bears and mannequins share some characteristics with humans. But very few, or none of those ought to give them any moral standing. The only reason I shouldn't tear up your teddy bear is because it's your teddy bear. This portion of your argument is basically non-sequitur.

I don't see how this is an argument for moral standing. People get upset about kitties, doggies, and monkeys being used in medical research or product testing, no one gets upset about little mickey.

I don't see how this is an argument against moral standing of embryos either. It seems more an argument about animal research, and which animals are okay to experiment on, and which aren't. Please point out why animals sharing characteristics with humans (i.e. life, and others, like intelligence), should give them moral standing, while embryos sharing characteristics with humans (DNA, potential for life, intelligence, others) should not. Or why in neither case those characteristics give them any moral standing.

The way I see it is it is sort of a completly unspoken truce where most Americans don't really like abortion but they get that women generally don't take the decision lightly, they wouldn't get an abortion unless they thought it was really important.

This is what I'm getting at. We, most americans, that is, do give embryos moral standing. We just don't give them exactly the same standing as humans, mice, dogs, cats, apes. And we currently give the mother the legal right to determine if an abortion is called for. Does that mean that a woman has done nothing wrong by repeatedly impregnating herself, expressly so she can abort the pregnancy? She's done nothing illegal, probably. But illegal and immoral are two different things.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 9:54 AM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Saith Armitage Shanks: "It's possible to be pro-choice without believing that an abortion is the equivalent of squeezing a pimple. "Safe, legal and rare," as the saying goes."

This was favorited a few times, so obviously others agree.

This seems untenable, or at least irreconcilable. I mean, this artist should be permitted her choice to end her pregnancy, but should do so only rarely. . . Why?
posted by resurrexit at 9:54 AM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


The awesome part is that this tiny blip is guaranteed to rile up large numbers of people, but far smaller numbers will care about vast numbers of living, breathing people who are killed in conflicts around the planet every day.
posted by mullingitover at 9:55 AM on April 17, 2008 [7 favorites]


I mean, this artist should be permitted her choice to end her pregnancy, but should do so only rarely. . . Why?

Is someone arguing that her art project should be illegal? She should be permitted to do a really dumb and offensive art project, but why should I be legally compelled to think it's a good idea, or that it has merit?
posted by The World Famous at 9:56 AM on April 17, 2008


Pssht. Yalies.
posted by turaho at 9:57 AM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


For abortion, I believe the mother's rights to quality of life supercede the rights of her unborn fetus. That doesn't mean the fetus shouldn't be considered at all; that it's an inanimate property of its owner. We can support access to abortion and still find this wrong.

Yes, this. If a woman accidentally becomes pregnant, she might decide that her future quality of life is more important than coming to term and having a child. This is not the same as saying a woman can intentionally get pregnant, knowing from the very outset that she would intentionally miscarry, just because she doesn't want a baby, and that's not why she got pregnant.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 9:57 AM on April 17, 2008


for pete's sake - you didn't expect her to spend years with a paintbrush in her hand, learning how to paint, did you? - that would take effort, hard work and talent - she's a member of the NOW generation and she doesn't have the time or energy to devote herself to her art like that

that's what really gripes me - the sheer banality and laziness of it
posted by pyramid termite at 9:57 AM on April 17, 2008 [9 favorites]


I think that everyone, no matter what they do, should commit to doing it in such a way that they don't bring disrepute on their profession, trade, craft, occupation, whatever. I know that's tougher with art, because art should challenge people, but this seems to fail even the most basic test: is this going to turn people off art altogether? Is it going to cause people to view artists as nothing more than dilettantes out to "produce a reaction," irrespective of the independent value of the art itself or the quality of the conversation that will ensue? Does it turn art into nothing more than an excuse to be perverted, self-abusive, and disgusting in public? By any test, this seems to fail.
posted by Dasein at 9:58 AM on April 17, 2008 [5 favorites]


Congrats. You found the WOTW. Only that's not what belongs here.
posted by allkindsoftime at 9:58 AM on April 17, 2008


Given the high price of artificial insemination, I am going with 'rich kid with too much free time.'
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 9:58 AM on April 17, 2008


oh yeah - "when i hear the word art, i reach for my maxi-pads"
posted by pyramid termite at 9:59 AM on April 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


Please point out why animals sharing characteristics with humans (i.e. life, and others, like intelligence), should give them moral standing, while embryos sharing characteristics with humans (DNA, potential for life, intelligence, others) should not. Or why in neither case those characteristics give them any moral standing.

Nevermind that. I'm asking you to prove a negative.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 9:59 AM on April 17, 2008


"Not provoking controversy" my ass.

She let out this press release in the middle of a papal visit and she doesn't want it to induce controversy?

I say "liar".

(I also say "greatest artistic controversy monger" since Damien Hirst's debut show in the mid-1980s featuring freeze-dried aborted foetuses as ear-rings.)
posted by cstross at 10:00 AM on April 17, 2008


But that's only because you're investing a magical quality to this. If a fetus were viewed in a completely naturalistic way, I don't see why this should be so taboo.

I don't think I am at all -- I think most of us would have a very difficult time playing with fetal cat viscera, much less fetal human viscera, much less the viscera of a fetal human that carried our DNA. You'd puke; you'd cry; you'd freak out. It'd be awful. But why? Should we have that reaction? Why should it be different from cut hair and fingernail clippings? If it is different (and I think that it is), why should we allow abortion (and I think we should!)? What I think is interesting about this is that it makes us think about these things, but it doesn't give us an answer -- and how often do people really think about abortion? For most of us, on either side, I think those opinions are pretty much ironclad, immune to challenge, immune to growth, and -- for too many people -- immune to nuance. This challenges people to look at the subject with fresh eyes. Like I said, I think it's genius. I do think it's fake in the sense that's not really made of fetus, because it just doesn't compute with me that it really could be, but I also think it's necessary for her to claim that it is, if it's going to have an impact.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:01 AM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


Also: anyone who thinks that "right" and "wrong" apply to art may need to go back to school, maybe take an art class, do a little water color... I don't know. Something.


Ahhh Christ. Anyone that thinks people with a benevolent attitude toward artistic expression aren't allowed to punch holes in the latest attempt to get noticed in the miasmic cesspit of performance art need to take a deep breath. There's not a lot of 'right' and 'wrong' here, and even if there was, so what? Calling something art doesn't disallow strong criticism. Just the opposite, I think.
posted by docpops at 10:02 AM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


this rubs me the wrong way, though I'm not entirely sure of the reason why.

Right. And that unsureness about the reason why is the focal point of this as artwork. If this bothers you (it bothers me), why? The self-examination it takes to answer that question is likely to surface beliefs about pregnancy, the rights of women, abortion, etc., that have been previously unexplored.
posted by Miko at 10:02 AM on April 17, 2008 [7 favorites]


Also: anyone who thinks that "right" and "wrong" apply to art may need to go back to school, maybe take an art class, do a little water color... I don't know. Something.

Anyone who thinks that "right" and "wrong" *dosen't* apply to art may need to go back to school, maybe take an ethics class. Something.

Me? I'll just sit here with my book bound with human skin (lovely leather work), listening to "Johnny Rebel" exult me to lynch a negro (music is art!) while I starve this dog to death (Guillermo Vargas says it's cool, as long as it has a "message").
posted by kjs3 at 10:04 AM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Inflammatory political statement meant to induce controversy does not equal art.

Sure it can. Look at the Futurists. Art, especially postwar art, has always been about politics (or anti-politics), spectacle, etc. xod gets it right.

I mean, come on, all of Metafilter. What do you think art is? The notion of art as beautiful, romantic, dependent on the skill of the artist, a window into the world, a mark of the artist's psyche, transcendental --- we gave up on this notion of art in the 20th century, after the World Wars happened and people realized that rationality could become horribly corrupted. To paraphrase a quote from Adorno, "how do you write poetry after Auschwitz?"

So if you're going to talk about art, please at least understand that your notions of art-as-Michelangelo or Renaissance painting or even 19th-century frou-frou Rococo or Impressionist painting is past. This is 2008, and art has been trying for a few decades now to be relevant and not autonomous, not a status pawn for rich dealers and collectors. Whether it's working or not is debatable (I'm fairly pessimistic myself), but realize that things like this (WARNING: graphic) are in the MoMA, trying to talk about the world and such.

So - a girl giving herself abortions as art? This is possible, comprehensible today, maybe just not for you.
posted by suedehead at 10:06 AM on April 17, 2008 [10 favorites]


Either this is a hoax or she is mentally ill. In neither situation does her work qualify as art.
posted by Hogshead at 10:06 AM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I am just so glad someone finally had the courage to do something to spark a debate about abortion! The one thing the abortion issue has been lacking is serious, passionate debate.

Big thinkers in this thread, I see.

Unlike yourself, apparently. Because if you see this as a crap stunt, you're just not a "big thinker."
posted by pardonyou? at 10:06 AM on April 17, 2008


If this is a hoax, then I think it's probably pretty brilliant.

If it's not a hoax, then I feel really, really bad for that woman. I hope she finds some kind of peace.
posted by Shohn at 10:08 AM on April 17, 2008


I kind of hope this is a hoax, but at the same time I am liking it as an abstract concept. Like the phoetus earings it seems an extreme reaction to the value of human life in our society.

Human life is at it's lowest value ever presently. The cost of a human being (slave) is less than US$100, in the past it was over (adjusted for inflation) US$10,000.

Having said that, I don't think I would actually have to see the piece to engage my mind on the subjects of abortion, the right to do what you like with your body or the value of life in a capitalist society. Some people, however don't have much opportunity to think as they are too busy not thinking.
posted by asok at 10:09 AM on April 17, 2008


Call me mainstream, but I sorta prefer Mao in this medium.
posted by dawson at 10:10 AM on April 17, 2008


I mean, this artist should be permitted her choice to end her pregnancy, but should do so only rarely. . . Why?

Look, the "pro-choice" label communicates nothing about the labeled individual other than the fact that s/he believes that abortion should be legal. Some pro-choicers- many, I would say- still regard the fetus as a person, and see abortion as a tragedy which must be allowed in order to avert greater tragedies. For these individuals- who regard abortion as having a purpose- serially inseminating oneself and inducing abortions is completely contrary to the purpose of abortion.

I do not endorse that viewpoint, YMMV, void where prohibited, etc
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:10 AM on April 17, 2008


WHEN WILL YOU A**HOLE ATHEIST LIBERALS LEARN ART BEGINS AT CONCEPTION!!!!!11!!!!one!
posted by caution live frogs at 10:10 AM on April 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


Only interested if she's faking the whole thing. If she isn't then I'd have to read her 'statement' about what she's doing, and/or suggest she take a little break in the 'special hotel'.
posted by From Bklyn at 10:12 AM on April 17, 2008


I mean, this artist should be permitted her choice to end her pregnancy, but should do so only rarely. . . Why?

That's not the argument. We have a moral obligation to act responsibly so as to prevent unwanted pregnacies, which in turn will make abortions rare. It's sort of like going on welfare. It's there for people who need it, and there are plenty of people who need it for reasons beyond their control. But as responsible citizens we're supposed to make every effort to support ourselves, not quit our jobs and squander our resources so as to be eligible to live on other people's tax dollars.

I agree with the people who are saying this is likely a fake, but the idea that this should be real makes me very angry. A fetus is a living organism capable of suffering. I don't like abortion, but I absolutely support legal abortions because I think them a necessary evil. This woman is deliberately and voluntarily doing evil.

And as for this project being intended to stimulate discussion, fuck that. There are moral limits to art just as there are moral limits to scientific research and business and every other area of endeavour.
posted by orange swan at 10:13 AM on April 17, 2008 [13 favorites]


I just feel bad for her uterus and her body. Will she ever be able to have children? I'm worried that if she trains her body with drugs to expel what's in her womb then she's in for a world of trouble.

Wanna bet she's on Oprah in 5 years telling this sad tale?
posted by frecklefaerie at 10:13 AM on April 17, 2008


I'm sure she'll make a wonderful mother someday. Then possibly some baloney sandwiches.
posted by roue at 10:14 AM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


This seems untenable, or at least irreconcilable. I mean, this artist should be permitted her choice to end her pregnancy, but should do so only rarely. . . Why?

The "rare" in "safe, legal and rare" is a goal, not a requirement. She's permitted to do what she wants under the law.

But in a sense, you're right, for me it is irreconcilable. I believe that even an early stage fetus is profoundly different than, say, human hair, because it has potential that human hair doesn't. At the same time, I'm pro-choice because I won't impose that belief on someone else. The end result leaves me uneasy, and a project (or hoax) like this really pushes at that unease. I find it depressing and ugly.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 10:14 AM on April 17, 2008


Would more "dialog" be "sparked" by someone actually doing this than by publishing a story claiming that someone had done this?
posted by The World Famous at 10:15 AM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Shvarts on the day she's supposed to hand in her senior art project, on why she won't be handing in her assignment:

"the dog ate my homework."

Thank you! thank you! I'll be here all week!
posted by I, Credulous at 10:16 AM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


Being an artist in a world where everything's been done must be a very difficult prospect. I know there's a lot of fascinating and valuable work being done by artists all over the world. And I'm also sure that a lot of it might be considered offensive to a passive, traditional audience.

But how much lasting value can provocative works of "stunt art" really have when the whole message of the work invariably boils down to a convoluted variation on the theme of "Society's fucked up -- discuss?"
posted by wabbittwax at 10:18 AM on April 17, 2008


Wait till the FREEPers see this.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:18 AM on April 17, 2008


Right. And that unsureness about the reason why is the focal point of this as artwork. If this bothers you (it bothers me), why? The self-examination it takes to answer that question is likely to surface beliefs about pregnancy, the rights of women, abortion, etc., that have been previously unexplored.

This kind of thinking leads to the justification of all sorts of behaviors and also helps to generalize the definition of "art" to the point where "art" loses meaning. Self-examination of "questions" occurs everywhere and with everything - if this piece of "art" is to force us to ask questions, then the definition of art becomes very vague, inclusive and utterely worthless.

Like said earlier, what makes "art" art is the piece itself. There is no piece here. Rather, there is an "artistic statement" that is the focus of the art itself. She should stick to writing editorials and essays and leave "art" to those who actually understand the concept of what a piece is.

She might have a lot to say but "art" isn't probably what she should be using to say it.
posted by Stynxno at 10:18 AM on April 17, 2008 [7 favorites]


also: bonus alienation by the Yale Daily News for recording everyone's name thusly:

Aliza Shvarts ’08
Juan Castillo ’08
Alice Buttrick ’10
Sara Rahman ’09
Logan 8
THX-1138
etc.
posted by I, Credulous at 10:19 AM on April 17, 2008


Look, honestly, I DO think about these issues. I DO think about abortion, I DO discuss it, I DO try to examine the feelings that arise when it is discussed. Same with art: I already think about what art is and how it is and is not political.

So, you know, consider me less than grateful for this wonderful opportunity to finally really engage with these complex ideas.

I mean, if there were no other way to start a conversation about these topics, that would be one thing. But there are in fact plenty of other ways. And many of those other ways are not (and here I merely express my personal opinion) STUPID.

Even if you give this woman the benefit of the doubt and accept that her intent really is to start a conversation, she still pisses me off because she's far, far more likely to make people angry and disgusted than she is likely to make them think rationally and honestly about abortion and art. And, there is already a conversation. She is not starting a conversation. She is sh***ing in an existing conversation.
posted by prefpara at 10:19 AM on April 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


+1 for Stynxno.
posted by I, Credulous at 10:21 AM on April 17, 2008


Here we go.

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2002865/posts#comment
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:22 AM on April 17, 2008


Being an artist in a world where everything's been done must be a very difficult prospect.

It hasn't, is the thing, also, this argument doesn't really hold because even revolutionary art works because of (art)history.

What she's doing is making sure they spell her name right; see where she is in ten years. That she's a Yale art school (a puppy-mill for competent and often important and worthwhile artists - the list is preposterously long) speaks in her favor. Nothing else really does though.
posted by From Bklyn at 10:22 AM on April 17, 2008


I like art. I think it's good for us.

Also, in searching for a nice quote that might summarize my thoughts about how easily shocked we have always been by those nasty, nasty artists (something like Gauguin's "Today one can dare anything, and, furthermore, nobody is surprised." from 100 years ago) I discovered this lovely page full of them.
posted by Squid Voltaire at 10:23 AM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


OK, I'll give this some serious criticism (or at least make an attempt):

I'm unconvinced that she needed to actually impregnate and abort herself to create work that would stimulate the kinds of discussion she claims to want to. In fact, using the real results of real, intentional abortions may very well prohibit the kind of discussion she claims to want to stimulate. As an artist, might perhaps consider a representational, metaphorical way to present her topics. You know, actually create something, rather than skillfully preserve and display things your body can do.

But that's not my primary reaction to all this. My strongest criticism is prompted by this:
"I believe strongly that art should be a medium for politics and ideologies, not just a commodity," Shvarts said. "I think that I'm creating a project that lives up to the standard of what art is supposed to be."
That's a false dilemma. She's saying that art has to be either 'a commodity' OR 'a medium for politics and ideologies'. Which is of course clearly untrue: art doesn't have to be anything in particular at all, and it certainly does not have to be one of those two things.

In fact, the commodification of art is a relatively recent phenomenon, and art that is a 'medium for politics and ideologies' has typically been historically ill-regarded. James Joyce draws keen distinctions in his Portrait, which I think are instructive here--as explained briefly here:
Joyce defines Improper Art as kinetic and breaks it down into two categories: the pornographic and the didactic. Pornographic art is any expression that inspires desire in the observer to possess the object. All advertising art is pornographic in this sense and therefore improper.

The second category of Improper Art, in Joyce's aesthetic, is the Didactic. Didactic Art is any artistic expression which instills fear or loathing in the observer and thereby pushes them away from the object being observed.

All comedy is didactic, at the least the best comedy is. All tragedy is didactic and all social expressions of anger are didactic.
Here's where it's really interesting, and where this young student's perspective is limited:
[Most] art produced since World War II...is improper in Joyce's sense because it has been inherently kinetic--suffused with internal movement that either pulls the observer toward it in a desire to possess or pushes the observer away with fear or loathing.
Artistically speaking, we've all grown up in a time in which so much art and artistic impulse has been co-opted by commerce that it can be (was for me, at least) very difficult to arrive at a conceptualization of art and its media of expression that is bigger than what my culture is drowning in--as pointed up by the rest of Joyce's ideas on this:
Joyce defines proper art as that which does not pull the observer toward it or push the observer away from it, but rather holds them still in aesthetic arrest of the moment. [Static art.]

In this definition, if a work of art is true, it uses the forms of time and space in terms of contemporary life (people, objects, and their relationships to each other) to blow apart the illusory divisions that allow us to exist as individuals who are born from the great blank, grow old through similar stages of life, and die back into the great blank.
I'm not arguing here for or against Joyce's views on art, but I think it points up that there are much broader (and, in my opinion, more substantial) views of what art is and can be than are common to contemporary American culture, and certainly than are in evidence in the work under discussion here.

This young artist has limits in conceptualization I would expect to see in a student--which is appropriate, because she's an undergraduate student, and has a lot left to learn and explore. I do not see anything in this work that merits the attention it is being paid, and am saddened that honest art (I do think this young woman is being honest, even while I think she's also sort of full of shit, like so many college students), art that is of mature substance and craft, will continue to gain not one whit of notice.


On preview: So if you're going to talk about art, please at least understand that your notions of art-as-Michelangelo or Renaissance painting or even 19th-century frou-frou Rococo or Impressionist painting is past. This is 2008, and art has been trying for a few decades now to be relevant and not autonomous, not a status pawn for rich dealers and collectors.

That's partly what I'm after above, but the ideas that art must be 'relevant', or that any 'autonomous' art is necessarily a status pawn is as stale as the perspectives from previous centuries which you decry. Dogmatism in artists is as off-putting as the ignorance and casual judgment of non-artists, quite frankly.
posted by LooseFilter at 10:23 AM on April 17, 2008 [22 favorites]


Would more "dialog" be "sparked" by someone actually doing this than by publishing a story claiming that someone had done this?

In fairness: Nope. It's all in the statement. But where else would it be? "Oh, my...your aborted fetus sculpture will look so lovely in my den! I love the way the light hits it...."
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:24 AM on April 17, 2008


This is probably a hoax, which will only partially mitigate the artist's likelihood of being stabbed to death.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 10:25 AM on April 17, 2008


Dear god.

You see, THIS is what I hate about what passes for modern discourse. With things like abortion, it's either all or nothing. Either fetuses are sacrosanct atomic nuclei made of pure concentrated soulstuff, absolutely inviolate in all cases, a divine event horizon past which we cannot hope to gaze beyond, or they're utterly disposable, trash tissue, and the remnants of the untouchable Free Process are suitable for unsubtle, obnoxious art protests.

Can't we both allow abortions, yet in some way get people to treat them as a big deal, and not regard them in an "oops I got preggies the third time this month let's go rip that sucker out" kind of manner?
posted by JHarris at 10:25 AM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


Also: anyone who thinks that "right" and "wrong" apply to art may need to go back to school, maybe take an art class, do a little water color...

How condescending of you, and how utterly wrong.

If there's one thing we've learned in the last 75 years or so, it's that "art" is what you make of it; that if I create or even simply frame something and call it "art", it is art.

The question, "Is this art?" is not a useful one, as the answer is almost always "Yes" if you have to ask. The really important questions are things like, "Is this beautiful?" (yes, I still believe in beauty) or "Is this thought-provoking?" or "Does this change your consciousness" or "Is this good or evil?" ( still believe in that, too) or "Does this have social utility?" (ditto).

I personally think this art is slightly evil and extremely distasteful, and I'm pro-abortion in general. This is art by the rich, for the rich, as most "serious" art in America is these days.

There are other cultures that don't have this obsession with art's originality and message, cultures that still do a kick-ass job in actually making new art (take Indonesia, for example.) Certainly, in most countries in the world, and most places in the US, if you told people that "right" or "wrong" do not apply to art, they'd just laugh at you, like I am doing.

(and I hope it's a hoax. If so, it's top-notch!)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:31 AM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


This seems untenable, or at least irreconcilable. I mean, this artist should be permitted her choice to end her pregnancy, but should do so only rarely. . . Why?

Assume a person has a dog. The person decides that the dog can't be kept and can't be given away or sold. The person takes the dog and has it killed by the vet. Maybe the dog was a viscious creature, incompatible with living with people. Maybe the dog was old and sickly, and the action was out of mercy. Maybe the person lost their job and couldn't care for the animal. The point is it seems like under this ordinary circumstance, a person is acting out of choice, and they should have the right to make the choice. If on the other hand a person goes out everyweek and gets a new dog. Then takes it to the vet in the afternoon and has it put down, stuffed and mounted as art. They repeat this act again and again without an conscience about it. Then they have at a minimum a serious mental health problems. I would hope under this circumstance the state would become involved.
posted by humanfont at 10:33 AM on April 17, 2008 [9 favorites]


i vote hoax, btw. miscarriages tend to stop ovulation for anywhere between 2 months up to a year. and if it's RU-486, i seem to recall reading that there are some nasty side effects there.

i assume that the "art" here is people's reactions to it, not the act itself...
posted by rmd1023 at 10:33 AM on April 17, 2008


Everything is here. It is the singularity.

Yup. And I say good for her for getting her senior project into the national news. (Mine was a Lacanian reading of American Psycho or something similar.) And I'm guessing it is a hoax through pure Occam's Razor reasoning.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:34 AM on April 17, 2008


if it's RU-486, i seem to recall reading that there are some nasty side effects there.

In the article (not loading for me anymore or I'd cite it), she says she used natural abortifacient herbs.
posted by Locative at 10:35 AM on April 17, 2008


This is a hoax for no other reason than she claims to have been using herbal abortifacients to do the deed... Quite the grimly provocative hoax though.

"Many herbs and plants sold "over the counter" today are claimed by herbalists to act as abortifacients if taken in certain doses or mixtures. Examples include brewer's yeast,[2] vitamin C,[3] wild carrot, black cohosh, slippery elm, pennyroyal, nutmeg, mugwort, papaya, vervain, common rue, and tansy. Typically, the labeling will contraindicate use by pregnant women, but will not contain an explanation for this warning. There is no available data on the efficacy of these plants in humans. Some animal studies have found some of them to be effective.[4][5] The use of herbs to induce abortion should be avoided due to the risk of serious side effects. [6]"
posted by zeoslap at 10:36 AM on April 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


If you were her prof, how would you grade her project?
posted by wabbittwax at 10:37 AM on April 17, 2008


ack. this kind of thing is exactly why i gave up painting and stopped calling myself an artist. taking pleasure in carefully designing and executing plans that create discord and agitate others into conflict is symptomatic of anti-social personality disorder. just calling it "art" doesn't change this thing's fundamentally provocative and anti-social character.

and speaking as someone who's dealt with the tragedy of multiple-miscarriages in my own marriage and who at this very moment has a significant number of close friends and loved-ones who are going broke and practically losing their minds over heartbreaking real-life issues related to pregnancy-loss and infertility, I would love to give a nice sharp poke in the eye (metaphorically speaking) right back to this "artist" if I could. With a nice long and pointy stick, too, just like the one she's using on people like me.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:37 AM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Obviously, if one's pro-life, Shavarts's work is objectionable, just as all abortions are. But if one is "pro-choice", what exactly is the problem here?

Um, it's super gross?

Also, many pro choice people will say that they don't like abortions, but that it's unfair to force women to give birth, and that it can be very bad for the child, that backally abortions will happen, etc. It could still be appalling to these people for a woman to impregnate herself just to have abortions.
posted by delmoi at 10:41 AM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


That is downright shocking. I think it's despicable and that she ought not do it, but it's her body, and no one else's.
posted by lukeklein at 10:42 AM on April 17, 2008


If the artist were to see this thread I imagine she would make the argument that the large number of strongly worded comments means that she has been successful, no matter how saddened and angry those comments are. She would feel that her repugnant actions were justified, courageous even, because they provoked heated debate.

I imagine some ABC News employees are making the same argument today.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 10:43 AM on April 17, 2008


Can't we both allow abortions, yet in some way get people to treat them as a big deal, and not regard them in an "oops I got preggies the third time this month let's go rip that sucker out" kind of manner?

This is a classic example of "Can't we all just agree with me?"

Why should people who don't regard fetuses as persons agree with you?
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:45 AM on April 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


Teddy bears and mannequins share some characteristics with humans. But very few, or none of those ought to give them any moral standing.

Why not? Unless you're willing to suggest that there are some characteristics that are special?

Please point out why animals sharing characteristics with humans (i.e. life, and others, like intelligence), should give them moral standing, while embryos sharing characteristics with humans (DNA, potential for life, intelligence, others) should not. Or why in neither case those characteristics give them any moral standing.

Well, since we're talking about only some characteristics, and I don't see anything special about DNA, or potential for life (Don't eat that egg! It could be a chicken!--then we can eat it), or resemblance to us, if I had to pick one, it would be the capacity for suffering.

A fetus is a living organism capable of suffering.

Well, she's aborting them at an extremely early stage of development, I think embryo is perhaps the correct term. I certainly don't think a ball of cells are capable of suffering.

(And I wouldn't be surprised if research one day conclusively indicated that the capability of suffering comes at an extremely late date in development--perhaps, even several months after birth. You've got to have an active, developed, trained brain, and that's the very last thing to happen. But that's not what we're talking about.)
posted by cytherea at 10:45 AM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think it's a hoax. I hope it's a hoax.

But if not, I see this as the ying to the yang of those so anti-abortion they don't want exceptions for life/health of the mother. In both cases it's morally reprehensible, since they both treat the human life of one as more sacred than the other.

If it's real, I hope this woman finds some peace one day. And also, a real job.
posted by dw at 10:46 AM on April 17, 2008


I'll see your "Hoax" and raise you a "And the videos will be of Rick Astley."
posted by Westringia F. at 10:46 AM on April 17, 2008


Does this FPP reminds anyone one of the book Geek Love by Katherine Dunn? From Wikipedia:
The novel is the story of a traveling circus run by Aloysius "Al" Binewski and his wife, "Crystal" Lil. When Al's circus begins to fail, the couple devise an idea to breed their own freak show, using various drugs and radioactive material to alter the genes of their children.
I love that book. This art project? Not so much.
posted by paddysat at 10:47 AM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


...And where the hell is the "batshitinsane" tag?
posted by paddysat at 10:49 AM on April 17, 2008


I am going to nth the other people calling bullshit. Maybe I am too cynical, but this seems like a particularly sick April Fool's joke that she couldn't play on time. This can't be real.
posted by msali at 10:49 AM on April 17, 2008


If it's real, I hope this woman finds some peace one day.

What makes you think she's not at peace?
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:50 AM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


They repeat this act again and again without an conscience about it. Then they have at a minimum a serious mental health problems.

Or they simply do not place high value on the life of that particular animal. Like, for instance, those people who wear fur or leather jackets not because it provides them warmth during the winter, but because of its fashion. Or the people who eat meat not because they are hungry or for nutrition, but simply because it tastes good (foie gras, kobe beef, etc.)

Just because these people do not place such a high value on the lives of those animals they are now consuming (one way or the other) does not mean they have a serious mental health problem.

I love when dogs or cats come up as the example (read Michael Vick). Because most North American and Western European people keep these animals as pets they form emotion bonds not just to their own pet, but to the species as a whole. When they hear about the needless deaths of one of these animals they become very emotional. Meanwhile people in Southeast Asia could care less as these animals are little more than a source of food for them.

Before you get angry at what this student's art piece is you need to remove your emotional attachments otherwise you're thought process will be blinded by your emotions.

Is this piece wrong? Ultimately it boils down to whether or not abortion is wrong. If you believe abortion is wrong from the start, then this piece, honestly, isn't for you. I think this piece is aimed at those who are either on the fence or wholly support a woman's right to abortion.

I think we're seeing abortion being abused to the point that it's going to cause the fence-sitters and supports pause. Do you support abortion, but believe this artist is wrong for what she's done? How do you reconcile those two views? You're forced into rethinking your support on abortion and why it's right. It will either strengthen your beliefs or shatter them.

That's what this is all about.
posted by ruthsarian at 10:53 AM on April 17, 2008 [8 favorites]


She's certainly generating discussion, as evidenced by this very thread. I would call that Art. Distasteful to sure, but Art nonetheless.
posted by JeffK at 10:56 AM on April 17, 2008


If I were a rightwing agitator and wanted to cause a backlash on this topic, I can think of no better way than making something like this up and attempting to pass it off as real. If the artist is not a closet rightwing lunatic or secretly working for one, then she should think twice about providing such graphic ammunition to the right to further their goals.
posted by ornate insect at 10:57 AM on April 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


Or they simply do not place high value on the life of that particular animal. Like, for instance, those people who wear fur or leather jackets not because it provides them warmth during the winter, but because of its fashion. Or the people who eat meat not because they are hungry or for nutrition, but simply because it tastes good (foie gras, kobe beef, etc.)

What if they don't like the taste of meat or the look and feel of leather, but they just take such joy in the idea that they killed an animal that they suffer through the taste and the fashion statement just to know that they killed? Or what if they are wearing leather and eating meat because they want to start a dialog among vegans?
posted by The World Famous at 10:58 AM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Little lesson for the journalism majors out there: avoid being banjaxed, or you'll get Shvarts.
posted by cog_nate at 10:58 AM on April 17, 2008


Shockingly, we're all shocked by this shock art.
posted by Nelson at 10:59 AM on April 17, 2008


You're forced into rethinking your support on abortion and why it's right.

Hardly. The purpose of abortion is to end an unwanted or unviable pregnancy. She's getting pregnant on purpose, so it's hardly unwanted. She's just a loon.
posted by headspace at 10:59 AM on April 17, 2008


Ultimately it boils down to whether or not abortion is wrong. If you believe abortion is wrong from the start, then this piece, honestly, isn't for you. I think this piece is aimed at those who are either on the fence or wholly support a woman's right to abortion.

As several others have noted, the answer to the question is not black and white for everyone. You can believe that abortion should be legal, but still be personally revused by it.

For me, it's as meaningless as if she made a mosaic of Marilyn Monroe with her toenails.

What's shocking is that someone with zero talent can get off calling her blood clots art and herself an "artist."

*blows nose into tissue*

*mounts used tissue into frame*

*artist admires his artistic expression*
posted by three blind mice at 11:01 AM on April 17, 2008


ruthsarian writes "You're forced into rethinking your support on abortion and why it's right. It will either strengthen your beliefs or shatter them. "

Well, combine this with the recent food shortage thread, fast forward about fifty years into the future, and she might look like mother theresa.

Other than that, yawn, it's the 'is an acorn an oak tree?' question again, this time writ large. Most people ironically base their ideas about this on a contorted interpretation of the bible, which was written by people who endorsed abortion and to this day (the orthodox) don't mourn a dead infant unless it's over 30 days old.
posted by mullingitover at 11:02 AM on April 17, 2008


Student work.

What I find disturbing is this: "Schvarts will... project recorded videos onto the four sides of the (display) cube. These videos, captured on a VHS camcorder, will show her experiencing miscarriages in her bathrooom tub, she said. Similar videos will be projected onto the walls of the room. "

Thereby making the physical act of miscarriage part of the alleged work of art. As if the rest of it wasn't whackadinghoy enough.

I'm pro-choice, though I don't like abortion, and an artist, but it would never occur to me that such a project (installation, if you will) could be seriously taken for art. Maybe because I'm male, but I doubt that has anything to do with it. I question this gal's sincereity because she sounds so glib. (Then again, she's an art student; I was impossible at that age, too.) I find the idea of repeated deliberate self-induced pregnancies and miscarriages repugnant. It's hard for me to believe that any woman could think otherwise.

So I call hoax. If it isn't, then I am satisfied to go on painting my Impressionist canvases in my out-of-touch, old-fashioned, pre-21st century way. The back of my hand to a world in which this is called "art." And if it isn't a hoax I would question her sanity and would suggest that she is probably a sociopath.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 11:05 AM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


The purpose of abortion is to end an unwanted or unviable pregnancy. She's getting pregnant on purpose, so it's hardly unwanted.

I think the fact that she serially aborted several embryos indicates that she does not, in fact, want to be pregnant.

Or are you just doing that "She got pregnant so now she has to pay the consequences!" thing and just trying to phrase it in a more innocuous way?
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:08 AM on April 17, 2008


"Aliza Shvarts" is an anagram of "Larva has zits", so there you have it.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:08 AM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


This woman has woken my entire social circle up from our doldrum of complacency. Thanks a lot, modern art!
posted by Pecinpah at 11:09 AM on April 17, 2008


It's hard for me to believe that any woman could think otherwise.

It's pretty hard for a lot of people to believe that others could fail to find the same things abhorrent.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:09 AM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'd love to hear a medical opinion on the feasibility of this. I'm not sure whether it's a hoax, but her claim of repeated pregnancies and miscarriages in a 9 month period seems iffy. I could see one, or maybe two, but three or more seems biologically impractical. Of course, she's not saying how many times she did this; might just be two...
posted by mr_roboto at 11:09 AM on April 17, 2008


She's certainly generating discussion, as evidenced by this very thread. I would call that Art. Distasteful to sure, but Art nonetheless.

BS. This whole modern conception of 'Art' (with a capital 'A') is problematic--art throughout history was not, as is now commonly supposed, some airy-fairy melodrama supported by critical shuck-and-jive hand-waving. Nor did it ever earn the distinction of a capitalized noun. That conception of art as distinct from the artistic practice of a particular craft is uniquely western and uniquely modern, and IMO, uniquely BS.

When Dada did it, they at least had the integrity to acknowledge they were not making art--they were self-consciously destroying the very foundations of art, out of disgust and contempt for where the historical cultural traditions of the West had led us during the two World Wars.

Jeff Dahmer generated discussion. He was not an artist. He was a psychopath. Lots of things that aren't art generate discussion. The weather, for instance.

The only way this qualifies as art is if con-artistry is now accepted as a legitimate mode of artistic expression. Maybe in some circles it is.

Before you get angry at what this student's art piece is you need to remove your emotional attachments otherwise you're thought process will be blinded by your emotions.

Impossible. If I didn't have an emotional reaction to this, I wouldn't have a reaction at all. So if this is a call for an unemotional examination of the issues, it's an utterly failed one, because it says nothing at an intellectual level. It's appeal is purely emotional.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:11 AM on April 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


If I didn't have an emotional reaction to this, I wouldn't have a reaction at all.

Some of us have intellectual as well as emotional reactions; are you suggesting that your only reactions are emotional?
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:13 AM on April 17, 2008


She's certainly generating discussion, as evidenced by this very thread. I would call that Art.

"Generating discussion" is an awful definition of "art". If I said "the Israeli occupation of Gaza is genocide", there'd be an awful lot of discussion generated, a lot of it looking like what has been posted in this thread. My act isn't art. It was, if anything, politics, and I suspect that this "art project" is nothing but politics by other means.
posted by kjs3 at 11:14 AM on April 17, 2008


ericb writes "Michelle Malkin: Move over, Jose Serrano and Karen Finley: Here comes blood-smearing Yale art student Aliza Shvarts. Heh!"

I've always wondered why conservatives care about art they don't like. I get the feeling that it's supposed to represent an example of post-modernist society that they find distasteful. It's no hat trick to get a reaction by Malkin, et al, for an exhibit like this. I sort of expect it. But what does it accomplish to rail against art? I guess if you want to live in a sanitized world, maybe it's a step towards that, or something ...
posted by krinklyfig at 11:14 AM on April 17, 2008


I think the fact that she serially aborted several embryos indicates that she does not, in fact, want to be pregnant.

I like how you skip the part where she's intentionally inseminating herself. She is going through the trouble of obtaining semen- not having sex, mind you- just getting the semen, specifically to cause a pregnancy. Which in my book sounds like she wants to get pregnant. But since I've shared my (still pro-choice) abortion story on Metafilter, and I'll wager that you sir, have not, I'll simply encourage you to quit putting words in my mouth.
posted by headspace at 11:18 AM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


The chances that this is not a hoax make my chances of winning the Powerball lottery look like a dead certainty by comparison.

That said, the concept bothers me mainly only because I know how it will be received. This is the intellectual equivalent of throwing a grenade into a crowded stadium; at this point in the "debate" nothing good can come of it. It will just plain freak some people out, and back the rest into a corner of making a stand which will also freak those people out or quietly tiptoeing away from the brawl. Then the freaked-out people will elect reactionary Neanderthals who will finish the job of turning the country into a theocracy.
posted by localroger at 11:19 AM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


I've always wondered why conservatives care about art they don't like.

Same reason they care about science they don't like?
posted by kjs3 at 11:20 AM on April 17, 2008


What can a person do with their own body, to their own body, and call it art?

Painting on canvas? Painting on skin? Pictures of the body? Tattoos? Scars? Foot binding? What about those people that get plastic surgery, or crazy teeth implants? Mr. saulgoodman clearly has some strong feelings but is kind of short on rational discourse. Which is fine. Censorship, which may be the other end of the spectrum from art, is also short on rational discourse.
posted by ewkpates at 11:21 AM on April 17, 2008


Unless she puts the clots on velvet I'm not considering it art.
posted by hojoki at 11:21 AM on April 17, 2008


Turn your cat into a purse (NSFW)
posted by The Power Nap at 11:22 AM on April 17, 2008


The responses are more fascinating then the project itself.

It would have been much better, though, if she'd aborted a more developed fetus on the last day it was legal to do so, and painted Abortion IS Art on her belly with foetal blood. And a snooty chef made sushi from the placenta. And she ate it in a diorama of a resturant, naked. Oh, and the dish has to be delivered by a waiter in black tux on skates, wearing an Ipod. And everybody acts like it's normal -- because it is. As long as you sugar-coat horrible things with a superficial level of psuedo-intellectual pretension, you can get away with any atrocity.

Amazingly enough, some people have no respect for human life don't think the same way others do.
posted by bravelittletoaster at 11:23 AM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I like how you skip the part where she's intentionally inseminating herself. She is going through the trouble of obtaining semen- not having sex, mind you- just getting the semen, specifically to cause a pregnancy. Which in my book sounds like she wants to get pregnant.

She wants to get pregnant, but once the embryo has developed to the point that she wants it to, she no longer wants to be pregnant.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:25 AM on April 17, 2008


It's pretty hard for a lot of people to believe that others could fail to find the same things abhorrent.

Which is the basis for community standards. I don't care to be part of that community.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 11:27 AM on April 17, 2008


Some of us have intellectual as well as emotional reactions; are you suggesting that your only reactions are emotional?

No, I'm saying this project presupposes that some viewers (or observers, or consumers, or whatever-the-hell you want to call the 'audience' for this inanity) will have a strong emotional reaction, or else there's nothing to see here.

In other words, there's no real intellectual component to the project itself. What new penetrating intellectual insight are we supposed to take away from this project? That people have strong feelings when it comes to reproductive issues? That's far too vague and obvious a point to be worth making. So what exactly is the point (apart from demonstrating how clever the artist is in managing to identify just the right cultural fault line and work it to help further muddy an already very muddled issue)?
posted by saulgoodman at 11:31 AM on April 17, 2008


I don't see any mention of evidence that she actually ever became pregnant. Artificially inseminating oneself "as often as possible" doesn't mean anything. You can artificially inseminate yourself 24/7 if you can come up with enough semen. Without real medical documentation there's no way to tell if whatever she actually did had much of a chance of getting her pregnant. There is no mention of pregnancy testing, she explicitly states she received no medical supervision. Herbal abortofacients? Whatever. If there was a truly safe, reliable herbal abortion out there there never would have been an abortion debate in the first place. This is the reality of the world of routine, self-induced attempted abortions. As far as I can tell this woman demonstrated the ability to produce blood from her vagina on a regular basis, nothing else. Well, she demonstrated a good instinct for generating bullshit hype about bullshit "art."
posted by nanojath at 11:31 AM on April 17, 2008 [11 favorites]


Interesting project. Not sure it's any good - impossible to tell without seeing the sculpture and videos - but I can't see that there's any question around its validity as art. As xod says above, there are certainly plenty of precendents, and there are whole festivals devoted to this sort of work, though it's more often live art - I forget what makes that different to performance art - and artists in the field usually restrict themselves to using their own bodies and bodily fluids, which makes this at least a little bit innovative, depending on your view of the status of foetuses.

Whatever, I bet her fellow graduates are royally miffed at her pre-emptive stealing of the show.

cstross writes '(I also say "greatest artistic controversy monger" since Damien Hirst's debut show in the mid-1980s featuring freeze-dried aborted foetuses as ear-rings.)'

That was Rick Gibson, not Damien Hirst. He also did a performance piece called Obtaining Art Supplies which involved walking the streets with a sign reading 'Wanted: legally preserved human foetuses" attached to a dog, and another, not unrelated, where he ate preserved human tonsils wearing a sign reading 'Meet a cannibal'. So, unlike Shvarts, at least his work was pretty funny.
posted by jack_mo at 11:31 AM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think this project is reprehensible, but it does provoke a real question concerning the moral grounding for a pro-choice position. If the premise is that a woman's control over what happens in her own body is absolute, as is often stated, then there is really no standing to say that what this artist has done is wrong--her body, her choice, even if I myself wouldn't make the same choice. If I am committed to an absolute right to choose abortion for any reason the woman deems appropriate, believing that the decision is hers and hers alone, what can I do in response to this artwork but just turn and say, "Well, that's her choice, and I'm pro-choice for everyone, even bizarrely edgy artists."

On the other hand, as was pointed out by someone earlier, the political rationale for a pro-choice polity is that abortion is a very serious decision made responsibly by a woman in consultation with medical professionals, and no one is in a better position than she is to weigh all the variables that go into a decision. Implicit in this argument is that there are some times when an abortion would be the less moral (if not immoral) choice, but no one else can really make that determination for another. Embryos do not possess an absolute right to continued development, but termination of even potential life should not be done casually. That's the political understanding--in exchange for unrestricted access to abortion, those who choose that procedure pledge to make their reproductive choices with appropriate reflection. Obviously, no one can make such a promise on behalf of all women, but that's been the implicit argument: encode this freedom to choose into the laws of the nation--women will chose responsibly.

Aliza Shvarts has broken that implicit pledge, and is undermining the moderate case for abortion rights--in essence, pushing people to choose one of the absolutist options (either women have an absolute right to abortions, even one right after another to make 'art'; or embryos have an absolute right to protection as a fully human life.) She's taking away the middle option (which a plurality of Americans, if not a majority, implicitly hold) by presenting us with a possibility not raised in the mainstream liberal argument: the woman who doesn't consider this choice to have any moral repercussions whosoever.

I'm essentially pro-life philosophically, in part because I do think embryos have substantial--though not absolute--human rights, and in part because of a theological orientation toward protecting the weak and powerless, a category which includes the unborn, if we consider them human persons at all. Yet I'm politically pro-choice (although somewhat uneasily) because I recognize that this is an issue, for all its importance, about which reasonable people can disagree, and I'm not comfortable allowing the state to be the sole moral arbiter of such an important decision. Governments don't have a good track record when it comes to ethical reflection. So I'm in the murky middle where I don't think that there is a good option, but that the least bad option is to defend the right to choose abortion while arguing for the moral gravity of the choice. "Safe, legal and rare" sums it up well, although I wish Clinton had been as enthusiastic about the third as the first two.

Shvarts is undermining my nuanced position and demanding a extremist stance that I cannot adopt, on either side. She's treating casually a decision most people wrestle over, or at least pause for a while. I don't see what good could come of her project. To the extent that it is reported in the media, the moderate pro-choice consensus will be undermined. I don't think what she's doing should be illegal, but it is irresponsible, and I do wish she would stop.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 11:35 AM on April 17, 2008 [19 favorites]


It's sloppily done and not really thought and seems blind to the how the action distracts from the message, but it is an interesting idea.

People play god all the time, she's just taken it to a more obvious extreme. I think we should applaud before locking her ass up.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:35 AM on April 17, 2008


The notion of art as beautiful, romantic, dependent on the skill of the artist, a window into the world, a mark of the artist's psyche, transcendental --- we gave up on this notion of art in the 20th century, after the World Wars happened and people realized that rationality could become horribly corrupted.

no, "we" didn't - a group of self-conscious and self-consciously rebellious artists gave up on those notions with various degrees of success and sincerity and proclaimed themselves various flavors of "modernism" and then "post-modernism" - often with the pretense that they weren't using the same methods with the same intentions that previous artists used

this is junk art - it's as nourishing, tasteful and filling as a big mac - it takes as much talent to make as a big mac - and it will be digested and disposed of by the media just as a big mac is

it's also stupid politics, but that's obvious
posted by pyramid termite at 11:36 AM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


An awful lot of people seem to be missing the fact that Shvarts is actually making work, not just issuing a press release - I'm kind of doubting that the plastic cube filled with plastic sheeting and foetus gubbins will be the best sculpture ever, but it's still worth noting that, without having seen it or the video pieces, we're discussing a controversy about a work of art, not the work of art itself.
posted by jack_mo at 11:39 AM on April 17, 2008


saulgoodman writes "BS. This whole modern conception of 'Art' (with a capital 'A') is problematic--art throughout history was not, as is now commonly supposed, some airy-fairy melodrama supported by critical shuck-and-jive hand-waving. Nor did it ever earn the distinction of a capitalized noun. That conception of art as distinct from the artistic practice of a particular craft is uniquely western and uniquely modern, and IMO, uniquely BS."

Trying to make absolute claims on what is and isn't art is futile and won't really change anything. I don't really know much about this artist's background, but this is a multimedia exhibit with some thought put into it. I can't really say how effective it is, not having seen it. From the artist's comments, sounds like she's a bit young and demonstrative, and she may find that her art grows with her as time goes by.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:39 AM on April 17, 2008


Aliza Shvarts stole my work!!!
posted by fixedgear at 11:39 AM on April 17, 2008


To all the men that might be reading this:

NO-ONE GIVE THIS WOMAN YOUR SEMEN!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:40 AM on April 17, 2008


No, I'm saying this project presupposes that some viewers (or observers, or consumers, or whatever-the-hell you want to call the 'audience' for this inanity) will have a strong emotional reaction, or else there's nothing to see here.

In other words, there's no real intellectual component to the project itself.


I think it's a pretty sharp statement about how we feel about abortion, myself. It forces the question of how you feel about it and encourages you to ask why. I feel pretty much nothing at all about it, since I don't think embryos are people. Someone who's pro-choice but finds abortion abhorrent, however, has something to be provoked; not only the sense of abhorrence but an analysis of why they feel the way they do.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:40 AM on April 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


saulgoodman writes "ack. this kind of thing is exactly why i gave up painting and stopped calling myself an artist. taking pleasure in carefully designing and executing plans that create discord and agitate others into conflict is symptomatic of anti-social personality disorder. just calling it 'art' doesn't change this thing's fundamentally provocative and anti-social character."

Hey, I saw something like that just yesterday ... Hmmm, what was it called? Oh yes, it was the Democratic Party debate. I don't recall anyone calling it "art," but it meets your other criteria.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:40 AM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Pater Aletheias writes "I don't think what she's doing should be illegal, but it is irresponsible, and I do wish she would stop."

To whom is she responsible?
posted by krinklyfig at 11:43 AM on April 17, 2008


Actually, you know what, I think Pater Aletheais made my point that there is an intellectual component to this work for me.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:44 AM on April 17, 2008


Aliza Shvarts talks about her first period
posted by Locative at 11:45 AM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


What Pater Aletheias said.

And, jack_mo, your comment just there implies that art exists in a vacuum. It doesn't. At least, this doesn't. There is obvious political and social context here that can't be ignored as it could in the case of, say Monet's waterlillies. This work of art would not exist without that context and can't therefore be discussed without referring to it. Guernica is another example, but the distance between us and the political context of that painting allows for the discussion to be moved to the painting itself to some extent. It can be appreciated as a painting. I'm not sure that the Shvarts piece ever could be discussed on its own "merits."
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 11:46 AM on April 17, 2008


I don't yet understand this and what it all means, if anything.

I'll have to think about it.
posted by fleetmouse at 11:46 AM on April 17, 2008


I imagine www.buckleyla.org have seen a bit of a traffic spike. The only downside to the internet is that I now know about this 'artist', right up there with 2g1c.
posted by fistynuts at 11:49 AM on April 17, 2008


Any MDs or aspiring MDs care to comment on the health risks of doing something like this. I'd assume its not good.
posted by batou_ at 11:51 AM on April 17, 2008


batou_ writes "Any MDs or aspiring MDs care to comment on the health risks of doing something like this. I'd assume its not good."

Is it worse when these risks are taken in the name of art, or when it's called "elective surgery?"
posted by krinklyfig at 11:53 AM on April 17, 2008


I don't like this, because it's shallow and dumb. In someone willing to think about abortion's role in society, it provokes exactly the same questions that we've already wrestled with for decades, if not centuries. Should abortion be ok? Under what circumstances? Is it no big deal, or (as described upthread) a tragedy that nevertheless must be permitted? Many people have already thought about these questions and come to their own conclusions. I know I have. Most of them probably didn't have to hear about or experience multiple abortions themselves to give it serious consideration.

Those people aren't going to get anything new out of this. We've already decided whether we think abortion is something to take lightly or not. People who have not already thought about those questions are extremely unlikely to now, especially in response to something apparently designed to provoke a horrified hardening of just about any preexisting position.

Hence shallow. It may have seemed deep and provocative to the artist, but to me it demonstrates just how close to the surface her idea of "deep" is.

I also say "dumb" because it took nothing but a weak idea and a willingness to abuse herself to create this (I'm assuming it's real here -- if it's a hoax, it took no actual effort at all). I have little use, personally, for an artist whose art encompasses no craft. This gets into the inevitable "who are you to say what art is?" But for what it's worth, here's what I value in art: Someone who has mastered a craft thoroughly enough to be able to use it to transcend mere technical competence, and communicate something that resonates with people in a universal way.

The craft aspect of it is essential, to me. Bring up the inevitable Marcel Duchamp counterexample all you like, but make sure you've actually seen his work first. Sure, he signed a urinal. That was a stunt. Even he did it to make essentially an anti-art point. His actual artworks are masterpieces of craftmanship, whether or not you're willing to put in the effort to understand what he was saying with them. I happen to think they mostly do manage to transcend craftsmanship, but the craftsmanship alone would have been enough for me. I'm thinking particularly of The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even here.

There is no craftsmanship in this art. And it says little of value. So it strikes out by any measure, for me.
posted by rusty at 11:58 AM on April 17, 2008 [5 favorites]




You know what would spark even more debate and be super edgy? If she ATE the fetuses after aborting them. Then shit them. And. Then ate them again. Damn. That would be some deep... shit?

What? Hey. Don't get upset with me. I think you are all just responding to your pre-conceived notions about shit, cannibalism, and your superstitions about being judged by some spiritual being.

It's her body. And her shit. Right?

But what if an eating your abortion were no more significant or sinful an act than having a chicken skewer? Then shitting it. And eating it again. What if?
posted by tkchrist at 11:58 AM on April 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


What can a person do with their own body, to their own body, and call it art?

Painting on canvas? Painting on skin? Pictures of the body? Tattoos? Scars? Foot binding? What about those people that get plastic surgery, or crazy teeth implants? Mr. saulgoodman clearly has some strong feelings but is kind of short on rational discourse. Which is fine. Censorship, which may be the other end of the spectrum from art, is also short on rational discourse.


Hey, you can call whatever you want art, as long as it involves making or otherwise crafting something--it's "Art" I have a problem with. I also think, but not so firmly as to insist on it, that the point of art should be the creation of something, not just coming up with some clever way to package or market some collection of artifacts that are more or less an after-thought than a product of a genuine creative process.

But those are my own particular biases, and I willingly accept that there are cases that blur the boundaries.

A lot of people like to bring up Duchamp's urinal exhibit and other found objects as examples of how art isn't about creating a finished product and the craftsmanship that went into crafting that product anymore, but this ignores the historical context of Dada completely: By their own accounts, these guys meant to destroy art--not to push it in new directions. And they did so explicitly because they felt that humanity's degradations through the horrors of the World Wars proved that art had failed to deliver on its lofty promises of contributing to the ennoblement of the human spirit and the improvement of the human condition.

I think this project is reprehensible, but it does provoke a real question concerning the moral grounding for a pro-choice position. If the premise is that a woman's control over what happens in her own body is absolute, as is often stated, then there is really no standing to say that what this artist has done is wrong--her body, her choice, even if I myself wouldn't make the same choice. If I am committed to an absolute right to choose abortion for any reason the woman deems appropriate, believing that the decision is hers and hers alone, what can I do in response to this artwork but just turn and say, "Well, that's her choice, and I'm pro-choice for everyone, even bizarrely edgy artists."


If this really is the point, then wouldn't an op-ed article have been a more effective medium for contributing to a serious, intellectual discussion of the subject and raising the points? As it is, you can't even really say for sure that the artist was conscious of raising any of those particular points--you're inferring this was the artist's intention, and it all sounds reasonable enough to me, but bodily-fluid sculpture is really an incredibly poor medium for making fine intellectual points about the moral status of fetuses.

If your goal is to contribute to an emotionally-balanced, constructive dialog, for god's sake, use a medium other than bodily fluids! But in this case, I doubt there ever was a real goal other than to stir up controversy, so it's a moot point.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:59 AM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


To whom is she responsible?

It's irresponsible because, as Pater Aletheias points out, it undermines the moderate pro-choice consensus. On the other hand, if she's actually opposed to abortion, then it's (evil) genius.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 12:01 PM on April 17, 2008


She's certainly generating discussion, as evidenced by this very thread. I would call that Art.

Reaction/revulsion is not discussion. Whether or not it's art can be debated, but I'm not seeing anything resembling discussion in this 200+ comment thread.

Just distraction.
posted by psmealey at 12:04 PM on April 17, 2008


Well, what Pater Aletheias said is ridiculous.

You can have rights, as long as you do what I want you to with them? You can vote, as long as you don't vote me out of office?

Ridiculous.

For those of you with a political agenda: Have some censorship and call me in the morning.
For those of you with moral qualms: Have some gaesuyuk and call me in the morning.
For those of you with artistic qualms: Have some dogs playing poker and don't call.
posted by ewkpates at 12:04 PM on April 17, 2008 [7 favorites]


"I believe that the artist doesn't know what he does. I attach even more importance to the spectator than to the artist."

Marcel Duchamp
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 12:05 PM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


Is censorship art if it provokes a dialog?
posted by The World Famous at 12:07 PM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


You know, I'm as liberal as the day is long and fervently believe that the right to choose is paramount. But if I set out to design a project to set back the choice movement and give right to life groups a sledgehammer to bludgeon women with? It would look a lot like this.

So, Aliza - stop helping.
posted by Space Kitty at 12:08 PM on April 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


You can have rights, as long as you do what I want you to with them? You can vote, as long as you don't vote me out of office?

See "fire in a crowded theater". Seriously, this is a novel concept to you?
posted by Armitage Shanks at 12:09 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm not seeing anything resembling discussion in this 200+ comment thread.

That's ridiculous. There are several people trying to prevent discussion by ranting about how disgusting this is or how disgusting finding it disgusting is, but there is definitely discussion occurring.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:09 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Now I want to see similar art done with the themes of capital punishment or assisted suicide.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 12:11 PM on April 17, 2008


I'm also joining th "hoax" brigade on this one.
posted by ericb at 12:12 PM on April 17, 2008


Shvarts is undermining my nuanced position and demanding a extremist stance that I cannot adopt, on either side. She's treating casually a decision most people wrestle over, or at least pause for a while. I don't see what good could come of her project. To the extent that it is reported in the media, the moderate pro-choice consensus will be undermined. I don't think what she's doing should be illegal, but it is irresponsible, and I do wish she would stop.

I think you're missing an important nuance. One of the elements of the moderate pro-choice stance is "in consultation with a medical professional". Shvarts attempted to make this a nonmedical process, but that brings the entire project into question: she cannot establish that she actually became pregnant, let alone that the "herbal abortifactants" were effective. If the abortions had been performed in a clinical setting, I think your concerns would be significantly more pressing.

You can have rights, as long as you do what I want you to with them? You can vote, as long as you don't vote me out of office?

I don't think you understood what he wrote. It's possible to view a certain act as fundamentally immoral and still believe that the state should have no authority to ban that act. This is how most people regard adultery, for instance. This is the so-called "moderate pro-choice" stance, which recognizes that a pregnant woman and a fetus have competing rights but judges that the state has no role in adjudicating those rights: the decision is left up to the woman in consultation with medical professionals.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:13 PM on April 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


Is censorship art if it provokes a dialog?

Ha! This makes me think of John Cage's famous 4'33" piece--except, in this version, there's some right-wing censor who cuts power to the transmitter for the exact length of time a national network news story about partisan political chicanery in Alabama is on the air.

Only, for some reason, I suspect there wouldn't be nearly as much dialog about that particular piece of 'Art' as about this one...
posted by saulgoodman at 12:15 PM on April 17, 2008


there is definitely discussion occurring

If you call proclamations of personal values intermingled with unanswerable questions ("what is art?") discussion, then I guess so. Ridiculous you may think it is, but it seems to me that people are just talking past each other. Which is pretty much MeFi at its absolute worst.
posted by psmealey at 12:17 PM on April 17, 2008


This makes me think of John Cage's famous 4'33" piece--except, in this version, there's some right-wing censor who cuts power to the transmitter for the exact length of time a national network news story about partisan political chicanery in Alabama is on the air.

Or if a censor banned the performance of that same piece by sending a cease-and-desist letter to Cage instructing him that, during that time frame, he was not to perform anything.
posted by The World Famous at 12:20 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Shit like this is what art is for.
posted by freedryk at 12:21 PM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


You all know this is phony as shit, right?
posted by empath at 12:21 PM on April 17, 2008


Ridiculous you may think it is, but it seems to me that people are just talking past each other.

Nonsense. Why, saulgoodman and I were just having a fascinating discussion about John Cage and the artistic importance of censorship to same.
posted by The World Famous at 12:22 PM on April 17, 2008


Also, I think this is a brilliant hoax. I can't wait to read the expressions of outrage by the usual subjects and the politicians falling all over themselves to condemn it.
posted by empath at 12:24 PM on April 17, 2008


Back on the medical question here, if she did this several times over a nine-month period, the likelihood that any fetus produced for this would be older than a month or two would be quite slim. I am forgetting my 11th grade biology here, but how large would a 6 week old fetus be, and would it be visually recognizable as such? Who's to say that the end product isn't just menstrual blood? Which... seen that, it's hardly an original concept.

I'm thinking... red herring. Er, so to speak.
posted by psmealey at 12:25 PM on April 17, 2008


Wasn't there a character in a Pynchon novel, Gravity's Rainbow I think, who did precisely this (except for making art out of them)?

The phrase 'dedicated to a state of permanent interregnum' somehow comes to mind.
posted by jamjam at 12:26 PM on April 17, 2008


the likelihood is that she was never pregnant, because there is no such thing as an herbal abortifacient.
posted by empath at 12:27 PM on April 17, 2008


Nope. I understand Pater fine. "Appropriate reflection" is required by moderates in order for them to support abortion. That's a bs standard. Appropriate as defined by who and then assessed by who? Can't be done.

This moderate stance is an example of the kind of dishonesty that pervasively ruins critical thinking. In order to deal with two wrongs, you create a moral ambiguity and hide the problem in it.

You cannot have a society founded on liberty that at the same time has laws that regulate private behavior on moral grounds. Well you can. It's just embarrassingly arbitrary.

So pick. Do you want liberty or moral authority? Do you want art that is whatever people create and discuss or art as defined by the State? Ridiculous.

Metafilter: People talking to each other. The absolute worst.
posted by ewkpates at 12:27 PM on April 17, 2008


There was this dystopian sci-fi novel from the late 80's, early 90's that I vaguely remember (the plot revolved around a clone of Elvis)

Elvissey by Jack Womack maybe? Not a clone, but it does feature the young Elvis being kidnapped by timetravelers and being brought to a nihilistic future to reign as a god. Haven't read it myself, but it sounds interesting.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 12:27 PM on April 17, 2008


Put me in the 'it's a hoax' camp as well. The controversy this generates will end up being the art and the girl will be able to point and laugh and go 'oh, you gullible rubes' and we'll give them a gentle wag of the finger and sideways smile like those people in Mentos commercials who get tricked by the person eating the things.
posted by KantGoOn at 12:29 PM on April 17, 2008


As a pro-choice individual who cannot conceive AND was raised by people of "artistic temperament":

Ms. Shvarts is an idiot. An attention-seeking, irresponsible, completely free of common sense, incapable of conceiving what she most wanted (a fruitful art concept) IDIOT.

For those who have fought and fought for the right to safe, effective, timely family planning, this idiot's "project" is a bloody slap in the face to everything rational and humane about their work. It gives some really tragic ammo to the more unreasonable of the pro-lifers, and could push some fence-sitters over to the less flexible side of the pickets. Idiot.

For those who cannot conceive but would dearly love it to be otherwise, her casual impregnation and abortions (if there's any truth to any of it, that is), this idiot's "project" is mostly just a stinging reminder that those with blessings very rarely recognise what they have. But that's enough. Quite enough. Insult to injury, really. Idiot.

For artists, yes, there will be some who try to justify what she did as something other than idiotic, because they are in love with the idea of art, the way some people in love with the idea of love get into relationships that end up destroying their entire lives or those in love with the idea of kids end up destroying the lives of everyone involved. They don't understand that she is an idiot, but everyone with slightly fewer stars in their eyes can easily see it: Shvarts is an idiot, not an artist.
posted by batmonkey at 12:30 PM on April 17, 2008 [6 favorites]


I am forgetting my 11th grade biology here, but how large would a 6 week old fetus be, and would it be visually recognizable as such?

about half an inch,and here are some photos.
posted by dubold at 12:31 PM on April 17, 2008


IT'S NOT ART BECAUSE I DON'T LIKE IT/HER
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:32 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Pro-Life Commentator Alleges Yale Student's "Abortion Art" Claim a Scam.
posted by ericb at 12:33 PM on April 17, 2008


OOOOOOH

SHE'S GOT A CLUSTER OF CELLS
SPILLING OUT FROM HER COOCH
I HEARD ABOUT THEM TODAY
THROUGH AN INTERNET SEARCH

THOSE CELLS HAVE A FATHER
THOSE CELLS HAVE A NAME
BUT NOW THEY'RE ALONE
SMEARED WITH VASELINE

"I JUST HOPE THAT IT INSPIRES
SOME SORT OF DISCOURSE"
BUT ALL WE REALLY WANT TO KNOW
IS ABOUT THAT SEMEN'S SOURCE

WHY AREN'T THERE LIMITS
ON HER CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS
NOW SHE'LL BE RESPONSIBLE
FOR THE ANGER SHE INCITES

I JUST WANT YOU TO KNOW THAT
"I'M TOTALLY PRO-CHOICE"
BUT I'M HERE TO TRY TO GIVE
THAT CLUSTER OF CELLS A VOICE

WHEN THEY'RE WRAPPED IN PLASTIC
WE CAN'T HAVE A DISCUSSION
WHY DIDN'T SHE THINK THROUGH
THE INSEMINATION REPRECUSSIONS?

IT'S THE MODERATE CONSENSUS
THAT REQUIRES UPHOLDING
AND THIS UNDERGRADUATE
WHO REQUIRES SOME SCOLDING

IF ONLY SHE WAS A "REAL ARTIST"
AND NOT JUST AN UNDERGRAD
WE COULD ASK BETTER QUESTIONS
AND NOT FEEL SO SAD

THE ONLY QUESTION I WANT ANSWERED
IS OOOOOOH WHO'S THE DAD?
WHO'S THE DAD?
WHO'S THE DAD?
OOOOOOH
WHO'S THE DAD?
posted by beerbajay at 12:34 PM on April 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


Crap as art, hoax or not, but a great troll, which most of these crap art projects don't have going for them.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 12:36 PM on April 17, 2008


There are lot of precedents. Duchamp's semen, The Vienna Action Group's genital mutilations, Chris Burden's crucifixion on a Volkswagon, Vito Acconci masturbating beneath a gallery floor, Petra Paul's menstrual blood paintings, holding a gun to Marina Abramovic's head, ...

Along with xod's examples, let's don't forget Paul McCarthy. (NSFW)

His tactics included self-induced vomiting and worse, onstage.
IMO, shock 'art' risks becoming devalued when such artists mainly aspire to push buttons, and whatever artistic skill might exist, gets obscured in the process rather than revealed.
posted by skyper at 12:36 PM on April 17, 2008


It's interesting how many comments are rationalizations that are a bag-of-synonyms away from the average right-wing talk radio punditry that will no doubt rise from this.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:37 PM on April 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


If the premise is that a woman's control over what happens in her own body is absolute, as is often stated, then there is really no standing to say that what this artist has done is wrong--her body, her choice, even if I myself wouldn't make the same choice.

You're conflating the pro-choice legal position with moral, intellectual, or practical judgments.

Personally, I have no problem saying that as a pro-choice person, I do not believe it is appropriate for the state to legally sanction this woman, but that I find her actions to be distasteful for a variety of reasons. It's similar to why I feel that white supremacists should be allowed to express their views, although I find those views to be reprehensible.
posted by miss tea at 12:38 PM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


we'll give them a gentle wag of the finger and sideways smile like those people in Mentos commercials...

Shavarts. The Fleshmaker!
posted by ericb at 12:38 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


This moderate stance is an example of the kind of dishonesty that pervasively ruins critical thinking. In order to deal with two wrongs, you create a moral ambiguity and hide the problem in it.

Well, I think there's a lot of moral ambiguity in reality; one does not need to create it. Those who see all moral questions as absolute black and white tend to be either idiots or monsters. And I don't see how a frank discussion of the competing interests involved in the abortion question "hides" the problem. If anything, it accentuates it.

"Appropriate reflection" is required by moderates in order for them to support abortion.

I don't think that the words "support abortion" properly frame the issue. Many moderates abhor abortion, but they believe the state has no authority to ban it, or that the state does not have the proper moral authority to judge the question, and this authority best rests with the woman herself. There is some implied responsibility inherent in this authority.

You cannot have a society founded on liberty that at the same time has laws that regulate private behavior on moral grounds. Well you can. It's just embarrassingly arbitrary.

So pick. Do you want liberty or moral authority? Do you want art that is whatever people create and discuss or art as defined by the State? Ridiculous.


No one here is arguing for the state to act to either ban abortion or censor art. No one in this thread has supported those positions. I think they would be very difficult positions to support.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:40 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


ewkpates: You cannot have a society founded on liberty that at the same time has laws that regulate private behavior on moral grounds. Well you can. It's just embarrassingly arbitrary.

I think you're missing the point. Many who are pro-choice don't consider abortion to be a private matter in the way you're arguing it must be--many believe that fetuses, particularly in their advanced stages, do have a higher moral standing than, say, fingernail clippings, because fetuses have the potential to develop into human beings. Those who take this view see abortion as a generally undesirable outcome and, in some cases, ethically problematic, but at the same time, don't hold a fetus' moral standing to be nearly as absolute as that of a fully-developed human being. These are real, carefully examined differences in position that are as intellectually nuanced and rational as any position on the absolute pro-choice or pro-life side. There's nothing arbitrary about it.

And what batmonkey said.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:42 PM on April 17, 2008


I cannot judge this one way or the other. I suspect hoax, but after some reflection, I think this raises some legitimate questions. Not about morality, or politics, but about art.

It seems to me art is Great when it provokes and encourages serious debate about profound issues. But what is being debated here (for the sake of keeping the peace, I'll admit it's a conversation) is not the art itself, but the idea of the art. Are we now so up our own over-intellectualized post-post-modern asses that a description of an idea of art now fully passes as art?
posted by psmealey at 12:42 PM on April 17, 2008


For artists, yes, there will be some who try to justify what she did as something other than idiotic, because they are in love with the idea of art, the way some people in love with the idea of love get into relationships that end up destroying their entire lives or those in love with the idea of kids end up destroying the lives of everyone involved. They don't understand that she is an idiot, but everyone with slightly fewer stars in their eyes can easily see it: Shvarts is an idiot, not an artist.

You kids out there on my goddamn lawn, you might think you're really something with your green hair and your, your bones in your noses, but let me tell you somethin'...you'll have a lot of time to be nihilistic arteests living off the fat of society when you're livin' in a van, down by the river!
posted by kittens for breakfast at 12:46 PM on April 17, 2008


psmeasley -- as art, it's shit. As a hoax, it's brilliant. The best hoaxes reveal peoples deeply held personal biases. They leap on things that confirm things they always believed. I think this will be deeply revealing about the mindset of pro-choice AND pro-life people. She's providing a valuable service here, iMO
posted by empath at 12:47 PM on April 17, 2008 [5 favorites]


As a hoax it's a work of art.
As a work of art it's a hoax.
posted by Floydd at 12:49 PM on April 17, 2008 [5 favorites]


we gave up on this notion of art in the 20th century

This "we" you speak of is much smaller and less significant than you believe.
posted by straight at 12:50 PM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


The Chronicle of Higher Education:
"The university would not confirm whether the News’s article was accurate, only that it had appeared in the paper. An e-mail message to Ms. Shvarts and a call to the editor of the newspaper were not immediately returned."
posted by ericb at 12:53 PM on April 17, 2008


I think this will be deeply revealing about the mindset of pro-choice AND pro-life people.

Not me--this is reductio ad absurdum, not the starting point for valuable conversation and debate (though I remain unsure which premise she is attempting to refute).
posted by LooseFilter at 12:59 PM on April 17, 2008


I think this will be deeply revealing about the mindset of pro-choice AND pro-life people.

I don't entirely disagree with you empath. I just kind of wonder if it reveals anything about those groups that is interesting, or if it tells us exactly what we already knew about them. Either way, that doesn't invalidate the exercise, I guess, I just don't find the response to be particularly enlightening.
posted by psmealey at 12:59 PM on April 17, 2008


Arbitrary: Based on or subject to individual judgment or preference.

Either a person has the liberty of their body or they don't. No nuance.

What you do in your own head about your own choices is your business. You can be as ambiguous and arbitrary and delusional and irrational as you like. What you do with the law, on the other, should probably be rational, reasonable, and as short as possible.

batmonkey's contribution is an example of a non-contribution. Attacks ad hominem, clear inability to consider objectively, thanks for nothing.

There could be a debate about the art itself, honestly I was looking forward to it. But there needs to be more artists and less reactionaries in the thread to get there. But there's art again, imitating life.
posted by ewkpates at 1:00 PM on April 17, 2008


I'd just like to make it clear that if her actual senior project is specifically, and with the approval of her teachers, the manufacturing of a media/Internet event (in other words, if this is her art project), I think that would be pretty awesome.
posted by Bookhouse at 1:06 PM on April 17, 2008


Either a person has the liberty of their body or they don't. No nuance.

Sigh. For many many people, a fetus nuances the definition of "their body". If it didn't, there wouldn't be such debate.

batmonkey's contribution is an example of a non-contribution. Attacks ad hominem, clear inability to consider objectively, thanks for nothing.

You forgot "gets emotional like a girl".
posted by Armitage Shanks at 1:06 PM on April 17, 2008


Disposable conception greatly undermines the moral foundation of planned parenthood. I would say this story is a huge blow to pro-choice because it changes the perceived costs to allowing abortion for those who have conditionally supported it. Maybe the presentation of these fetus is art, I'll have to see, but it is completely irrelevant.

Bathing yourself in your own feces is not against the law either and could also be considered art.

This really has generated a lot of outrage... could this be a distraction topic for the next few months? Are casualties in Iraq increasing or something?
posted by hellslinger at 1:08 PM on April 17, 2008


She should team up with this guy.
posted by DaDaDaDave at 1:08 PM on April 17, 2008


If it's real, then she's sociopathic. A person who felt empathy towards others, and could bond with their own children wouldn't have the impulse to do this.

I hope it's a hoax.
posted by MythMaker at 1:09 PM on April 17, 2008


By which I mean this guy.
posted by DaDaDaDave at 1:09 PM on April 17, 2008


the likelihood is that she was never pregnant, because there is no such thing as an herbal abortifacient.

Not true.

But the more I think about it, the more I think there's no way this can be true. RU-486, which is about as "safe" as you can get for a chemical abortifacient, still is black boxed and can kill the mother if not taken under medical supervision. Pennyroyal is less effective but also has nasty side effects. There's no way she would have dosed herself with pennyroyal three times without having significant medical problems at least once, and that would be enough to put anyone off it.

Nope, the art project here is taking the piss out of the pro-life/pro-choice war.
posted by dw at 1:11 PM on April 17, 2008


This is 2008, and art has been trying for a few decades now to be relevant and not autonomous

Somewhere quite a lot of art forgot that it should try to be not crap.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:12 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Being an artist in a world where everything's been done must be a very difficult prospect.

Oh, nonsense. This reminds me of how someone wrote or said at the dawn of the twentieth century that everything of importance had already been invented.

Society perpetually changes, and will keep on changing as long as there are two humans to rub together. There will always be new things to say and new mediums in which to say them.
posted by orange swan at 1:12 PM on April 17, 2008


I think I missed the day in college when "art" was defined. I thought it had more to do with skill, and an intelligent presentation of that skill.
posted by hexxed at 1:13 PM on April 17, 2008


A question for those claiming this particular work is not art because it: 'lacks craft, is shallow, is junk-art, is shit,' et cetera: How can you make these determinations without having seen the work?
posted by xod at 1:14 PM on April 17, 2008


I think this will be deeply revealing about the mindset of pro-choice AND pro-life people.

True that. A lot of the first reactions (from presumably pro-choice commentors) in this thread were that this must be a hoax, and it must also be the work of a closet or overt pro-lifer, intent on making a point about the perceived easy availability and immorality of abortion.

The "prolife commentator" ericb linked to, on the other hand, says it must be a hoax, and it is also "proof that the liberal side of the abortion debate leads the ideological mindset of the news".
posted by yhbc at 1:14 PM on April 17, 2008


If the premise is that a woman's control over what happens in her own body is absolute, as is often stated, then there is really no standing to say that what this artist has done is wrong--her body, her choice, even if I myself wouldn't make the same choice.

But that's a straw man in at least two different ways.

I don't think anyone claims that a woman's control over what happens in her body is absolute. For example, do you think pregnant women should be allowed to use accutane (which will almost certainly result in a horribly deformed child)? A woman might say, "My acne is more important than my child coming into the world as a monster," and I'd be very comfortable in saying that that is wrong.

Moreover, even perfectly legal things can become illegal through dint of repetition. It's fine for me to call you up once and express dissatisfaction with something you've said or done (as long as I don't threaten you). However, if I do it over and over, it becomes criminal harassment.

So it's perfectly reasonable to say that the artist is doing something wrong, even if you do believe that women should have a very high degree of control over their own bodies.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:15 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think I missed the day in college when "art" was defined. I thought it had more to do with skill, and an intelligent presentation of that skill.

No, that's craft (as in craftsmanship). In the post modern era art means whatever you say it means, so yes, you are correct.
posted by doctor_negative at 1:16 PM on April 17, 2008


Somewhere quite a lot of art forgot that it should try to be not crap.

Funny. But if I may invoke Sturgeon's Law: Ninety percent of everything is crap. If it weren't so, our most special art wouldn't be so meaningful.
posted by LooseFilter at 1:17 PM on April 17, 2008


In order to have a nuanced discussion about the necessity and legitimacy of violence, I have hit you with a stick.
posted by klangklangston at 1:18 PM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


How can you make these determinations without having seen the work?

The description is that she smeared some blood and vaseline on plastic wrap. There's the off chance she executed some sort of amazing painting in this fashion, but from experience, I doubt it.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:18 PM on April 17, 2008


You can have rights, as long as you do what I want you to with them? You can vote, as long as you don't vote me out of office?

See "fire in a crowded theater". Seriously, this is a novel concept to you?


Yelling "Fire" in a theatre puts other people in danger (panic, etc). Having multiple abortions does not put anyone else into physical danger. It can put people into a moral panic, sure, as is often seen in this thread, but last I checked doing something legal that other people choose to not like does not make it automatically an affront to free speech, pro-choice or whatever ideologies or moralities you support.
posted by mkn at 1:18 PM on April 17, 2008


I don't think this is much good as art, by my own intensely personal standards. I will cop to her project being interesting, but that is very different than "art that gives me the MMMMMMM-shiver Agnes Martin feeling".

However, this stuff about "The artist is irresponsibly providing 'ammunition' to right-wing know-nothings" or "The artist is disrespecting all the hard work and activism that make abortion legal"--that's all canal water, as my dad would have said.
posted by everichon at 1:20 PM on April 17, 2008


If it's real, then she's sociopathic. A person who felt empathy towards others, and could bond with their own children wouldn't have the impulse to do this.

This statement is exactly the kind of insanity that treating zygotes as persons creates, and I think it's a better argument against such than any rational argument I could ever make.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:20 PM on April 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


However, this stuff about "The artist is irresponsibly providing 'ammunition' to right-wing know-nothings" or "The artist is disrespecting all the hard work and activism that make abortion legal"--that's all canal water, as my dad would have said.

I think it's perfectly reasonable to state that she has the right to do this, but I wish she wouldn't. There is no contradiction there.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:23 PM on April 17, 2008 [5 favorites]


What is art?

Anything that has meaning for you. Something that's meaningful to you won't be meaningful to another. Thus art for you is not always art for someone else. To the artist their work is art and that's all that matters. If she thinks this is art, it's art. At the same time, just because it's art doesn't mean you have to accept it. So why bother arguing if this is art?

Impossible. If I didn't have an emotional reaction to this, I wouldn't have a reaction at all. So if this is a call for an unemotional examination of the issues, it's an utterly failed one, because it says nothing at an intellectual level. It's appeal is purely emotional.

You can have an emotional reaction and you can also separate yourself from that emotional reaction at the same time. I read about this and my emotional reaction is "FUCK! That's disgusting! Sick! Revolting! The very idea makes me want to puke!" At the same time I can put that aside for the moment and try to explore the piece a bit and figure out just what the hell she's trying to do. I start to ask myself why I'm having the reaction I am. Why is it sick? Is it just because someone's putting their abortion(s) on display? Or is it that she's having so many abortions intentionally and over such a short span of time? If someone framed their child's placenta and hung it up in a museum would I have reacted the same way? If not, why?

Just start questioning yourself. Ask why this article generates the emotions you're having. Compare the feelings this scenario generates to feelings you might have if the scenario was different. Try to focus in on what problems you have about this piece. If you have none, ask yourself how "far" she'd have to go before you would have a problem.

And at the end of all this it's perfectly fine to conclude there's no merit to this "piece" at all. That it's just a twisted idea from a naive girl who just wants attention and hasn't really thought deeply about what she's doing to herself.
posted by ruthsarian at 1:29 PM on April 17, 2008


There could be a debate about the art itself, honestly I was looking forward to it. But there needs to be more artists and less reactionaries in the thread to get there. But there's art again, imitating life.

If there were fewer reactionaries in the thread, what would he have to talk about?

"Dude--I had no idea clumps of fetal tissue made such a kick-ass binding agent... I wonder if embryonic fluid would make a good canvas primer?"

"I think it is just awesome how this artist has pointed out that it's not illegal to ruin one's future reproductive fitness in a very public way! I also think it's cool how she sticks it to all those unenlightened reactionaries who have the gall to be emotionally sensitive about their lifelong struggles to conceive and give birth to healthy children."

"Yeah, way to use the magic triangle to balance out her composition."

but last I checked doing something legal that other people choose to not like does not make it automatically an affront to free speech, pro-choice or whatever ideologies or moralities you support.

Way to paint with a big ol', over-sized brush there, pal. You've precluded this being an affront to "whatever ideologies or moralities you support" sight-unseen? So the fact that it's legal makes it above moral reproach? So the law is the arbiter of morality? I'd estimate that puts your personal moral development somewhere around the middle-rung of level 2 in Kohlberg's model of moral development.

That's not even past the conventional level of moral development, so if this art-work is making an intellectual argument about the morality of abortion rights, then the point it's making is an extremely conventional one, certainly nothing that should make it into the art history books even taken on its own merits.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:29 PM on April 17, 2008


What do you think art is? The notion of art as beautiful, romantic, dependent on the skill of the artist, a window into the world, a mark of the artist's psyche, transcendental --- we gave up on this notion of art in the 20th century, after the World Wars happened and people realized that rationality could become horribly corrupted.

We, who?

Do you mean, "your average guy on the street"? I think not. Do you mean, "people in a non-Western culture", no, again.

Do you believe "most artists"? Again, I see a lot of art from people at all levels, and I'd say your average artist, even in New York City, still sees art as beautiful and romantic, etc, unless they went to art school.

Heck, I have a fairly serious background in contemporary art, and I still haven't given up on beauty.

I put it to you that "we" means "a small number of academics and an even smaller number of artists".

Now, I care about a lot of art that isn't beautiful, but I don't like art that is missing all of the qualities you listed above, and I'd claim that for 99.99%+ of the world, your ugly, unromantic, skill-free, impersonal, quotidian(*) art is at best invisible and at worst annoying, just like the work being discussed here.

(* -- used as the antonym of transcendental)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:30 PM on April 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


'he' --> 'we'
posted by saulgoodman at 1:31 PM on April 17, 2008


The description is that she smeared some blood and vaseline on plastic wrap. There's the off chance she executed some sort of amazing painting in this fashion, but from experience, I doubt it.

Experience?! You've smeared vasilne-coated uterine blood on plastic sheets before? And I thought the craziest things people engaged in outside of my little box was maxed at eating Ortolan.
posted by ruthsarian at 1:32 PM on April 17, 2008


Unfortunately, I haven't had the pleasure. Just experience with this type of art.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:37 PM on April 17, 2008


Nope, the art project here is taking the piss out of the pro-life/pro-choice war.

Agreed.
posted by jokeefe at 1:40 PM on April 17, 2008


Well, what Pater Aletheias said is ridiculous.

You can have rights, as long as you do what I want you to with them? You can vote, as long as you don't vote me out of office?

Ridiculous.


That is indeed a ridiculous position, and one that in no way resembles what I actually think. Either I didn't write well or you didn't read well. I want abortion to be safe and legal, but I would also like it to be a seriously considered and rarely taken option. Since that is unlikely to happen, I'm stuck with safe, legal and frequent, which I don't much care for, but it is better than dangerous, illegal and rare, if those are my only options. Practically speaking, it seems that they are.

Saying that I simultaneously hold to legal abortion and a desire for a serious moral discourse is a long, long way from your caricature of my position, and I suspect that each of us has analogous areas where we defend someone's right to make a choice that we personally feel is morally problematic. If you insist that everyone who favors legal abortion must also believe that abortion had no moral consequence and should not be thought of in moral terms, you'll quickly go from a narrow pro-choice majority to a fairly strong anti-abortion majority, which I don't think you want.

Is it really so ridiculous to actually believe in "safe, legal and rare?"
posted by Pater Aletheias at 1:41 PM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


Google search, "Aliza Shvarts" : 1340 results
Google search, "Aliza Shvarts" -abortion -abortions -miscarriage -miscarriages -insemination -inseminated : 206 results

Is all else I've got to say on the subject.
posted by nanojath at 1:42 PM on April 17, 2008


I wish Dick Cheney's mother had thought of this.
posted by arcadia at 1:43 PM on April 17, 2008


I'm stuck with safe, legal and frequent, which I don't much care for, but it is better than dangerous, illegal and rare, if those are my only options. Practically speaking, it seems that they are.

Actually, the alternative is "dangerous, illegal and frequent"; I'm not sure where the idea that banning abortion acts as a deterrent comes from.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:43 PM on April 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


I take the position that art is whatever the artist says it is. But what a waste of perfectly good breakfast!
posted by telstar at 1:43 PM on April 17, 2008


I don't think anyone claims that a woman's control over what happens in her body is absolute. For example, do you think pregnant women should be allowed to use accutane (which will almost certainly result in a horribly deformed child)? A woman might say, "My acne is more important than my child coming into the world as a monster," and I'd be very comfortable in saying that that is wrong.

I was speaking in the context of the abortion decision, and I have heard many absolutist arguments made within that context. Haven't we all heard "my body, my choice?"
posted by Pater Aletheias at 1:45 PM on April 17, 2008


And ewkpates provides this handy real example, right in the thread: "Either a person has the liberty of their body or they don't. No nuance." The absolutist position.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 1:46 PM on April 17, 2008


saulgoodman writes "Hey, you can call whatever you want art, as long as it involves making or otherwise crafting something--it's 'Art' I have a problem with. I also think, but not so firmly as to insist on it, that the point of art should be the creation of something, not just coming up with some clever way to package or market some collection of artifacts that are more or less an after-thought than a product of a genuine creative process."

So, to you, if a particular work of art doesn't demonstrate technical skill, it's not art? I know this is the sort of thing said about Jackson Pollack's work, for one, but I disagree with the idea. The condensed version is, "My four-year-old could have done that." I've seen many works that lack inspiration but exhibit immense technical skill. But I'm not even sure that the artist in question lacks technical skill. How is it that you've come to this conclusion, other than through the description of this work?
posted by krinklyfig at 1:47 PM on April 17, 2008


Actually, the alternative is "dangerous, illegal and frequent"; I'm not sure where the idea that banning abortion acts as a deterrent comes from.

I'm assuming that making something illegal and subject to penalties can significantly decrease participation in that action. I could be mistaken, but I think that's a reasonable position with some real-world support.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 1:48 PM on April 17, 2008


Since someone asked, wwaaayy upthread about an MD opinion...

I say likely hoax. The chance you could successfully artificially inseminate yourself (something that is not easily done even in a medical clinic), allow an embryo to develop to, what 2 months, then induce abortion (with herbs that are by no means *certain* to produce abortion), then re-establish an ovulatory cycle, and *then* repeat the cycle -- I think there is absolutely no way you could accomplish this more than twice in a 12 month period and then only if you were extremely lucky and knew what you were doing.

Just my opinion, maybe someone knows more than me.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:49 PM on April 17, 2008


ewkpates:
No, actually, it's still a contribution. A contribution of opinion, which is what any FPP or art project or hoax or pretentious snottiness is in search of when it's put out into the world.

As for emotional...no, not on this. Just opinion-based writing, like what you would find in an op-ed. My opinion is that the child is an over-privileged idiot, and I don't need to get emotional about that. Plenty of those in this world, amen.

If you want to see me get emotional, there's plenty of evidence in my comment history of the difference between an opinion and an emotional response. There are definitely several I wish I could go back in time and talk myself out of, that's for sure.

I spent a good long while thinking about what possible good, useful, or interesting outcome there could be from Shvarts's "project". My conclusion is what I wrote here. It's not art. It's idiocy masquerading as art.

As to "more artists should be in here talking about it", you're missing a HUGE learning opportunity as an artist by dismissing the reactions here. You should be making sure to get bowlfuls of the floods of opinion on how this "piece" is perceived.

It may well be a hoax, but it's superb instruction to see something like this out in the real world and understand that implications and effects go beyond an artist's intentions. The responses make a great basis for artistic dialogues on whether or not this is a different type of outcry from, say, the one regarding "Piss Christ". Useful conversation for artists who insist upon including conflict as a component or medium.

Finally, you assume much by figuring that someone capable of forming a negative opinion about a desperate attempt to make something into "art" (rather than just being art, which is generally a more reliable indicator that it is, indeed, art) is not an artist - there are many artists who do not feel the need to constantly remind everyone of their calling, because they're busier just doing it instead of going on and on about it and begging others to see how this means the dialogue has to be neutered to take their tender feelings into account.

But that's just my opinion.
posted by batmonkey at 1:52 PM on April 17, 2008


I just got back from a funeral for a 6 month old child who died of a lung infection.

I'd be happy to give the "artist" the contact info of some parents who sat for several days in a hospital, praying to god that their child would live.

I hope she never fully realizes the senselessness of her acts. It would be a painful fate worse than death.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 1:54 PM on April 17, 2008


Disgusting and trite -- as I think all painting-with-bodily-fluids art pieces are, at this point -- but not anywhere near as disturbing as the cat-torture "art project" linked to above. That actually makes me want to do some serious bodily harm to someone; I'm not sure I'd cross the street to slap a recreational fetus killer. For whatever reason it just doesn't seem to press the outrage buttons. It's just disgustingly poor taste.

In general, boundary-pushing art that exists solely to push boundaries is nothing more than trolling. It's not creative, it's not insightful, it's sophomoric. "Artist does something society finds disgusting; society disgusted." No shit, Sherlock.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:56 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


On the topic of the frequency of illegal abortion, from The Straight Dope:

For 1972, the last full year before Roe, the federal Centers for Disease Control reported that 39 women died due to illegal abortion. (The death total for all abortions, including legal ones, was 88.) That figure is low, thanks to underreporting, but in any case the number of deaths had been dropping sharply for the previous few years. A statistic perhaps more typical of the pre-Roe era was reported in a 1969 Scientific American article cowritten by Christopher Tietze, a senior fellow with the Population Council: "The National Center for Health Statistics listed 235 deaths from abortion in 1965. Total mortality from illegal abortions was undoubtedly larger than that figure, but in all likelihood it was under 1,000."

Given the (un)frequency of abortion pre-Roe, I think it is difficult to make the case that there would be many thousands of women dying or harmed from illegal abortion. There would be a lot more unwanted babies born instead. Understand, I'm not making a pro-life argument from this information, but I do think we should be clear about the likely consequences of banning abortion.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 1:59 PM on April 17, 2008


saulgoodman writes "If your goal is to contribute to an emotionally-balanced, constructive dialog, for god's sake, use a medium other than bodily fluids!"

I think that if the people who are so worried about the sort of discussion this would provoke would create their own works of art or start their own "emotionally-balanced" discussions about it, then we might start to have that discussion. But I don't see any attempt by those people to create the sort of discussion they claim to want.

I remember the flap over the "Guernica" mural at the UN a few years back. If people had started throwing around terms like "emotionally-balanced, constructive dialog," as a criticism of the events that transpired due to the reactions to the mural, I'd find it difficult to take them seriously. I'm certainly not comparing this artist to Picasso, but I can't even name any artists who desire to create "emotionally-balanced, constructive dialog[s]" from their work, at least not in those terms. Why not try therapy, if that's what you want?
posted by krinklyfig at 2:00 PM on April 17, 2008


"...Juan Castillo, a senior art major who saw Shvarts present the work in progress, said in a telephone interview that her artwork has been oversimplified and sensationalized. 'It's a much more complex project,' he said, with a powerful message as well as technically polished and impressive sculpture.

He didn't want to put words in her mouth -- she has not responded to requests for interviews today -- but said she had described it to the class as a feminist work. 'It's supposed to challenge the mythology of the body,' he said. 'Are we only supposed to do what our bodies were "naturally" meant to do, which is to procreate? It's both an argument for women's reproductive rights and, I guess, an argument for the acceptance of homosexual sex as well.'

'I think she was definitely trying to spark conversation -- in that respect, she's accomplished her goal,' Castillo said. 'But I don't know if she meant it to get this crazy, this out of control.'"*
posted by ericb at 2:04 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I just got back from a funeral for a 6 month old child who died of a lung infection.

I'd be happy to give the "artist" the contact info of some parents who sat for several days in a hospital, praying to god that their child would live.


Once you've done that, you might consider hooking up the creators of Grand Theft Auto with the victims of a carjacking, 'cause really, how insensitive, right?
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:06 PM on April 17, 2008 [6 favorites]


Video of Aliza Shvarts at a 'Soapbox Event at Federal Hall' on April 5th.
posted by ericb at 2:09 PM on April 17, 2008


Pater Aletheias, small numbers of women dying from illegal abortions does not mean that illegal abortions were rare.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:09 PM on April 17, 2008


So, to you, if a particular work of art doesn't demonstrate technical skill, it's not art?... How is it that you've come to this conclusion, other than through the description of this work?

Partly, from watching crappy glam-rock cover bands walk out of night clubs with a bigger cut of the door than their more technically-accomplished original-music-playing counterparts all my life... /kidding

It's really simple: 'Art' with a capital 'A', 'Art' as an abstraction with intrinsic value in its own right is a uniquely modern and Western concept. (There's some good scholarship on this claim out there, but I don't have any links on hand.) Personally, I think it's a mistake to think about art in this abstracted way at all. Painting as an end in itself is an art form, no doubt about it. Sculpting as an end in itself is a form of art, too. Music and writing, too. But documenting whatever strange things you do to yourself and then hosting an event to share the products of your contrived experiences is just not an art form--it's public relations. It's not even about technical competence. I guess I would argue that, in my mind, artists take real experiences and transform them into art, while hack artists create fake experiences and then try to elevate those frauds to the level of art.

I didn't always think this way, but I do now, having turned away from the monster I became in my early adult years, when I, like so many self-deluded young people, harbored the delusion that I was a serious artist and so, slyly looked down on many of my friends and loved-ones, who were too conventional and just didn't get why 'Art' was so important. Then one day it occurred to me to ask, well, hell, just why is art so damn important? And the answers I came up with surprised me.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:09 PM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


Bathtub Bobsled writes "I'd be happy to give the 'artist' the contact info of some parents who sat for several days in a hospital, praying to god that their child would live."

What would the artist do? Paint a happy picture and magically bring their child back to life?
posted by krinklyfig at 2:10 PM on April 17, 2008


Pater Aletheias, small numbers of women dying from illegal abortions does not mean that illegal abortions were rare.

True. It means that they were either rare or relatively safe.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 2:12 PM on April 17, 2008


Self-examination of "questions" occurs everywhere and with everything - if this piece of "art" is to force us to ask questions, then the definition of art becomes very vague, inclusive and utterely worthless.

I actually don't care about the "is it art" question or not. If anything, it seems to me to be an attempted political statement of some kind. What I find interesting is that there were a lot of comments which said "This bothers me, but I don't quite know why." As someone who has given a ridiculous amount of thought to the ethics of abortion over the years, saying something like that clearly signals that the speaker really has not given much deep thought to his or her position on abortion.

Much of the philosophical reasoning about abortion depends on ethical arguments which seek to determine whether, when, and under what conditions it's all right to abort a viable fetus. First, there needs to be a moral framework to reference - under what ethical system are we doing the judging? A religious system that advances a particular definition of what life is, what it's for, and when it begins? A political system that enshrines specific values, such as self-determination, freedom from illegal search and seizure, limited government intervention? A comparitive framework that looks at other situations in which humans make decisions that start, end, or endanger the lives of humans and animals?

In today's United States, the discussion about continued access to legal abortion is primarily a political discussion about the rights of people to control what happens to and within their bodies. This is because, as a mixed society, we agree to live under the ideal of a rule of law that does not privilege religious viewpoints over one another. In the case of this stunt, then, we have a behavior described which is completely legal.

So there are people who are saying "I know it's legal, and yet, I still find it distasteful." Some know why - because they believe life begins at conception, or that the law is wrong and that fetuses have rights that are equivalent to or supercede those of the women carrying them, or that the law is necessary but that the act of abortion is not desirable in itself, only permissible to prevent greater wrong. All well and good, if you know that you believe that - you are using a religious moral reasoning framework.

Other people are saying "I know it's legal, and I don't believe life begins at conception, and I don't find it distasteful because a rational view of life does not allow me to make a romantic attachment to living cells when we don't extend that attachment to the animals we eat or kill for food, or to death penalty victims." All well and good, you are consistently applying a comparitive moral-reasoning framework

But other people are saying "I know it's legal, and I don't believe life begins at conception, yet I still find it distasteful." The question then is: why? Using what framework is this morally bad? If no crime is being committed (it's a legal act) and no moral wrong is being committed (an early-stage fetus is not a human being, just a lump of cells), and other acts are just like it (we eat meat and kill criminals), then why on earth should this be distasteful? It's just a woman having her period.

Right? Or isn't it?

It is a serious question. I suggest that anyone who falls into this last category - not sure why it still seems distasteful - has not really considered what they believe about the nature of the fetus, at least not with great depth, and is reasoning from the gut rather than from a consistent standpoint that refers to a moral framework. And I've always believed that, because of the potentially horrific restriction of rights to self-control and the , this is one of the issues upon which it is vitally important to be very clear about where the moral reasoning is coming from. "Because it squicks me out" is not a sufficient reason to craft law preventing abortion from being legal.

Allllll that said, I am not sure this is a hoax, but only because it doesn't need to be. When you look at female reproduction, the picture is complicated, and complicates any moral reasoning about pregnancy. For one thing, we have no reason to ever suspect she was pregnant in the first place. There is not enough information in the article to know about that. She says she inseminated herself "as often as possible," to which we would have to ask "and how often was that? Once? Every day for months? Or never?" After all, it might never have been possible. We don't know how she "inseminated herself," if she did - she may have done it in a way that purposely failed, which wouldn't be at all hard. She might have chosen a point in her cycle during which her fertility was quite low, or allowed the sample to get too hot, too cool, or too old. She might be infertile.

Even if she really did every step fully in an actual attempt to get pregnant, she would not be that successful. The pregnancy rate for using no method of birth control at all is 85%. But wait. That rate is established by looking at a full calendar year. In one calendar year, of every 100 women who always have unprotected sex, 85 will get pregnant, on average, at some point in that year. That means that they don't get pregnant every time they have sex. Of those 85 women, some might get pregnant during the very first act of intercourse in the measured year. But that's rare. Others got pregnant during the very last act of intercourse in the measured year, meaning that months' worth of unprotected intercourse, containing any number of individual acts of intercourse, did not result in pregnancy. More often than not, any single act of intercourse is less likely to produce a pregnancy than not to:
The probability of conceiving after one act of unprotected intercourse is relatively low and varies based on when during the menstrual cycle intercourse occurs. There is a possibility of conception when intercourse takes place within the 5 days before or on the estimated date of ovulation. Probabilities of conception after a single act of unprotected intercourse range from 10% when intercourse occurs 5 days before ovulation to 33% when it occurs on the day of ovulation.
So, there is no reason whatsoever to assume that because she inseminated herself, she became pregnant. The article mentions no pregnancy test.

Then she asserts that she took "herbal abortifacients." We don't know what those were. A little Googling around reveals a few possibilities: preparations of black cohosh, Queen Anne's Lace (wild carrot), pennyroyal, and a few others. Most medical sites either completely dismiss these as not efficacious, or warn of the serious side effects, such as liver toxicity. One pro-herbal site mentions a bunch of women's-health uses for black cohosh which make Lydia Pinkham's tonic look like targeted space-age nanomedicine, but doesn't say much for its efficacy at ending pregnancy:
When attempting to dislodge pregnancy causing the uterus to contract is desirable. Blue Cohosh can be used by itself or combined with other herbs. It is commonly used with Pennyroyal, an herb with abortifacient qualities and/or Black Cohosh, which will help to soften the cervix and relax the os, it also encourages coordinated uterine contractions and according to some sources black cohosh is used to temper the intensity of blue cohosh's contractibility.

However, my personal attempts to terminate pregnancy with blue cohosh, pennyroyal and black cohosh were not successful, and over the course of time that I have been maintaining this website I've seen some mixed results.

There is more info on the attached "Sharing Our Wisdom" page, but even then, the writer says that despite the number of success stories the site unsprisingly attracts, "don't let that fool you," because "success rates are more or less 50-50."

How does a 50-50 success rate compare with nature? Well, it turns out that even had our artist friend taken nothing at all, she could still miscarry, assuming she was ever pregnant. Many people are surprised to learn that pregnancy-ending miscarriages are not at all uncommon. Many women miscarry before they even suspect they are pregnant: they just have a period. The fertilized egg was not viable, and the body discards it.
Miscarriage occurs in about 15-20% of all recognized pregnancies, and usually occurs before the 13th week of pregnancy. The actual percentage of miscarriages is estimated to be as high as 50% of all pregnancies, since many miscarriages occur without the woman ever having known she was pregnant. Of those miscarriages that occur before the eighth week, 30% have no fetus associated with the sac or placenta. This condition is called blighted ovum, and many women are surprised to learn that there was never an embryo inside the sac.

Some miscarriages occur before women recognize that they are pregnant. About 15% of fertilized eggs are lost before the egg even has a chance to implant (embed itself) in the wall of the uterus. A woman would not generally identify this type of miscarriage. Another 15% of conceptions are lost before eight weeks' gestation. Once fetal heart function is detected in a given pregnancy, the chance of miscarriage is less than 5%.
Not only are about half of all pregnancies terminated by the body without any assistance at all, but many legally prescribed hormonal birth control regimens also cause miscarriages by changing the texture of the uterine lining so that the fertized egg cannot implant. Are those abortions? Some say they are. In any case, whether they are or not, they are not morally different from using herbal treatments on a comparable time schedule to achieve the same effect.

Geez, we don't even know if she's already on hormonal birth control.

So I'm having trouble getting outraged by this project, because the processes of fertility are not as bluntly KILL BABY/NOT KILL BABY as we generally think. What I am suspecting this gal is up to:

1. Maybe inseminate self, maybe not, on unknown schedule with unknown level of skill
2. Eat herbs that may or may not have any effect, or may not have any effect other than stimulating/accelerating a menstrual cycle
3. Have your period in a bathtub and film it.
4. CREDIT!!!!

It's stupid, needless, kind of icky, and calculatedly offensive. I don't defend it. But I do think there is a HUGE gap between what she is doing and being able to assert "I am getting pregnant and giving myself abortions." There are too many weak and fuzzy spots in the process.
posted by Miko at 2:15 PM on April 17, 2008 [19 favorites]


I think it's less offensive than this.
posted by arcadia at 2:16 PM on April 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


"It's both an argument for women's reproductive rights and, I guess, an argument for the acceptance of homosexual sex as well."

Forgive me for stating the obvious, but art school kids are dumb.
posted by turaho at 2:16 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


So maybe the options are asfe, legal and frequent versus almost-as-safe, illegal and not-quite-so-frequent?

Again, I feel that this whole issue calls for more nuance than the talking heads in our culture give it. I don't think most people hold positions on the extreme right and left, but those are the positions I hear mot often.

With that, I think I've said about all I can say productively, and I need to go pick up my family at the airport. Carry on, noble interlocutors.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 2:18 PM on April 17, 2008


saulgoodman writes "It's really simple: 'Art' with a capital 'A', 'Art' as an abstraction with intrinsic value in its own right is a uniquely modern and Western concept. (There's some good scholarship on this claim out there, but I don't have any links on hand.)"

So what? Art is immersed in its own culture. Why should our art resemble art from different cultures?

I understand what you're saying. For instance, the art of calligraphy in much of Asia is also a craft, and would probably be considered more of that type of thing here, but it's also art there, and there isn't a distinctive difference or lack of overlap. OTOH, many of Japan's modern artists are not really coming from the same direction. But I don't think it's really important to get hung up on how other cultures see our creative expressions, because, again, the artists of our culture speak to our culture (perhaps poorly, but that is another discussion). We also have modern craftspeople who sell "art," like Thomas Kinkade. He may not paint every stroke, but it takes skill to create all those cottages.

Personally, I think it's a mistake to think about art in this abstracted way at all. Painting as an end in itself is an art form, no doubt about it. Sculpting as an end in itself is a form of art, too. Music and writing, too. But documenting whatever strange things you do to yourself and then hosting an event to share the products of your contrived experiences is just not an art form--it's public relations.

I think that taking one work, unseen, out of context of the artist's history or other works, and making such critiques about it tells me a lot about you, but nothing about the art.

"I didn't always think this way, but I do now, having turned away from the monster I became in my early adult years, when I, like so many self-deluded young people, harbored the delusion that I was a serious artist and so, slyly looked down on many of my friends and loved-ones, who were too conventional and just didn't get why 'Art' was so important. Then one day it occurred to me to ask, well, hell, just why is art so damn important? And the answers I came up with surprised me."

So, now you've turned your nose down on others. Well, that's something.

What answers did you come up with?
posted by krinklyfig at 2:20 PM on April 17, 2008


What would the artist do? Paint a happy picture and magically bring their child back to life?

Only Thomas Kinkade could do that. Maybe.
posted by fleetmouse at 2:21 PM on April 17, 2008


I'm certainly not comparing this artist to Picasso, but I can't even name any artists who desire to create "emotionally-balanced, constructive dialog[s]" from their work, at least not in those terms. Why not try therapy, if that's what you want?

That's not what I want, krinklyfig--that's what the original commenter I was responding too told me I should be doing--putting my emotional reactions aside and coming to this work of 'art' with a more rational, intellectually detached perspective and entering into a dialog with others on that basis.

Personally, I think art--meaning, paintings, sculpture, books, films, websites, songs, etc.--are deeply emotional in their appeal, some more than others. But if the point of a given art project is to communicate an idea, some media are better delivery vehicles than others. Mixed-media sculpture, for example, is a terrible way to communicate complex philosophical ideas (believe me, I've tried). Which is exactly why I maintain that anyone claiming that a work of art--particularly, a work of visual art produced using bodily fluids--is meant to inspire hours of cool, intellectually sophisticated discourse is either high on their own fumes or trying to sell something. Or a little of both.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:21 PM on April 17, 2008


Sorry, I forgot the links to the herbal site. Here they are.
Blue Cohosh
Sharing Our Wisdom
posted by Miko at 2:25 PM on April 17, 2008


"Given the (un)frequency of abortion pre-Roe, I think it is difficult to make the case that there would be many thousands of women dying or harmed from illegal abortion. There would be a lot more unwanted babies born instead. Understand, I'm not making a pro-life argument from this information, but I do think we should be clear about the likely consequences of banning abortion."

Gah, argumentum ad ignoratiam. Studies show an equivalent number of abortions whether they're legal or illegal; illegal abortions have a MUCH higher incidence of negative outcome for the mother.

To Miko: I find it distasteful for a couple of reasons, despite not believing that life begins at conception. I find it distasteful for the same reason that I find taking a shit in the parlor distasteful; I find it distasteful because it's using a hot-button issue in a manipulative fashion and I am annoyed when I am manipulated by artists; I find it distasteful because it seems glib. Even though it's totally legal, I find many of Mapplethorpe's cock and ball torture photographs distasteful.
posted by klangklangston at 2:30 PM on April 17, 2008 [5 favorites]


I think that taking one work, unseen, out of context of the artist's history or other works, and making such critiques about it tells me a lot about you, but nothing about the art.

Krinklyfig: My target with those comments was not this particular artist, but the idea of 'Art' as some abstract pursuit you can engage in without actually having any particular kind of artistic skill, as if the techniques and media used in making a particular work of art are only of passing importance. To me, this is just another case of sloppy thinking that got out of hand long ago and cemented itself in our culture despite being fundamentally malformed. My position is a purely personal one, and my feelings won't be hurt when you don't agree. But to me, 'Art' doesn't exist. There are, however, many splendid examples of 'art.'
posted by saulgoodman at 2:33 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I find it distasteful for a couple of reasons, despite not believing that life begins at conception.

Which is cool - please note that I was simply pointing out that when you (by which I mean anyone) don't know why you find something distasteful, then you have unexamined beliefs. There are any number of reasons why something may genuinely be distasteful to you. But when you can't cite a reason, there's an embedded belief that you're unaware of.

It's not that I'm saying that people who don't like this project necessarily have to believe that life begins at conception - far from it, and if you read my comment again, you'll see what I mean. The frameworks I gave were possible frameworks, but the point was that im a law-governed society like ours, it is well to know and be able to say why you object to something, because it is a matter of law, and personal freedoms are at stake. There are many reasons to dislike this project. But to say "I dislike it, but I'm not sure why" is to say "I haven't fully explored my own moral views."
posted by Miko at 2:37 PM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


Rule 34?
posted by chugg at 2:39 PM on April 17, 2008


This reminds me of how someone wrote or said at the dawn of the twentieth century that everything of importance had already been invented.

A myth -- never happened.
posted by ericb at 2:46 PM on April 17, 2008


"But to say "I dislike it, but I'm not sure why" is to say "I haven't fully explored my own moral views.""

I think that's a fair point, and I'm sorry if I misunderstood, I just thought that you were attempting to limit the possible frameworks in which people found this distasteful.

(I will, as a bit of an aside, confess that what that reminds me of is trying to articulate why "dated" is a negative in music. There are songs that I think sound "dated," especially from the early '90s, and that seems a kind of indefensible position from any objective measure.)
posted by klangklangston at 2:50 PM on April 17, 2008


Some know why - because they believe life begins at conception, or that the law is wrong and that fetuses have rights that are equivalent to or supercede those of the women carrying them, or that the law is necessary but that the act of abortion is not desirable in itself, only permissible to prevent greater wrong. All well and good, if you know that you believe that - you are using a religious moral reasoning framework.

Nonsense. It's perfectly possible to come to the position that abortion is wrong or undesirable from a secular framework. Any moral framework that attaches some value to human life has the potential to judge abortion as a wrong, since the entire problem hinges on the very tricky question of what rights to afford the fetus, or embryo, or unborn child, or potential human, or whatever inevitably loaded terminology you choose. This question can be answered with religious guidance, certainly, but there are also scientific arguments based on neurological development and physiological viability, as well as a general cautious utilitarian argument that urges us to always err on the side of protecting human life in ambiguous situations.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:59 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


This a case of real life imitating sf. Anyone remember the name of the science fiction story from the the 70's where women would keep aborted fetuses in jars as trophies? I think I read it in Analog many years ago. The main characters were in a group marriage, all babies were created in vitro, and one character was seeing how many abortions she could have in a year.
posted by 445supermag at 3:05 PM on April 17, 2008


"My four-year-old could have done that."

'My Kid Could Paint That' (previous MeFi thread).
posted by ericb at 3:06 PM on April 17, 2008


Your point is a good one, mr_roboto. So change the quoted statement to "you are using a moral framework based on an argument about the value of human life, which may or may not be religiously determined."

My larger point about the need to reference a moral framework, or in other words, to bring to the surface the reasons that a behavior should be condemned, still stands. What the framework is hardly matters - it's a necessary starting place for a moral discussion. Without a framework, we don't have a moral discussion, we have a discussion about personal tastes.
posted by Miko at 3:09 PM on April 17, 2008


Why is something more offensive in art than in real life? Whether it's (apparent) serially induced abortions or the dog (apparently) starving to death in the gallery? Because art is frivolous? Does that mean the women having serial abortions in real life and dogs starving to death in the street are necessary? Is that why you fainting 19th century gentlefolk are here in the salon with your critical language and your smelling salts instead of out in the streets protesting and rescuing dogs and embryos?

What if we considered Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo as performance art, and the torturers as artists? Would that make the torture frivolous? Would that finally, at long last, make the audience rise up and stop the performance?
posted by fleetmouse at 3:17 PM on April 17, 2008 [9 favorites]


Miko: I'm not sure I agree with you. I think it's possible to have a very well-considered moral framework and still run into all sorts of ambiguity on the question of abortion. Again, the central question on abortion is not a question about what our fundamental moral values are: all parties start from a broadly agreed default that preserving human life is generally a good. The real question is this point about whether or not to afford a certain biological entity the status of "human". This requires drawing a bright line in a situation that's inherently murky. A child, after all, is considered a human at some point; determining what that point should be seems to often be an arbitrary exercise (or a "discussion about personal tastes", as you put it).
posted by mr_roboto at 3:19 PM on April 17, 2008


If I declared, "for the next month I'm going to eat meat at every meal and shit it out in the name of art," would that be offensive to someone who believes in the right to eat meat?

If you believe in the right to abortion, as you believe in the right to eat meat, how is her (probably hoax) project any different from, or more offensive than, the meat-shitting project?

If you think you support the right to choose, but you are upset by this art project, it sounds like you're really a pro-lifer but didn't know it, or at the very least, you have some pro-life tendencies you need to acknowledge.
posted by jayder at 3:22 PM on April 17, 2008


From ericb's link to her classmate's comments:

It's both an argument for women's reproductive rights and, I guess, an argument for the acceptance of homosexual sex as well.

This is the problem I was alluding to in my first comment: the "post-modern" view of art is almost entirely intended to incite desire or argument (pornographic or didactic, in Joyce's terms). This conceptualization of art is an artifact of the 20th century that needs to be discarded or at the very least enlarged, as it is a profoundly limiting one, especially for the minds of young artists. That art students at Yale think their art should argue for or against anything is the most problematic aspect of this whole kerfuffle, for me at least.
posted by LooseFilter at 3:25 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hmm... Abortions for some, miniature American flags for others.
[crowd cheers and waves miniature flags]
posted by oncogenesis at 3:25 PM on April 17, 2008


Update from Yale. Verdict: Hoax.
posted by fuzzbean at 3:30 PM on April 17, 2008


....is the most problematic aspect of this whole kerfuffle, for me at least.

(I should add that I think the abortions-used-as-art-materials part of this is clearly a hoax to me, for all the reasons pointed out above, so the "reality" of the moral dimension of this is thus occluded, so I've only been thinking about all this as an issue of art-making.)
posted by LooseFilter at 3:30 PM on April 17, 2008


Heh--pretty clear commentary from Yale: Had these acts been real, they would have violated basic ethical standards and raised serious mental and physical health concerns.
posted by LooseFilter at 3:33 PM on April 17, 2008


Update from Yale. Verdict: Hoax.

Well that's a relief.
posted by wabbittwax at 3:35 PM on April 17, 2008


Update from Yale. Verdict: Hoax.

so this is really non-performance art
posted by pyramid termite at 3:38 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


For those who don't click on fuzzbean's link to Yale's Office of Public Affairs website:
"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."
posted by ericb at 3:41 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


If you think you support the right to choose, but you are upset by this art project, it sounds like you're really a pro-lifer but didn't know it, or at the very least, you have some pro-life tendencies you need to acknowledge.

I think killing another human being is wrong. I also believe that countries should resolve conflicts through diplomatic means. I also accept that sometimes diplomatic means break down and war is inevitable. I acknowledge that war leads to people killing other people and this goes against my professed beliefs. I also recognize that it is a necessary evil for a greater good.

I believe governments have the power to declare war, but I would not want the decision to be made lightly.

I'd be fucking pissed if a country started wars for the hell of it, just because they could.

It is in that same spirit that I can say I am pro-choice and I think Ms. Shvarts' art project is distasteful.
posted by turaho at 3:42 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


do.not.want.
posted by Fupped Duck at 3:44 PM on April 17, 2008


I'm prochoice, but that doesn't mean I think pregnancy, abortion, miscarrriage and birth are trivial. I suppose she has achieved some of her aim, in that we are discussing why this is disturbing. She seems the very definition of sophomoric.
posted by theora55 at 3:45 PM on April 17, 2008


To add a little perspective to this debate, I was once given a work of art made with someone's blood, quite a lot of it. It was a pretty sad moment, it was an apology to me. Luckily, she's still around and doing a lot better.

Miko: But other people are saying "I know it's legal, and I don't believe life begins at conception, yet I still find it distasteful."... I suggest that anyone who falls into this last category - not sure why it still seems distasteful.

There's a massive logical flaw there. I'm in that third category and I absolutely know why I find it distasteful: in fact, I have many good reasons.

Any child could tell you right off that "blood and guts are gross". This is a natural part of the human condition; it barely needs explaining.

Second, just because I strongly approve of a woman's right to an abortion, doesn't mean that I don't think it's distasteful! To quote my father, "Each abortion is a tragedy, but one that prevents the greater tragedy of an unwanted child." Like any form of surgery, if a friend came to me and said, "I just had an abortion," I'd say, "I'm sorry, how are you feeling, are you OK?"

Finally, this is distasteful because it's grandstanding in the worst way.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:52 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


fleetmouse writes "What if we considered Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo as performance art, and the torturers as artists? Would that make the torture frivolous? Would that finally, at long last, make the audience rise up and stop the performance?"

I don't typically favorite comments for agreement, but I at least wanted to repeat this.

That's the best comment I've seen on this exhibit, whether the story behind the art is a hoax or not.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:54 PM on April 17, 2008


Update from Yale. Verdict: Hoax.

Shit. I've already started mass producing cheap knock-offs.
posted by mazola at 3:58 PM on April 17, 2008


On the topic of the frequency of illegal abortion, from The Straight Dope:

For 1972, the last full year before Roe, the federal Centers for Disease Control reported that 39 women died due to illegal abortion. (The death total for all abortions, including legal ones, was 88.) That figure is low, thanks to underreporting, but in any case the number of deaths had been dropping sharply for the previous few years. A statistic perhaps more typical of the pre-Roe era was reported in a 1969 Scientific American article cowritten by Christopher Tietze, a senior fellow with the Population Council: "The National Center for Health Statistics listed 235 deaths from abortion in 1965. Total mortality from illegal abortions was undoubtedly larger than that figure, but in all likelihood it was under 1,000."


Given the (un)frequency of abortion pre-Roe, I think it is difficult to make the case that there would be many thousands of women dying or harmed from illegal abortion. There would be a lot more unwanted babies born instead. Understand, I'm not making a pro-life argument from this information, but I do think we should be clear about the likely consequences of banning abortion.


You can't cherry pick those statistics. Death from illegal abortions feel during the ten year period before 1972 because of greater availability of contraception (and the introduction of the Pill, which started to become available, if only mostly to married women who already had children) and the beginnings of changes in social mores which mean that women were more likely to seek help earlier when the symptoms of infection began, rather than waiting until they were desperate.

You should compare the statistics for death from abortion related sepsis from the 1930s, or 50s (if you can find any accurate reporting, of course) or perhaps from Romania in the 1980s and 90s, which would give a better picture of the frequency of abortion in societies where both it and contraception are illegal. Women will resort to abortion, despite the grave risks, in such situations.

You can't argue that there was no point to the movement to legalize abortion or liberalize abortion laws in North America during the late 60s and early 70s by saying that the lynchpin of the argument-- that women would die, otherwise-- was untrue.
posted by jokeefe at 4:10 PM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


"It's a tampon in a teacup."
posted by anazgnos at 4:12 PM on April 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


saulgoodman writes "Krinklyfig: My target with those comments was not this particular artist, but the idea of 'Art' as some abstract pursuit you can engage in without actually having any particular kind of artistic skill, as if the techniques and media used in making a particular work of art are only of passing importance."

Well, again, that assumes the artist has no technical skill. Most conceptual artists I've met personally have a history of learning technique, just as most abstract expressionists, Dadaists, cubists, impressionists, etc., although in their time they were not considered art by the majority, conservative art establishment, because they didn't use their technical skill in a way that conventional artists did in their day. They were accused of having no talent or skill, in fact. So, when someone questions art on those terms, it always reminds me of the long history of this happening to artists who eventually gained the respect of the establishment. In any event, I'm sort of playing devil's advocate. I tend to think a lot of conceptual art is pretentious and "precious," but I also see it sometimes early in a great artist's development, although it's no guarantee of later insight. But I wouldn't write someone off because of it, and I tend to think you have to see the art in question before deciding whether it's any good. But, you know, you're right, we can always have different opinions, which are hardly uncommon when it comes to art.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:13 PM on April 17, 2008


And Miko, as always, is the voice of reason:

If no crime is being committed (it's a legal act) and no moral wrong is being committed (an early-stage fetus is not a human being, just a lump of cells), and other acts are just like it (we eat meat and kill criminals), then why on earth should this be distasteful? It's just a woman having her period.

I think the most interesting thing about this is the use of menstrual blood to provoke defensive reactions. I don't defend it as a piece of art or a project, necessarily, but I think there are some interesting aspects to it in terms of asking just what that blood signifies. We used to be taught, back in the day, that menstrual bleeding could be termed "the tears of the womb". The fact that the blood itself can signify reckless death to some, in this case, was provocative and the reaction worth watching. But that's about it, really.
posted by jokeefe at 4:20 PM on April 17, 2008


Frankly, I look to art to take me out of myself. I don't want to see blood and menses and fetuses and vaseline in the gallery, I can get all that at home.
posted by jfuller at 4:35 PM on April 17, 2008


"My four-year-old could have done that."
Interestingly, this is one art installation that will certainly defy anyone to critique its merit in THAT regard, eh?
posted by hincandenza at 4:42 PM on April 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


This is going to be on every right-wing blog, every AM talk show, every hastily scribbled newsletter and quite possibly mentioned in future Presidential debates. For many people, it will serve as a reminder of how crazed godless liberals hate babies and life ...and in one fell swoop, a single art project derails 40 years of women's advocacy.

G'nite people, it's been fun.
posted by Avenger at 4:48 PM on April 17, 2008


xod: How can you make these determinations without having seen the work?

I can't, not really. I admit that.

But I'd be willing to put money on the installation being nothing much to look at, and revealing little in the way of, for example, cinematographic or acting skill.
posted by rusty at 4:54 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Whoever upthread said that if you are bothered by this you have some pro-life tendencies: I agree with that. And I support legal abortion completely, and consider myself pro-life. I don't even have a settled opinion on when "life" begins. The question is whose life are you pro? I think the loss of a potential life that hasn't gotten into the world yet is tragic, but less so than the loss or damage caused to would-be mothers by an unwanted child or an unsafe abortion.

I'm against the death penalty as well, unconditionally, if that helps clarify my moral framework.

It's possible, and even makes complete sense, to support legal abortion and not be particularly pleased by it, or feel that it is meaningless and consequence free, or that it is desirable. It's just the least bad of a bad set of options.
posted by rusty at 5:18 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Is it just me, or does this sound more like a hoax perpetrated by pro-lifers than a meaningful incitement to dialogue?
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:19 PM on April 17, 2008


Yale art students can be pro-life, too.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:20 PM on April 17, 2008


http://www.yale.edu/opa/

I understand that Yale now says the whole story is fiction. See above llink
posted by Tullyogallaghan at 5:24 PM on April 17, 2008


Fake? Why I'm shocked. SHOCKED!

Well there goes my fetus-eating-shitting-and-re-eating grant proposal.
posted by tkchrist at 5:26 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm pro-choice, and I have to admit that when I first read this link, I was so disappointed just imagining the field day that "pro-life" groups will have with this. But the more I think about it, the more apparent it becomes to me that no one on either side is going to change their mind because of this, and no one is going to see this woman's actions as typical or widespread. Similarly, from an artist's perspective I often cringe at this kind of work because of the reputation it gives the rest of us - unfortunately certain ideas about the state of contemporary art are held as typical and widespread, as some of the comments further up indicate. But again, anyone who believes that art = painting is not going to embrace this work, in the same way that those who believe otherwise are not going to suddenly abandon their practice for a strictly traditional one.
I mention my cringing at this and similar kinds of work - apart from fuelling the idea that contemporary art is the realm of slackers and frauds, it generally seems contrived and insincere to me, as well as the fact that work designed to be shocking so often fails to engage me aesthetically. But these are my own particular preferences speaking, and to judge the merits of another person's work by the same criteria I would use for my own is presumptuous to say the least. In my mind there is a parallel with the issue of choice - it is not for me to say how another woman can make hers, whatever my own feelings about it may be. Someone further up mentioned the KKK and freedom of speech - I may feel like this work makes artists/women look like a bunch of jerks, but to condemn it is the antithesis of the things I would be attempting to protect. Obviously I haven't seen the work - none of us have - so I am reacting to the idea of it and my own preconceptions, which I think is something worth bearing in mind.

That said, I truly hope it is a hoax - what an elegant work of art it would be.
posted by sleep_walker at 5:34 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


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.
posted by empath at 5:36 PM on April 17, 2008


I haven't read this whole thread, because I'm not made of time, but Tullyogallaghan's link reminds me, aren't there ethics committees that have to approve of this kind of thing? And if there aren't, then why are all students (at least at the two universities I've attended) required to submit questionnaires to an ethics committee whenever they intend to interview someone for a paper, no matter how benign the interview? What are art departments' stipulations for ethics review?
posted by Dr. Send at 5:38 PM on April 17, 2008


Well, it's a hoax. That's makes it marginally better, I suppose. She certainly stirred up discussion, which I guess can be a positive thing, and it seems like that was her intention. But she also creates a strawman for opponents of abortion. Right wing nutjobs will remember the story about the librul artiste who made art out of her own abortions, and not hear that it's a hoax.

She's certainly gotten a lot of free PR, so, if she can start selling something, she's off to a strong start, right out of school.

I get it, what she's trying to do. It's just not my thing, really.

I prefer art where the product of the artistic process is the important part - the film, the novel, the painting - rather than the artist's statement. But, as you can see in this discussion, there are definitely two sides to whether art is about the art, or it's about the meta-art, if you will.

For me, looking at a great work like Citizen Kane, or Michaelangelo's David, or King Lear, what the artist intended is far less significant than what they created.

And if you look at the art that has survived over the last few thousand years, the art that has lasted has all been of this variety.

What is being called art now strikes me sometimes as being more akin to a prank. Ducamp, for instance, was essentially a prankster, a trickster figure thumbing his nose at the art community. Unfortunately, he's been taken on a kind of mentor for a couple of generations of artists now who don't seem to see that, and see his nose thumbing as art, rather than anti-art.
posted by MythMaker at 5:38 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Duchamp, I mean.
posted by MythMaker at 5:40 PM on April 17, 2008


It's a hoax: goddamn, I've got to learn to type faster.
But I'm pleased.
posted by sleep_walker at 5:41 PM on April 17, 2008


tkchrist, I've got a few extra bucks this week; how much do you need to get started?
posted by yhbc at 5:43 PM on April 17, 2008


"Embryos do not possess an absolute right to continued development, but termination of even potential life should not be done casually. That's the political understanding--in exchange for unrestricted access to abortion, those who choose that procedure pledge to make their reproductive choices with appropriate reflection. Obviously, no one can make such a promise on behalf of all women, but that's been the implicit argument: encode this freedom to choose into the laws of the nation--women will chose responsibly."

And I would just like to point out the obvious: this "deal" exists only in the imagination of total control freaks. It's how someone rationalizes something which they don't really like but they don't know of any other way to justify it. Paraphrasing: we hate the fact that you have managed to wrest control over your own body, so we insist that you act remorseful when utilizing this control.

The more mature egalatarian viewpoint is that women get to choose abortion because it is their own body. Which means the woman doesn't have to wear a three-day hairshirt merely to satisfy your own control-freaky desires which haven't really gone away. Society is still being a control freak over women's bodies. Either let it go, or give up the pretense that you've let it go.
posted by bravelittletoaster at 5:45 PM on April 17, 2008 [6 favorites]


Hoax or not, and anything I have to say about this has surely been said already, given the number of posts, I would suggest to Mythmaker that he read more about Duchamp. The urinal and the bicycle wheel might be considered "pranks" in one sense, although in that time they meant something radical.

But there are other important "artistic" works in his resume. At least look at Wikipedia, would you?
posted by kozad at 5:49 PM on April 17, 2008


And I would just like to point out the obvious: this "deal" exists only in the imagination of total control freaks. It's how someone rationalizes something which they don't really like but they don't know of any other way to justify it. Paraphrasing: we hate the fact that you have managed to wrest control over your own body, so we insist that you act remorseful when utilizing this control.

Yes, that's exactly what every single person in history, male or female, who has ever had misgivings about abortion really thinks. You're a genius.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 5:53 PM on April 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


tkchrist, I've got a few extra bucks this week; how much do you need to get started?

$19.95. These new Korean U-Clone-It® Kits are pretty cheap.
posted by tkchrist at 5:56 PM on April 17, 2008


It's still not art, and if she turned it in as such, is worth a D+ at best.
posted by caddis at 5:57 PM on April 17, 2008


Tullyogallaghan: Ha! Called it.

why are all students (at least at the two universities I've attended) required to submit questionnaires to an ethics committee whenever they intend to interview someone for a paper, no matter how benign the interview? What are art departments' stipulations for ethics review?


At present, there's nothing like ethics review for artists, just for 'human subjects' to prevent another Stanford Prison or Tuskegee Experiment. That said, perhaps there should be. I'd love it if this project began a movement for Artistic Ethics Review, especially performance art. That'd be the triumph of regulation over creativity that will bring about the revolution, and all provoked by, what? Political fraud? Aesthetic terrorism? Unpoetic justice, if you ask me.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:01 PM on April 17, 2008


Avenger writes "For many people, it will serve as a reminder of how crazed godless liberals hate babies and life ...and in one fell swoop, a single art project derails 40 years of women's advocacy."

Really? That was simple, wasn't it? I guess that means that women's rights in this country are but a house of cards that a single art installation could topple. How sad.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:06 PM on April 17, 2008


Well, I for one, am disappointed. I had looked forward to furtively touching the blood and vaseline sculpture while watching the bathtub abortions on the monitors. I hope that one day in the future, some brave young artist will have the guts to execute this work.
posted by cytherea at 6:11 PM on April 17, 2008


Armitage, you miss the point. Please read what I was responding to. I didn't say anything at all about an individual considering the merits of her own abortion; my response was in relation to how society still considers a woman's body communal property.
posted by bravelittletoaster at 6:15 PM on April 17, 2008


The hoax announcement.

Same as above, just hyperlinked for the lazy.

Man, is the news cycle ever getting short. Announcement, outrage, retraction all within 8 hours.
posted by GuyZero at 6:22 PM on April 17, 2008


anotherpanacea: that would definitely be a fascinating art project.
posted by Dr. Send at 6:22 PM on April 17, 2008


OK. I think I am failing to make my point, and so it is being missed by a mile. I'll try again.

What I'm trying to say is that in order to have a productive discussion about abortion rights which will resolve into an nearly universally acceptable solution, we need to frame the discussion around moral propositions that can be widely agreed upon. So far, we have not managed to do that.

I think it's possible to have a very well-considered moral framework and still run into all sorts of ambiguity on the question of abortion.

Agreed. In fact, it's precisely because different moral frameworks come into conflict on this issue that we have not achieved a universally accepted solution to the problem of unplanned and unwanted pregnancy.


Again, the central question on abortion is not a question about what our fundamental moral values are: all parties start from a broadly agreed default that preserving human life is generally a good.


Generally, yes. But I wouldn't even go so far as to say "always." Overpopulation is a root cause of many human problems. Controls over population have always been necessary. Locating that control within individual hands is one strategy to reduce population growth. There are legitimate arguments that assert that human life is no more valuable than parrot life or turtle life or bear life or dragonfly life, and that preserving life is not always the ultimate good. There is also the problem with reconciling the idea that preserving human life is generally a good with ongoing war, the death penalty, the tolerance of poverty and starvation, the proliferation of treatable diseases, etc. If we were truly able to agree that preserving human life was a paramount value, moral decisions in many areas outside abortion would be impacted - perhaps far more urgently than in the area of abortion, because fully developed, independent lives are always being needlessly lost. If we truly agreed on this, abortion would not necessarily be Job 1.

The real question is this point about whether or not to afford a certain biological entity the status of "human". This requires drawing a bright line in a situation that's inherently murky. A child, after all, is considered a human at some point; determining what that point should be seems to often be an arbitrary exercise (or a "discussion about personal tastes", as you put it).


If all we can do in a moral discussion is draw upon tastes, we are lost.

It may be that we can not determine a mutually agreed-upon at which life begins; so be it. That is why we can't base our decisions about abortions on such a determination. It will always be arbitrary.

What we need to do to help the discussion along is surface the frameworks we're using to make our personal decisions about abortion and reproduction. Only by making those frameworks explicit can we see them as potential arguments. Only by seeing them as potential arguments can people apply tests to the arguments and consider the arguments. Only by considering and testing the arguments can we begin to identify those elements of the frameworks which apply to all, or almost all, of the other frameworks as well. And only by identifying those commonalities among divergent frameworks can we ever hope to arrive at a universally (or near-universally) acceptable solution to the problem of how we will live together in a world in which it is always possible to end lives -developing or developed.

I think there are ways to develop more inclusive frameworks, once beliefs are surfaced. For instance, there is a religious framework which says "Human life begins at conception. Destroying a human life is murder. Therefore, destroying a conceived fetus0 is murder." As mr.roboto points out, that framework, though perhaps built on a religious idea of God imbuing humans with a life force at conception, can also contain a secular framework that believes life begins at conception and is always of value. As long as the argument is not made narrowly, built around an insistence on God, the framework is broad enough to take in both religious and secular objections to abortion, based upon the proposition that a human life begins at conception.

Meanwhile, currently in operation, we also have a political framework. The political framework can take in the religious/secular framework that deplores the taking of human life after conception by casting it as a social ill to be reduced. But it also needs to take in other frameworks that may not assign human life to a fetus, and to frameworks which do place value on nascent life, though not more value than on adult life. Because we're in a polity, the political framework has to take in all those smaller frameworks for decision-making. The only decisions that remain active law for any length of time are those that take in a majority of the frameworks in use by the citizens.

My question about abortion is this: can anyone propose a new moral frame for discussing the problem that allows for the practical reality of abortion, which has always been with us and always will be, while also establishing widely agreed-upon reasons why it should be rare or restricted?

So far, no one has been able to do it. Arguments to restrict or outlaw tend to fall back on debatable religious or scientific determinations about the starting point of an individual life, or on these matters of taste ("it just doesn't seem right," "it doesn't sit well with me," "people shouldn't be carrying on like that.") The salient question is always: Why? Why should others accept the belief you are proposing? What framework can you set forth that takes in my beliefs, your beliefs, the beliefs of women who want abortions, the beliefs of their parents and partners, the beliefs of law enforcement, the beliefs of doctors, the beliefs of historians who attest to the ages-old practice of terminating pregnancies (unlikely to completely end no matter what legal restrictions are in place)?

Who can pitch a large enough tent for all of the reality of decisions concerning when, whether, and under what conditions to end lives or potential lives to fit under it?

How sacred is a human life? Not a silly question. Lives end spontaneously, naturally, and accidentally. They end through the death penalty (lethal injection in the news today), through acts of random violence (first anniversary of the VA Tech killing), through chosen euthanasia, through illness aided by hospice, through mercy killing, through murder, through war (sanctioned by voters). The lives of non-humans are widely commodified, treated as extramoral.

What framework can take in all the many ways in which we determine the value of lives, when lives are worth living, which lives are worth living, who makes the decisions, what are the rights of individuals regarding their own lives or the lives of others, how does maturity and/or mental capacity play into that, when is government entitled to intervene to make the determination, and how much power does a third party have in making decisions about a life in which they are not involved?

I think until we have this discussion in the very largest and most honest frame, recognizing that we do not and never have treated all life as sacred up to this point in human history, can we begin to create a new approach to understanding the phenomenon of abortion and, perhaps, one day creating a world in which it is entirely unecessary - if that's the goal we, as a society, agree to set.
posted by Miko at 6:25 PM on April 17, 2008 [6 favorites]


Actually, I think this is a good and interesting piece, on of the more interesting than I've seen for some time. People upset or condemning this work are doing so out of an assumed framework that abortion is bad, an evil but perhaps sometimes necessary act that should be performed in a solemn, contrite manner, as if publicly bearing shame is a way to displace the sin of the act, and thereby not incur the wrath of spiritual beings.

But what if an abortion were no more significant or sinful an act than brushing your teeth?


Then it would be about as artistic as toothpaste gobs smeared with vaseline and squished between two sheets of plastic.

Or in other words, not art.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:27 PM on April 17, 2008


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

Should we now discuss how stupid or smart Yale is for taking that position?
posted by The World Famous at 6:28 PM on April 17, 2008


kozad - I'm not dissing Duchamp, actually. I'm dissing his disciples who see in conceptual art the be-all and end-all of art itself.

The continued movement of "fine art" (whatever that means) towards the conceptual and away from the importance of the work itself simply continues its further movement into irrelevance.

Human beings love art. We're surrounded by it, we immerse ourselves in it, whether fiction, or movies, or music or paintings or what have you.

The "fine art" establishment, on the other, hand has embraced conceptual art, while most of society blithely goes about our own business mostly ignoring them, and enjoying "popular" art forms.

Contemporary "fine art" has become mostly an elitist dead end, IMHO, particularly the conceptual stuff.

The contemporary artists who get me most excited, in painting, for instance, are the ones concerned with the work itself - the lowbrow artists, the pop surrealists and such.
posted by MythMaker at 6:34 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Then it would be about as artistic as toothpaste gobs smeared with vaseline and squished between two sheets of plastic.

I wasn't suggesting that just brushing ones's teeth be art; however, you'd have to be very naïve to suggest that art, possibly great art, could not be built out of spit, toothpaste, the toothbrush, and that sacred ritual of brushing.
posted by cytherea at 6:36 PM on April 17, 2008


If you were her prof, how would you grade her project?

I would give her an "A" for ... awww, nevermind. It does pass my two main criteria: Is it ugly? Is it incomprehensible? Welcome to Modern Art!

In a more serious vein, allow me to put forth a hypothesis as to the reason for the discomfort felt by most of the pro-choice crowd: our law and much of our thinking is almost tragically binary. Something is legal, something is illegal. It is right, it is wrong. One day it's statuatory rape, the next day it's a hot date. One minute it's a fetus, the next it's "you're the mother of a bouncing baby boy!"

You have to go pretty far right to find folks outraged by things like IUDs, so most on the pro-life crowd are really feeling (I hestitate to use something so deliberate as "thinking" for a gut-level issue) implantation is when life begins. Given that many on the pro-choice side have eschewed the idea that the moment of conception suddenly makes one a 100% human being, you've got this uncomfortable, unanswered question: when does this become a child? Certainly the rite of passing through a vagina confers no magic, it's entirely optional these days, and nobody points at Caesarian-born children and calls them "unborn." A first month miscarriage might not even be consciously noticed; a miscarriage five months later is much more traumatic, but nobody gets charged with manslaughter (it's accidental death, right? Maybe if you'd taken better care of yourself, lady!) Not a lot of (but some) tombstones out there for miscarriages. Both pale in comparison to the impact caused by the death of a child who lives a couple days past birth, and so forth.

Unconsciously, many in the pro-life crowd may have put a sliding scale on humanity, starting with 0.00 at conception and up to around .95 at birth. It may be a factor in the termination of fetuses likely to have Trisomy 21, or even worse disorders. And yet there's this rational thought that it's still a binary, 0 or 1 value.

Where I suspect causes the discomfort amongst even people who aren't pro-life is the unconsious tallying that she's done (if this had been real) a lot of .10 "sins" that are adding up past 1.00 lives ...

But don't mind me, I'm still stuck at .80.
posted by adipocere at 6:36 PM on April 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'll accept a lot more of this conceptual art if we get to call Anonymous, /b/, and so on artists.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 6:36 PM on April 17, 2008


other hand, *sigh*
posted by MythMaker at 6:36 PM on April 17, 2008


"so, what do you call your act?"

"THE ARISTOCRATS!"
posted by JimmyJames at 6:39 PM on April 17, 2008 [10 favorites]


I'll take a little bread and circus to go along with my vaseline(tm) and menstrual fluid. Anyone else?
posted by psmealey at 6:40 PM on April 17, 2008


empath, I am very surprised you'd make such a bald-faced claim, and one on something so commonly known to be false. Odd behaviour, that.
----
There's a bit of a what-is-art subthread in here. I'd like to state that it's the same as arguing "what is grey." You could argue that so long as the shade has even a single molecule that is grey, the colour is technically grey. Likewise, toothpaste or blood smeared in vaseline and squished between plastic sheets could be considered art: it's just ridiculously close to being not-art.

Also, does anyone know if the Pope fell for this hoax? I expect she hoped to attract his attention.

Egotistical prat.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:40 PM on April 17, 2008


You have to go pretty far right to find folks outraged by things like IUDs,...

I know obstetricians who refuse to prescribe oral contraceptives on the grounds that they cause abortions; it is not common but that sort of thinking is not rare in this country.
posted by TedW at 6:43 PM on April 17, 2008


Likewise, toothpaste or blood smeared in vaseline and squished between plastic sheets could be considered art: it's just ridiculously close to being not-art.

It's not what you do; it's how you do it.
posted by cytherea at 6:46 PM on April 17, 2008


LooseFilter: In fact, the commodification of art is a relatively recent phenomenon

but the ideas that art must be 'relevant', or that any 'autonomous' art is necessarily a status pawn is as stale as the perspectives from previous centuries which you decry

the "post-modern" view of art is almost entirely intended to incite desire or argument (pornographic or didactic, in Joyce's terms). This conceptualization of art is an artifact of the 20th century that needs to be discarded or at the very least enlarged, as it is a profoundly limiting one, especially for the minds of young artists.


Before I say anything, LooseFilter -- I'm not being antagonistic, just debating. Just to get that out as a disclaimer -- friendly debate.

First, art has always been a commodity. Are you kidding me? Art was always a status symbol, from, say, the reliefs and even cylinder seals in, like, 2000BC, to Greek antiquity, to religious painting, Renaissance painting (with patrons and etc), 18th/19th-century European painting, to now. Art has always, always been a commodity. Granted, the notion of "commodity" in the Marxist-fetish sense is generally new, but if anything, the notion of commodity is a relatively recent one, and art rose into that position.

Second, western art used to be relevant and political in the 19th century, with painters like David painting portraits of Napoleon, and so on. As society became more and more industrial and urbanized, and as the world wars happened, art broke off from society and realist depiction and became abstract. (This is a super generalization, but whatever.) The focus was not on relevance, but on art that is detached from society. This starts from the very early 20th century, until the 1960s. Art in the entire first half of the 20th century is about not being relevant. The 60s and 70s is when everyone starts to revolt fashionably against the notion of art as autonomous and irrelevant -- all of a sudden, art can become political commentary, relevant.

In short -- the notion that art is relevant is a pretty new one, at least for the 20th century. Art-as-political-commentary really rose in the 70s. I don't think it's old enough to be an "artifact of the 20th century".

And one last thing: Joyce is writing in 1915. 1915! That's like, right before (or when) WW1 happened! That's so early, it's almost completely irrelevant to what the 20th century in the western world has been about..
posted by suedehead at 6:47 PM on April 17, 2008


many in the pro-life crowd may have put a sliding scale on humanity, starting with 0.00 at conception and up to around .95 at birth.

That's not only an unconscious predilection of the [I think you meant] pro-choice crowd: it's enough of a widely shared sense to have been enshrined in American law.

We don't have "unrestricted" abortion in the US - we have a mixed bag of state restrictions on abortion access, all of which fall within a federal structure set forth under Roe v. Wade. That structure established "viability" as an important deciding point in whether or not abortion is permissible under the law, when, for whom, and what kind.

States are able to restrict abortion much more tightly after the point of "viability," (which, of course, can be variously defined), but are somewhat constrained up to that point. Late abortions are quite rare and third-trimester abortions extremely so. A majority of Americans have agreed in several polls over the last decade that abortion should be generally legal during the first trimester. Less then half of that number still think abortion in the second trimester is all right, and support drops to 10% for legal abortion in the third trimester.

Our laws seem to support the idea that a binary view of abortion (absolutely always right/ absolutely always wrong) is not the most widely shared view.
posted by Miko at 6:54 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well, I for one, am disappointed. I had looked forward to furtively touching the blood and vaseline sculpture while watching the bathtub abortions on the monitors. I hope that one day in the future, some brave young artist will have the guts to execute this work.

Heh. The guts.

I dunno, it seems like a lot of work for no likely payoff to me: you knock yourself up, home abort at great personal risk, paint or sculpt or possibly rorschach blot the gore, and then everybody calls you a plagiarist? What a drag.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:15 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Since my personal view is that the pro-choice crowd has pragmatically sold out the rights of the embryo to a frankly medieval view of "when life begins" because the alternative perspective -- yes, at some point prior to birth this is a live human but my rights trump it anyway -- is too damn scary and tough a battle to contemplate, I think this could be interesting in the way that pro-choice people (including me) who have fully denied rights of the unborn (not including me) must suddenly confront their feelings about actions that treat the embryo like snot on a kleenex. Repeatedly.

Of course, "interesting" like the uni buffoon who decides to stage a covertly anti-war protest by claiming to intend to eviscerate a puppy -- "to show you where your priorities really are!". In other words, simultaneously interesting and thoroughly sickening.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:51 PM on April 17, 2008


I think this is one more piece of evidence towards proving that "performance art" is idiocy.
posted by Class Goat at 7:55 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


suedehead, happy to have a friendly debate. First, I should perhaps clarify that I was using the word 'art' in a more general sense, not to mean visual art specifically--that perhaps might mitigate some of your points, perhaps not. To address directly:

Art was always a status symbol

I'd agree that some--primarily visual--art has long been a status symbol, but most art for most of western civilization has been far more utilitarian; further, you are speaking of the esteem placed upon a work of art by those who receive it, not the intent of the artist, and my comments have to do only with the artist's intent.

For most of our history, art-making has in fact been a much more pedestrian activity and there are long periods where the idea of a "professional" artist was absurd. Now, I'm a musician, so I know far more about the history of that medium, but am not unconversant (if that's a word) with the history of visual art. In European culture up through the end of the so-called baroque period, those who made objects of art were far more commonly considered craftsmen than artists, and many of our now-revered artists were not especially regarded in their day.

Art-making of all kinds has been perceived in myriad different ways, and thus has played various roles in those cultures--this is my basic point on this. The artist under discussion here has an unnecessarily binary view of what art should be, either a commodity or an expression of social or political perspective. This is a very limited view of what art has been, and could be, and not unusual in an undergraduate student of art; she is young, and like us all she has much to learn.

Granted, the notion of "commodity" in the Marxist-fetish sense is generally new....

And I think that the difference of degree here is everything. Our culture's intense commodification of everything is a recent phenomenon unprecedented--AFAIK--in human history, and belies a sick worldview (if I may editorialize). Many artists through the second half of the 20th century came to see the embodiment and expression of this worldview as a valid artistic pursuit, and with this I have no quarrel; it is when artists think that art can only be expressions of this, that I take exception. So when Shvarts used the word 'commodity' in her statement, I have no doubt that it is very much in the modern, quite different sense of the term.

western art used to be relevant and political in the 19th century, with painters like David painting portraits of Napoleon

Again, far less so, I think--what political point was Monet making? Van Gogh? The aspirations of Romanticism are mostly apolitical. It was with the continuous states of war into the early 20th century, and most especially the Great War, that artists became profoundly disillusioned with the more noble aspirations of art-making as developed through the 19th century.

As society became more and more industrial and urbanized, and as the world wars happened, art broke off from society and realist depiction and became abstract. (This is a super generalization, but whatever.)

Actually, realism in art was much more a reaction against romanticism--romanticism itself had become an escape from industrialization. In the late 19th century, realism was offered as romanticism's antipode. The disillusionment of artists you mention was very real, as mentioned upthread, but was a reaction to the ugly reality of human nature, and the conclusion that the noblest ideals of humanity, beauty, etc., formerly embodied in art-making were all lies; the work that explodes the first few decades of the 20th century is as much a rejection of what was perceived to be false truths in our highest aspirations of art, as it is a reaction to the grim realities of the world in which those people lived. Which is to say, the art became more engaged with the world, not less, much more likely to present the world honestly and without idealization than so much of the art that preceded it.

This then-new engagement with the world had, like all things, much good and much bad about it. So, I disagree with the statement that: The focus was not on relevance, but on art that is detached from society. So much of the art from throughout the 20th century is the opposite of what you describe, even bodies of work self-conscious in their worldly detachment--that detachment was spurred by the awful reality of the world, and so, perhaps paradoxically, is profoundly of it.

Art-as-political-commentary really rose in the 70s. I don't think it's old enough to be an "artifact of the 20th century".

Here you lose me--it appears you're contradicting your earlier assertion that art "used to be relevant and political". And again, I'm not arguing that relevant and/or political art is a priori bad--only that conceiving that art should only be that is bad. The period in art to which I specifically was referring actually began in the 1950s and perhaps had its most visible period in the 1970s; my real concern is that mushy-headed "postmodernism" reached its zenith in the 1970s, and all we've had since is a picking-over of that corpse. I don't want to go on a rant about postmodernism, though I'd dearly love to bury that facile and useless conception once and for all, but the casual and/or dogmatic approach of so many American artists since the 1950s has undermined the power of modernist works and led to a lot of bad art, but worse, a lot of bad ideas about art. This body of ideas is indeed an artifact of the 20th century, at least 50 years old, and has ill-served--in my opinion--art-making and its real value in a culture. So yes, let's bury it already.

And one last thing: Joyce is writing in 1915. 1915! That's like, right before (or when) WW1 happened! That's so early, it's almost completely irrelevant to what the 20th century in the western world has been about..

And finally, I disagree here, too--by 1915, modernism was well into maturity and so much conflict had already happened, from the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 through to (almost) WWI, and much of that is still evident in the world we live in today. Joyce's perspective was written right in the thick of a profound transition in how we viewed art, what it was, what roles it played in our culture, what sorts of experiences it could and should offer those who view/hear/etc. it. I think it incredibly instructive to remind ourselves what an earlier era believed art could be, before a century of such profound change and disillusionment. Plus, the perspectives of such an amazing talent rarely lose all relevance--after all, human beings are mostly the same as we were 10,000 years ago.
posted by LooseFilter at 8:31 PM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


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.

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


It's funny. I like performances and art you'd think I'd like this.
posted by Wood at 8:48 PM on April 17, 2008


"My question about abortion is this: can anyone propose a new moral frame for discussing the problem that allows for the practical reality of abortion, which has always been with us and always will be, while also establishing widely agreed-upon reasons why it should be rare or restricted?"

The only bugger I see is in that word "new"; other moral frames have been proposed here, and you've dismissed them. Can we produce a true Scotsman?

Reasons that are eminently practical for why it should be rare: It's a taxing experience, with pretty well-documented adverse health effects for the woman, and it's largely avoidable through the proper use of birth control. The secondary reason that even as I have no problem with it per se, many of our countrymen do, and because we live by compromise, it is infinitely more practical to encourage what is seen as an ethical breach by a great many be kept at a minimum, especially if there is hope that it will grow more accepted over time.

"For most of our history, art-making has in fact been a much more pedestrian activity and there are long periods where the idea of a "professional" artist was absurd."

Eh. Not so much from the time since recorded history, especially if you count musicians. It wasn't a socially-valued profession, but there have been bards and poets with patrons since there have been men who liked to be told how great they were.
posted by klangklangston at 9:05 PM on April 17, 2008


This woman has asked the world to believe that she has turned the purpose of her womb to its perverse opposite, embodying the miracle of death. She holds herself out as a premeditated murder factory and calling it art doesn't make it so. These pregnancies she claims to have ended are surrogates for you and I. Given the power to give life to the world itself, she would do so only to kill it before viability.

If God is just, may he curse her with a conscience and a very long life, so she may spend it sleepless on those bloody bedsheets, in solitary, tortured contemplation.
posted by edverb at 9:08 PM on April 17, 2008


If God is just, may he curse her with a conscience and a very long life, so she may spend it sleepless on those bloody bedsheets, in solitary, tortured contemplation.

Lighten up, Francis.

Jeez.
posted by mr_roboto at 9:13 PM on April 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


Do you have children, Mr_Roboto?
posted by edverb at 9:15 PM on April 17, 2008


Not anymore.
posted by klangklangston at 9:17 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, I see, it's a hoax.

Well then, carry on.
posted by edverb at 9:19 PM on April 17, 2008


Not so much from the time since recorded history, especially if you count musicians.

I disagree, especially if you count musicians--Bach specifically did not consider himself an artist, rather a craftsman, like a cobbler or blacksmith--he viewed musical composition as a skill rather than an art. (Mendelssohn had to rescue much of Bach's music from being used as fish-wrappings! Haydn wrote 104 symphonies because nobody wanted to hear something twice!) Our modern conception of composer-as-hero comes from Beethoven, as does the idea that musical works should be preserved and performed over and over again.

there have been bards and poets with patrons since there have been men who liked to be told how great they were.

Very true, but those bards and poets were typically poorly regarded, on par with the cook and maid and other servent-types, and their work held only in the most transitory esteem, is my point.

(As always, on this broad topic I highly recommend this fantastic book.)
posted by LooseFilter at 9:21 PM on April 17, 2008


What is being called art now strikes me sometimes as being more akin to a prank.

Yes, I agree.

Duchamp, for instance, was essentially a prankster, a trickster figure thumbing his nose at the art community. Unfortunately, he's been taken on a kind of mentor for a couple of generations of artists now who don't seem to see that, and see his nose thumbing as art, rather than anti-art.

I beg strongly to differ. Duchamp was a killer artist. Sure, he invented this whole conceptual art idea, but he was also a kick-ass painter, one of the best, before he started the conceptual stuff, and then you have monumental works like the large glass and Etant Donné that people will still be marvelling at in 1000 years (assuming we survive the next 100).

Note that he designed and built Etant Donné, something that started the whole field of "installation art," after he'd told people that he'd given up art for good and was only devoting himself to chess (which was pretty plausible as he'd made the French national chess team!)

(Yes, I know that a lot of the subsequent installations artworks by other artists were dull, but Kienholz's astonishing work completely justifies the field alone...)

(Around the time of the First World War, Duchamp and a bunch of other artists seized the arch in Washington Square, declared Greenwich Village a sovereign state, and raised their own flag (designed by Duchamp) and then had a massive party up in the arch itself. Eventually the police politely asked them to stop and they did. Nowadays of course you'd see them all trussed up on the concrete, jail sentences, with a few beaten up just to teach everyone a lesson, perhaps even someone "accidentally" falling down the stairs in the process.)

(sorry for no links above, you can search most of it, I've been sick all this week and am very tired...)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:22 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, I see, it's a hoax.

Well then, carry on


Gotta read the thread first, wisenheimer!

holy shit; "wisenheimer" is in the Safari spell check dictionary!
posted by mr_roboto at 9:24 PM on April 17, 2008


Sure, he invented this whole conceptual art idea, but he was also a kick-ass painter, one of the best, before he started the conceptual stuff, and then you have monumental works like the large glass and Etant Donné that people will still be marvelling at in 1000 years (assuming we survive the next 100).

I didn't really realize this until I saw the large glass in person. I mean, I had seen "Nude Descending a Staircase", so I knew the guy had chops, but the large glass is just breathtaking. I mean, holy shit.
posted by mr_roboto at 9:31 PM on April 17, 2008


LooseFilter, thanks for your response!

you are speaking of the esteem placed upon a work of art by those who receive it, not the intent of the artist, and my comments have to do only with the artist's intent.

I think that any discussion of an art as 'commodity' immediately involves an examination of the entire economic and social system involved in creating and buying art, and I'm not sure how such a discussion can only focus on the artist's intent.

In European culture up through the end of the so-called baroque period, those who made objects of art were far more commonly considered craftsmen than artists, and many of our now-revered artists were not especially regarded in their day.

Yes, that's true, but that doesn't mean the products of these 'craftsmen' weren't intensely valued as products. Bernini, Michelangelo, Raphel, etc. were all commissioned by wealthy patrons who valued their creations. The general reverence towards Roman/Greek antiquity in European society at the time meant that the work of those artists meant that their productions were often seen as status symbols.

One thing: I can't believe I just wrote: Second, western art used to be relevant and political in the 19th century, with painters like David painting portraits of Napoleon, and so on. You're right in my rebuttal of that point. David is really 18th-century, and I'm not sure why I brought that in.

Let me amend that: Up to the 20th century, western art used to relate to society, would either be mimetic, representational, tried to offer visual notions of the sublime. I don't claim that art in the 19th century was explicitly political -- you could argue that Impressionism was a political movement against the traditional academic painting at the time, but this is a politics that is historical, and not necessarily expressed by the pieces themselves.

So much of the art from throughout the 20th century is the opposite of what you describe, even bodies of work self-conscious in their worldly detachment--that detachment was spurred by the awful reality of the world, and so, perhaps paradoxically, is profoundly of it.

Well, yes, but the intention behind the artists was to create this autonomy. Arguing that a movement against society is actually being influenced by society is an epistemological argument that, while it might be true (and I actually agree that it is), doesn't negate the fact that this was the philosophy concerning art at the time. Yes, art ultimately engages with the world by reacting against it, but what many artists tried to do was a reaction that would not be mimetic or representation.

The period in art to which I specifically was referring actually began in the 1950s and perhaps had its most visible period in the 1970s; my real concern is that mushy-headed "postmodernism" reached its zenith in the 1970s, and all we've had since is a picking-over of that corpse. I don't want to go on a rant about postmodernism, though I'd dearly love to bury that facile and useless conception once and for all, but the casual and/or dogmatic approach of so many American artists since the 1950s has undermined the power of modernist works and led to a lot of bad art, but worse, a lot of bad ideas about art.

Could you elaborate? I'm genuinely interested, because I feel like most works of art considered 'postmodernism' are really miscategorized, and with a contextual reading with intention and historical background in mind are actually pretty understandable in a certain context. What do you mean by "bad ideas about art"?

by 1915, modernism was well into maturity and so much conflict had already happened, from the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 through to (almost) WWI ... after all, human beings are mostly the same as we were 10,000 years ago.

Much conflict might have happened, but not on the scale of WWII, and certainly without the startling incomprehensibility of the Nazi death camps. Also, I completely disagree that human beings are mostly the same -- we operate on completely different structures of knowledge, economic systems, social systems. Our biological bodies may be similar, but the social systems we live in aren't, and since I believe that these systems ultimately shape our knowledge, I don't necessarily think that talent doesn't lose relevance. After all, our notions of talents change as well..

Something you might be interested in: Michael Fried, who was one of the critics in the 60s who argued for this autonomous, abstract notion of art has an essay called "Art and Objecthood" which was actually pretty important in the art world. Personally, I can't stand it/him. But there are many similarities between him and Joyce: for Fried, his notion of a good art is something that isn't 'theatrical', doesn't interact with the viewer in time but is timeless and a purely pictorial shape. This sounds very similar to Joyce's notion of proper art as static, without kinetic movement, etc.

To sort of return to your criticism on Shvarts:

That's a false dilemma. She's saying that art has to be either 'a commodity' OR 'a medium for politics and ideologies'. Which is of course clearly untrue: art doesn't have to be anything in particular at all, and it certainly does not have to be one of those two things.

I don't think she's saying that art has to be either one of those things; I think she's arguing that art should say things as well, not "just" a commodity -- not exclusively one or the other. And yeah, art doesn't have to be anything in particular, but at an artist, that's what she is arguing that it should be. I'm not sure how she can be criticized on having a individual viewpoint of what art should be.

This young artist has limits in conceptualization I would expect to see in a student

What makes you say that? In your critique of her work, you never really explain why her art can't be what Joyce calls proper art, why her art doesn't "use the forms of time and space in terms of contemporary life to blow apart the illusory divisions that allow us to exist as individuals who are born from the great blank, grow old through similar stages of life, and die back into the great blank"...

I don't think her work's necessarily legitimate, but that's not really my point. I just can't stand to see a work of art degraded, not because it's inane/dogmatic/gimmicky/etc, but because people aren't flexible enough to think that art can be conceptual, or not dependent on skill, or abstract, political, performance art, shocking, mundane, sculpture, etc.

Metafilter is flexible and open enough to be generally pro-choice, be okay with gays/lesbians, ask each other about anal sex, polygamy, curved penises, s&m, moldy food, etc ---- but too uptight to even think of this as art?
posted by suedehead at 9:37 PM on April 17, 2008


Again, far less so, I think--what political point was Monet making? Van Gogh?

they were painting the mundane, common world around them much of the time instead of the more dramatic set pieces, "pretty" landscapes and classic derived things previous artists had done - i'm not sure i'd call that precisely political, but it was hardly without social significance

The aspirations of Romanticism are mostly apolitical.

i'm not sure if one can really separate what was being done in art from literature in that time - and the literature was hardly apolitical

Actually, realism in art was much more a reaction against romanticism--romanticism itself had become an escape from industrialization.

sure, but that does have political implications

And finally, I disagree here, too--by 1915, modernism was well into maturity and so much conflict had already happened, from the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 through to (almost) WWI, and much of that is still evident in the world we live in today.

i suppose some might argue we really haven't advanced much past the first wave of modernism - i'm a little tired of postmodernism, the eternal quest to be outrageous, and the sheer neglect of craft that is too often held up as meaningful - and this little yale performance art piece seems like a blatant example of that, from the artist's obvious goal of making the controversy over the medium (miscarried fetuses) more important than the actual execution of the art, to the sheer pretention of calling something "performance art" when after all, what is really meant is "theater"

let's face it, p t barnum was much better at this sort of thing than any of these kids could ever hope to be
posted by pyramid termite at 9:38 PM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


"Very true, but those bards and poets were typically poorly regarded, on par with the cook and maid and other servent-types, and their work held only in the most transitory esteem, is my point."

I think this gets to the heart of my objection—I'd very much consider those professional cooks and maids.

You're saying artist=Artiste. I'm saying artist=Artiste+artisan.
posted by klangklangston at 9:41 PM on April 17, 2008


you know, reading this and thinking about this today, i've run the gamut. (gotta be a hoax... gross... setting us back politically... attention whore.... provacateur...)

but then i got to the thought that a deer in the woods has got more sentience, more consciousness, more morally contracted existence than a six week old fetus. but we shoot those suckers and hang their heads on the wall without a second thought all over amurika. taxidermists are the sort of artists who have an office in every town. but this one, this girl playing around with her miscarriages is the next Great Satan.

humans is weird.
posted by RedEmma at 9:43 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Did you know that Duchamp invented his own measuring system for the Large Glass?

He randomly generated lengths by throwing rope onto the ground, then named the resulting lengths and made rules with them.

He really wanted it to be completely different from anything ever done, in every way. As I said before, I think of a lot of conceptual art as "pranks" or "one-note pieces" but the audacity and the crazy logic of making your own system of mensuration just thrills me.

(Let me say that I've seen Cage's 3' 43" performed several times and it's always one of the most aurally interesting pieces in the program. You have to hear a performance to understand; the point is that the room is not quiet even though the musician(s) is/are; the first thing you hear is just the sound of the room itself, the air conditioning, but in just a few seconds, you hear people rustling programs, than quiet chats as people explain it to their friends, and of course, people's "coughs".

(Once you learn the difference between a real cough and a "I don't like this music" cough, you'll never hear a concert the same way again...)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:47 PM on April 17, 2008


(and I'm really, really, really glad this was a hoax! good night, all...)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:48 PM on April 17, 2008


Very true, but those bards and poets were typically poorly regarded, on par with the cook and maid and other servent-types

not in celtic societies - and oddly enough a lot of the provencal poets were actual nobles

---

a deer in the woods has got more sentience, more consciousness, more morally contracted existence than a six week old fetus. but we shoot those suckers and hang their heads on the wall without a second thought all over amurika

and put them in freezers to help feed their families
posted by pyramid termite at 9:49 PM on April 17, 2008


"I think she's arguing that art should say things as well, not "just" a commodity -- not exclusively one or the other. And yeah, art doesn't have to be anything in particular, but at an artist, that's what she is arguing that it should be. I'm not sure how she can be criticized on having a individual viewpoint of what art should be."

She can be criticized for having a dumb view of what art should be. "Not just a commodity," duh.

"they were painting the mundane, common world around them much of the time instead of the more dramatic set pieces, "pretty" landscapes and classic derived things previous artists had done - i'm not sure i'd call that precisely political, but it was hardly without social significance"

They were an extension of the Realist school, which was daring for the time in its depictions of real poverty. Much of it was as explicitly political as David a couple generations prior.
posted by klangklangston at 9:56 PM on April 17, 2008


I haven't read this whole thread, because I'm not made of time, but Tullyogallaghan's link reminds me, aren't there ethics committees that have to approve of this kind of thing? ... (Dr. Send at 8:38 PM)

That doesn't make much sense. How would such a committee ever become involved? Setting aside for a moment the fact that it's all a hoax, and taking the hypothetical case of it having been real, it's not as though she was recruiting other students for her turkey-baster-and-abortificent parties.

I can see the obvious need for such oversight if your artistic or scientific project is going to involve people besides yourself, or certainly animals (actually I think the oversight is more necessary with animals, since they don't get the option to consent or walk away voluntarily), but if someone wants to use their own body parts or fluids, or self-mutilate, or drink bleach, in the name of "art" ... just don't leave a mess that somebody else has to clean up. It'll make the next year's Darwin Awards that much more entertaining.

Since my personal view is that the pro-choice crowd has pragmatically sold out the rights of the embryo to a frankly medieval view of "when life begins" because the alternative perspective [...] is too damn scary and tough a battle to contemplate, I think this could be interesting in the way that pro-choice people (including me) who have fully denied rights of the unborn (not including me) must suddenly confront their feelings about actions that treat the embryo like snot on a kleenex. Repeatedly. (Durn Bronzefist at 10:51 PM)

I suppose I'm in that latter group. Although I admit that the whole argument is to me (being male) somewhat more academic than it might be to someone who actually has the capability of becoming pregnant, it is an issue that I've given some thought to from time to time, and my current view is that it's a mistake to award the fetus any rights separate from the person who's body it's inside of. I've tried to keep an open mind to all points of view on the subject, and the strict individual-rights-based framework (to borrow Miro's term) is the only one I've found particularly convincing.

And yes, as a result, it would be pretty hypocritical to get any more worked up over the 'morality' of a hypothetical aborted-fetuses project than it would a tissues-caked-with-snot project. They're both disgusting -- I think all body-fluid art is intrinsically disgusting, and the more intimate the fluid, the more stomach-churning it is -- but that just makes it a cheap shot, a sophomoric leveraging of an instinctive revulsion to substances that can carry disease. So while I'm disgusted by the concept, it's not a moral revulsion; it's more of a "2 Girls 1 Cup" revulsion.

On the subject of 'frameworks' generally, while I think it would be nice if there was some set of premises we could all agree on and reason from to find a mutually-agreeable solution to such vexing issues as abortion and the death penalty, I'm pretty bearish on such a thing existing. There just seem to be too many conflicting base assumptions (secular, non-secular, individual supremacy, community supremacy, etc.); I don't see how it would be possible. Maybe I'm just not imaginative enough.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:04 PM on April 17, 2008


suedehead, I think we've sort of wandered into a much more broad conversation about art than I realized--my original point was that my fundamental objection to Shvart's work--which was clearly, to me, not created the way she claimed, even before Yale confirmed it--was the false dilemma she put forth in her own statement about what art 'should' be. Now I think we're in a sort of wide-ranging conversation about what art has been, and how it has been conceptualized, throughout western history, and I'm not sure I have the fortitude to hash that out via discussion thread.

BUT, to respond to some excellent further points, in no particular order:

I'm not sure how such a discussion can only focus on the artist's intent.

You're right, of course, I was only trying to stay within the scope of my initial criticism.

This sounds very similar to Joyce's notion of proper art as static, without kinetic movement, etc.

I should emphasize that I wasn't endorsing Joyce's view, simply offering it up as an excellent formal statement about what kinds of art there are in the world, but what I love about his view in particular is that it considers the viewer's/listener's experience with the art as part of the art itself--a perspective increasingly rare through the rest of the 20th century, esp. in music.

The general reverence towards Roman/Greek antiquity in European society at the time meant that the work of those artists meant that their productions were often seen as status symbols.

But this was idealization of the distant past, and IIRC, to the detriment of then-contemporary artists.

but what many artists tried to do was a reaction that would not be mimetic or representation.

Good point.

Could you elaborate? I'm genuinely interested, because I feel like most works of art considered 'postmodernism' are really miscategorized...

Sure, but any answer in this forum will necessarily be painfully amended: I am of the opinion that 'postmodernism' is mostly a fallacious concept, and much of the work that falls under that label is really just an extension of modernism. Ezra Pound summed up modernism as well as anyone when he wrote "make it new!", and I think that postmodernism is mainly an extension of this--under the philosophical worldview of modernist art, one can certainly reject all previous modernist art and strike out anew, which is what postmodernism purports to do (with extra helpings of complexity and self-referentiality!). So much of the work produced from this idea of 'pomo' is profoundly self-absorbed, shallow, and lacking in craft, as well, which adds to my irritation. The whole body of ideas in this supposed "movement" is Modernism 2.0, but it's too self-important to realize that. YMMV.

pyramid termite summed it up well: i suppose some might argue we really haven't advanced much past the first wave of modernism - i'm a little tired of postmodernism, the eternal quest to be outrageous, and the sheer neglect of craft that is too often held up as meaningful

Also, suedehead, Much conflict might have happened, but not on the scale of WWII, and certainly without the startling incomprehensibility of the Nazi death camps. I completely disagree that human beings are mostly the same -- we operate on completely different structures of knowledge, economic systems, social systems.

Well, the Black Death, the Inquisition, the Crusades, trench warfare, etc. etc., humanity certainly has had regular and profound shocks to our system. The Nazi death camps were incomprehensible not just because of the sheer horror, but because they flew in the face of the idealism that rationality and bureaucracy had moved us all beyond the horrors of the previous irrational, superstition-based worldviews to which humanity had so tenaciously clung.

If human beings are so vastly different than our predecessors from a mere century ago, why does so much art from so long ago still move us so profoundly? How do we still find truth and meaning in so much artwork from times long passed? I do agree that we are much different, but I don't think we are fundamentally so.

This sounds very similar to Joyce's notion of proper art as static, without kinetic movement, etc.

What appeals to me in Joyce's view is less the static idea, more the idea that art can connect us with the sublime, with the ineffable, which is something I think has been much lost for a while now.

I don't think she's saying that art has to be either one of those things

Well, that's what she actually said; if it's not what she meant, she should be more careful in her artist's statements.

I just can't stand to see a work of art degraded, not because it's inane/dogmatic/gimmicky/etc, but because people aren't flexible enough to think that art can be conceptual

Just to be clear, I degrade no art on those terms--I love a WIDE variety of art (even the self-absorbed pomo-y kind!), and as to conceptual art, you can read my defense in this thread or in other various comments I've made.

klangklangston, She can be criticized for having a dumb view of what art should be.

This is actually at the heart of what I was initially saying, though as a I teacher I tried to consider her youth and relative lack of experience as mitigating factors in my judgment.
posted by LooseFilter at 11:00 PM on April 17, 2008


The general reverence towards Roman/Greek antiquity in European society at the time meant that the work of those artists meant that their productions were often seen as status symbols.
This general reverence was also a political statement, allowing the patrons to latch on the "grand old times".
posted by vivelame at 2:37 AM on April 18, 2008


Oh and, linking Art to Beauty is soooo.. reactionary.
The whole point of the , say, 1890-1950 period, was showing/proving that art and beauty could intersect, but were otherwise unrelated. You know, Guernica isn't "Beautiful" (and wasn't considered as such at the time), but it's definitely Art.
posted by vivelame at 2:41 AM on April 18, 2008


So. Heard any good jokes lately?
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 4:51 AM on April 18, 2008


“…in a guest column published in Friday's student newspaper, Shvarts describes her ‘repeated self-induced miscarriages,’ although she allows that she never knew if she was actually pregnant.

‘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,’ she said.

‘Because the miscarriages coincide with the expected date of menstruation (the 28th day of my cycle), it remains ambiguous whether ... there was ever a fertilized ovum or not. The reality of the pregnancy, both for myself’”*
University calls art project a fiction; Shvarts '08 disputes Yale's claim.

Reaction to Shvarts: Outrage, shock, disgust.
posted by ericb at 6:37 AM on April 18, 2008


Shvarts, Yale clash over project.
posted by ericb at 6:50 AM on April 18, 2008


Interestingly, her academic advisor, Pia Lindman could not be reached for comment.
posted by wabbittwax at 7:10 AM on April 18, 2008


Let me say that I've seen Cage's 3' 43" performed several times

Is that Cage's official abridged version?
posted by turaho at 7:13 AM on April 18, 2008


One more reason why New Haven is a pile of shit.
posted by oaf at 7:19 AM on April 18, 2008


"Blood on the streets in the town of New Haven" --Jim Morrison, "Peace Frog"
posted by wabbittwax at 7:40 AM on April 18, 2008


Well, it does make more sense when you see that this fraud was perpetrated by a Yalie. You know who else was a Yalie?
posted by caddis at 7:43 AM on April 18, 2008


Let me say that I've seen Cage's 3' 43" performed several times

Is that Cage's official abridged version?


OOPS! :-D I told you I was tired!!!
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:43 AM on April 18, 2008


It is the intention of this piece to destabilize the locus of that authorial act, and in doing so, reclaim it from the heteronormative structures that seek to naturalize it.

As an intervention into our normative understanding of “the real” and its accompanying politics of convention, this performance piece has numerous conceptual goals. The first is to assert that often, normative understandings of biological function are a mythology imposed on form. ... Just as it is a myth that women are “meant” to be feminine and men masculine, that penises and vaginas are “meant” for penetrative heterosexual sex (or that mouths, anuses, breasts, feet or leather, silicone, vinyl, rubber, or metal implements are not “meant” for sex at all), it is a myth that ovaries and a uterus are “meant” to birth a child.

When considering my own bodily form, I recognize its potential as extending beyond its ability to participate in a normative function. While my organs are capable of engaging with the narrative of reproduction — the time-based linkage of discrete events from conception to birth — the realm of capability extends beyond the bounds of that specific narrative chain. These organs can do other things, can have other purposes, and it is the prerogative of every individual to acknowledge and explore this wide realm of capability.


*gag*

OK, setting aside the academiaspeak, I'm wondering how her project supports the contention that "it is a myth that ovaries and a uterus are "meant" to birth a child." I guess her use of quotation marks suggests that there are different meanings of the word "meaning," but I'm still at a loss to figure out what else a uterus and ovaries could be "meant" to do, or are "capable" of doing, and how her "installation" demonstrates that meaning or capability.

Of course, I'm probably just a heteronormative ableist, stuck to the normative mythology of "the real."
posted by pardonyou? at 7:45 AM on April 18, 2008


I bet her parents are proud of her this morning!
posted by ericb at 7:47 AM on April 18, 2008


“No one can say with 100-percent certainty that anything in the piece did or did not happen,” Shvarts said, adding that she does not know whether she was ever pregnant. “The nature of the piece is that it did not consist of certainties.”
I can think of one certainty; within a few weeks this whole publicity stunt will be forgotten.
posted by Nelson at 7:51 AM on April 18, 2008


I'm wondering how her project supports the contention that "it is a myth that ovaries and a uterus are "meant" to birth a child."

it is a myth that brains and a nervous system are "meant" to think with
posted by pyramid termite at 8:08 AM on April 18, 2008


"I am of the opinion that 'postmodernism' is mostly a fallacious concept, and much of the work that falls under that label is really just an extension of modernism."

Yes and no—First off, as my art history prof used to emphasize, "post-modernism" is a time, not a style per se. But if you look at early 20th century modernism, with its emphasis on progress, industry, science and certainty, "post-modernism" can be seen as a reaction against and critique of that.

So, yeah, it's an extension of modernism, the way that post-impressionism is an extension of impressionism, but it also makes sense regarding some significant artistic threads.
posted by klangklangston at 8:21 AM on April 18, 2008


And I would just like to point out the obvious: this "deal" exists only in the imagination of total control freaks. It's how someone rationalizes something which they don't really like but they don't know of any other way to justify it. Paraphrasing: we hate the fact that you have managed to wrest control over your own body, so we insist that you act remorseful when utilizing this control.

The more mature egalatarian viewpoint is that women get to choose abortion because it is their own body. Which means the woman doesn't have to wear a three-day hairshirt merely to satisfy your own control-freaky desires which haven't really gone away. Society is still being a control freak over women's bodies. Either let it go, or give up the pretense that you've let it go.


I don't think we can get to a mature, egalitarian viewpoint until we start listening to what those who differ from us have to say, and not attributing the basest possible motivations to them. Pro-choice people really need to understand that for pro-life folks, it actually is about the moral standing and inherent rights of the developing embryo/fetus/baby. Surely it isn't difficult to understand, even while disagreeing, that many people have legitimate moral qualms about intentionally ending a life that would develop before long into a child. I've been an active part of evangelical churches for a long time, and this issue comes up fairly regularly. Never once have I heard anyone express objection to abortion in any terms other than that it ends a human life. You've probably seen signs that say "Abortion is murder" or bumper stickers that read "Abortion stops a beating heart" or "Abortion: America's Holocaust." From what I can tell, there is a sizeable percentage of the pro-choice populace who believe that all that is a sham and a con, that it's not really about "sanctity of life" concerns at all, and only about some twisted desire to control women's bodies. But pro-lifers aren't thinking about it in those terms at all. They really just want to save the babies.

A while ago someone here linked to a video (I can't find it right now) where pro-life protesters were asked if women should go to jail for having an abortion. Most of them were completely flustered and didn't really know what to say. As I recall, the discussion at the time mainly mocked the protesters for not having thought through the consequences of their stance, and maybe some of that mocking was justified. But the reason they hadn't thought about it is that they really weren't thinking in terms of control or punishment of women. They really hadn't thought about what should happen to the women at all. They were trying to save human lives, as they understood it. Now I will point out the obvious: if it were about controlling women, then most of the protesters would have immediately said "Absolutely they should go to jail! They need to learn their place!" No one felt that way at all.

The same thing works in reverse. Pro-choice people are generally focused on women's rights. Abortion-related laws have obvious and significant consequences for women, and a restriction on abortion is viewed primarily as a restriction of the autonomy of adult women who should be self-governing in regard to this choice. While it is true that there is some pro-choice literature that attempts to make a case that embryos should not be granted human rights, the argument generally focuses on the right of women to govern themselves. I can't count the number of times I've heard "I'm not pro-abortion--I don't like abortion at all. But I am pro-choice."

In reality, that means we wind up talking past each other a lot, because both sides frame the discussion in completely different ways. And while there is a great deal of spinning in the "pro-life" and "pro-choice" labels, for each camp that's an adequate summary of what they feel is at stake. Life on one side, freedom on the other.

Some pro-lifers get a kick out of depicting pro-choice forces as an army of Mengeles who have no regard for human life whatsoever, when the reality is that many people take the morality of abortion very seriously yet ultimately feel that female autonomy must outweigh other considerations. Some pro-choice folks--actually, quite a lot, from what I've seen--enjoy depicting pro-life folks as people who "hate the fact that you have managed to wrest control over your own body," but the truth is that most active pro-life people are women, and they are delighted by the progress that women have made toward full equality in our society, yet feel that in this area (as in many others regulated by the government) personal autonomy must take second place to preservation of life. True, such restrictions only affect women, but that is a matter of biology, not chauvinism.

Both sides have a strong tendency to completely misread and/or intentionally distort the true position of the other. There may be a few people around who really do believe there is no moral component to a decision to abort, but there aren't many. The artist that kicked off this thread may be one of the rare exceptions. And there may be a few people around who really do want to see women completely controlled by men, but they, too, are rare. Yet if you believe each side's propaganda, you'd think that 80% of the country is either misogynistic or in favor of recreational abortion.

To reiterate my position--I value both women's autonomy and protection of developing human lives. I'm sure I'm not alone in that, but at some point the law has to either ban or allow abortion, so people like me have to take a stand regarding polity. And when I weigh all the factors (and there's a multi-volume reflection underneath this paragraph) I wind up saying that the best choice is protected, unfettered access to abortion and a continuing public dialogue about the moral standing of a human embryo. Some pro-choice rhetoric essentially says it's 100% about women's rights, let's not talk about whether the embryo has rights, that's irrelevant. Almost all pro-life rhetoric says it's 100% about embryonic/fetal life, let's not talk about adult autonomy, it's irrelevant. But a lot of us think that both are relevant and important. It's not 100%/0 for me. It's more like 52%/48%. And I honestly don't understand why it's a bad thing to say that as a matter of law, there will be complete and protected freedom to choose while simultaneously affirming that developing humans do have some moral standing, and therefore we should also continue to talk as a society about the best ways to weigh the factors involved. We should also--as a matter of policy--do our best to endure that abortion is, as much as possible, a completely free choice, not one made from economic necessity.

I remember reading a liberal pundit somewhere who proposed that the Democrats craft something called "The Abortion Reduction Act." The ARA would be a set of laws strengthening welfare, offering financial help for adoption, ensuring access to contraception, and making pre-natal and pediatric care an essential right. I think it would be a brilliant move politically, but more importantly, exactly the kind of consensus step we need to take in this country. There is a middle ground out there to be found. But it'll be hard to get there when any pro-choice argument is met with refrains of "murderer!" and any pro-life considerations are dismissed as a return to a caveman ethic.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:25 AM on April 18, 2008 [5 favorites]


So, when was the last time anyone remembers an art project leading to a conversation like this?

It's not the modern artists responsibility to sort out the answers to our questions for us. Her purpose is not to tell us what to think. She's there to stand outside society, placing mirrors all around, making us look at ourselves and forcing discussions. If our discussions are limited to condemnations of the artist, then we have failed, not the artist.

FWIW, I don't believe we failed. There are brilliant statements on either side here. But I think we need to realize that our conversation is the art project. It's not lazy and it's not bad art. On her part, it's an amoral passing of the torch.

Or does everyone want religious idols forever?

Hoax, btw. Other people have explained why. My guess is there's going to be a follow-up statement asking us to think about menstruation.
posted by dosterm at 8:30 AM on April 18, 2008


Pro-choice people really need to understand that for pro-life folks, it actually is about the moral standing and inherent rights of the developing embryo/fetus/baby. punishing women for having sex out of wedlock.
posted by oaf at 8:31 AM on April 18, 2008


The only bugger I see is in that word "new"; other moral frames have been proposed here, and you've dismissed them.

Still missing my point. I'm not dismissing them at all, in fact, even though I don't agree with all of them. I am pointing out that if we give all the approaches to the question of abortion equal weight, we are mired in a conflict that has no end. I'm saying that we need to find a larger and more encompassing way to have the discussion - recognizing the reality that, so far, we haven't agreed on a framework broad enough to achieve our goals for an abortion policy we can all live with.

Reasons that are eminently practical for why it should be rare: It's a taxing experience, with pretty well-documented adverse health effects for the woman,

Okay, but what's embedded here? Concern for women? Is it really that taxing for the woman? It can be, but so can a breakup or flunking out of college or Lyme disease or a dental procedure. An early-stage abortion is not particularly physically arduous, as outpatient procedures go. If you mean it's emotionally taxing, then I'd say sure, somewhat - it's a serious decision - but for many women, the primary emotion experienced is often relief, mingled with usually some sadness about what might have been. As far as adverse health effects, abortion is safer than carrying a pregnancy to term. If this proposed framework about concern for women and women's health can be distilled to "our abortion policies should do the utmost to preserve a woman's emotional and physical health," then we would have a good argument for allowing easy access to abortion no questions asked, because it provides the greatest range of options, which makes the maximum number of choices for pursuing the right outcome for each individual woman available.

and it's largely avoidable through the proper use of birth control.

But it actually is birth control - one form of it. Also, there's a circular argument here: it should be avoided because it's avoidable. If something's not bad, though, there's no reason to avoid it, even if it's avoidable. So the fact that it's avoidable isn't alone enough justification to restrict abortion policy. You're essentially proposing the framework "In our reproductive-rights policies we should not allow women to do anything avoidable," I think you'll agree that's too broad. In most cases, sex is avoidable.

The secondary reason that even as I have no problem with it per se, many of our countrymen do, and because we live by compromise, it is infinitely more practical to encourage what is seen as an ethical breach by a great many be kept at a minimum, especially if there is hope that it will grow more accepted over time.

And yet it is a compromise that still makes a great many people unhappy; abortion opponents because their system supports legal abortion, and abortion supporters, and women who need an abortion but find the obstacles to getting one are difficult to surmount. In something like 85 percent of American counties, there is no doctor who performs abortions. Even in the ones where facilities exist, women must navigate sloppy compromise policies like parental notification, waiting periods, mandatory counseling, and other things that add to the stress of receiving the procedure.

Our present compromise is lazy, unstable, politically driven, and shitty for everybody. What I keep arguing is: we need to keep talking until we can reframe the debate. We need to get the embedded beliefs about the nature of life, the rights of women, the rights (if any) of a developing infant, the powers of our government, the role of relgious beliefs, and the value of life out there, openly, on the table. So when you make a point and I refute it, what I'm trying to show is that there are defensible frameworks, on both sides, that can legimitely oppose yours. I think we need to delve deeper and deeper until we find common beliefs and approaches that are much more broadly unassailable.

I'm not saying I know what that is: just saying that until we get there, we are stuck in a world of competing moral frameworks, and we will always been in this messed-up land of shifting policy built on unexamined belief.
posted by Miko at 8:52 AM on April 18, 2008


oaf, sometimes it is just that. Nevertheless, the preservation of life is not just some talking point in the pro-life movement. It is the central tenet.
posted by caddis at 8:54 AM on April 18, 2008



But it actually is birth control - one form of it.


Yeah, and people who use it that way, having multiple abortions are sick. Perhaps after the third one forced sterilization is in order.

*ducks
posted by caddis at 8:56 AM on April 18, 2008


I just realized I could make my point above a lot shorter.

The point we're stuck in is: If I don't accept your framework, I don't accept your argument. If you don't accept my framework, you won't accept my argument. People are building their reasoning on unconnected (and often weakly developed) frameworks that mean nothin to one another. And we'll never get anywhere like that. We need to develop and reason from a framework we can agree on, so that arguments can take place within that.
posted by Miko at 8:57 AM on April 18, 2008


Yeah, and people who use it that way, having multiple abortions are sick.

Why?

How many is "too many?

And why?
posted by Miko at 8:58 AM on April 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


well, I think one is too many, as it terminates a life. However, I still support a right to choose.
posted by caddis at 9:00 AM on April 18, 2008


"woman's"
posted by caddis at 9:01 AM on April 18, 2008


Would it be fair to say that regularly using abortion in lieu of other methods of birth control is impractical and that it demonstrates a reckless lack of concern for one's future well-being?

I say it's impractical, because it requires a medical procedure that puts the whole reproductive system out of commission for at least 6 weeks (is that about right?). Obviously a person seeking an abortion doesn't have the intention of reproducing anytime soon, but as Ms. Shvartz has shown us those body parts have other uses.

As for reckless lack of concern for the future, what I'm getting at is that everytime a woman has either a miscarriage or abortion it creates complications for any future pregnancies she might like to carry to term. True, it can be said that the birth control pill carries a similar risk, but isn't the attendant risk from an abortion greater?
posted by wabbittwax at 9:14 AM on April 18, 2008


I honestly don't understand why it's a bad thing to say that as a matter of law, there will be complete and protected freedom to choose while simultaneously affirming that developing humans do have some moral standing

Why would that be a bad thing? That's the way it is where I'm from - you can be charged with murder if you stab a pregnant woman and kill the foetus (for eg), and early abortion is easy to access. I see no hypocrisy there, just sanity.
posted by goo at 9:32 AM on April 18, 2008


Wow, this thread exploded.

From Pope Guilty's response to my comment way up there:

Why should people who don't regard fetuses as persons agree with you?

They may not be persons, but are they just tissue? They may be essential for life-saving stem cells, but how do we feel about packaging them into boxes ready to be sprinkled onto breakfast cereal?

What I'm trying to say here is that I don't know, and no one really does. But people rarely express how little they know about something, so the only people talking about the issue are those who have already convinced themselves one way or other.

(And "Why can't people agree with me?" is, ultimately, the point of all argument, isn't it?)
posted by JHarris at 9:33 AM on April 18, 2008


Would it be fair to say that regularly using abortion in lieu of other methods of birth control is impractical and that it demonstrates a reckless lack of concern for one's future well-being?

But who does this? That's just not how abortion is used. Pregnancy is riskier than anything else you mention.
posted by goo at 9:37 AM on April 18, 2008


Would it be fair to say that regularly using abortion in lieu of other methods of birth control is impractical and that it demonstrates a reckless lack of concern for one's future well-being?

Well, who are you concerned about? For whom is it impractical? People do a lot of impractical things. Birth control is quite expensive, you know - for what I pay for mine each year, I could have three abortions. So financially, my oral contraceptive is not that practical. Are you using a framework saying we should do that which is most practical? In that case, abortion can be seen as very practical, since you only use the option when it's needed, rather than prophylactically, in an ongoing way. Or if this is again the framework of concern for women, then where is this concern properly to be located? In the hands of the woman and her medical professional, or in the hands of strangers? If someone is concerned about women's health, shouldn't they make sure that there is the most abundant array of choices possible for women rather than narrowing the choices?

as Ms. Shvartz has shown us those body parts have other uses

Here I don't follow you. You're right, someone who has an abortion is not likely to want to conceive again right away, so I'm not sure concern about fertility makes sense here. What "other uses" are you concerned about? Menstruation/blood loss? That happens anyway.

As for reckless lack of concern for the future,

Here I guess I have to ask, what business is it of yours what someone wants to do with their future? I would never have breast augmentation, for instance, because I don't want scarring and loss of feeling. But some women don't mind that, because they want the outcome the surgery wil have. Other people are alcoholics. I guess they have "a reckless lack of concern for the future," but should they be able to buy alcohol if they are not breaking the law to do so? Who is permitted to decide when a procedure or a behavior is a risk? Do we make a blanket policy that a government determines when it is too risky (you can have up to four abortions in your lifetime, and after that another is illegal), or is this a decision better made within a personal medical context where concrete information is available?

Abortion in itself is an extremely low-risk procedure. Oral contraception's risks include increased likelihood of certain cancers, stroke, heart disease and high blood pressure. Both carry fewer risks than pregnancy. If the framework is "we should minimize risks to women's health," then it's pregnancy that should be outlawed! If the framework is "we shold minimize risks to women's future fertility," I would again ask why. Why is it important that all women be legally encouraged to do whatever they can maintain their fertility?
posted by Miko at 9:38 AM on April 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


(And "Why can't people agree with me?" is, ultimately, the point of all argument, isn't it?)

For me, the point of argument is challenge leading to thorough examination and ultimately, stronger understandings and stronger, more defensible positions. And beyond that, when very strong defensible positions meet one another, to begin to develop concepts on which opposing parties agree, and identify the greatest number of areas about which the two can agree, which can then form the basis of a polity or at least tolerance.
posted by Miko at 9:44 AM on April 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


If someone is concerned about women's health, shouldn't they make sure that there is the most abundant array of choices possible for women rather than narrowing the choices?

Absolutely. I'm not suggesting abortion be taken off the table (and certainly not by the state).


What "other uses" are you concerned about? Menstruation/blood loss? That happens anyway.
I was being slightly facetious in referencing Ms. Shvartz, but what I was referring to was plain old recreational sex.

what business is it of yours what someone wants to do with their future?

Honestly, I don't think it's my business at all. What I was saying there was, putting one's future reproductive health at risk is the sort of thing one might regret later in life, either because of not being able to have children (which you have to admit many women and their partners may find heartbreaking). It has also been suggested by some studies that abortions can lead to an increased risk of breast cancer, so the pill's not alone there.
It's not my business whether someone puts themselves at risk, and I'm not going to try to stop them either. I'm just suggesting that that is what they are doing.
posted by wabbittwax at 9:55 AM on April 18, 2008


If the framework is "we should minimize risks to women's health," then it's pregnancy that should be outlawed!

If pregnancy were illegal, there'd soon be no women around whose health risks needed minimizing. Outlawing pregnancy would be the worst possible step for the health of the women of the future, in that, the women of the future would go extinct!

/minor quibble
posted by saulgoodman at 10:17 AM on April 18, 2008


"If our discussions are limited to condemnations of the artist, then we have failed, not the artist. "

Bullshit. The idea that this artist has specifically precipitated any new thought on abortion is wrong, and the whole "art's just a mirror" is a cop-out.

"Still missing my point. I'm not dismissing them at all, in fact, even though I don't agree with all of them. I am pointing out that if we give all the approaches to the question of abortion equal weight, we are mired in a conflict that has no end. I'm saying that we need to find a larger and more encompassing way to have the discussion - recognizing the reality that, so far, we haven't agreed on a framework broad enough to achieve our goals for an abortion policy we can all live with."

And you're missing several of mine. First off, by insisting on an overall framework which everyone can agree, you're always going to be disappointed. That's one of the fundamental assumptions of classical liberalism, where the framework is defined by reason and logic, and most recently propounded by Rawls. The simple fact is that there will never be an all encompassing framework without making that framework either so large as to be meaningless for analytic use or necessarily excluding politically impossible or intractable positions.

So, yes, we are mired in a conflict that has no end, just as people will always disagree about property rights. The solution isn't to find a framework that incorporates all possible answers and views, it's to establish institutions that have broad enough general support that their rulings can be used to mitigate conflict and provide effective avenues for the expression of that conflict. Largely through the legislature and the judiciary, we have done exactly that—abortion rights, as they stand now, are that compromise refereed, and the continuing evolution of our public conception of abortion rights is the necessarily inconsistent and fraught underpinning of that compromise.

Beyond that, you keep asking for a framework that both encompasses that and provides reasoning as to why abortion should be rare. I've given it to you. That you disagree is fine and dandy, but it seems to me that you're redefining the terms of your question in order to preclude getting answers that you disagree with. That's what I meant when I referenced the "True Scotsman" fallacy above.

"Okay, but what's embedded here? Concern for women? Is it really that taxing for the woman? It can be, but so can a breakup or flunking out of college or Lyme disease or a dental procedure."

If I didn't respect you so much, I would make fun of you for this point, because it truly seems that you are making an argument that flunking out of college, break-ups and Lyme disease should be frequent. I support public health legislation that works to both prevent and treat Lyme disease; I support educational programs meant to prepare students for college and support them through-out; I support relationship counseling efforts. Why shouldn't I support programs meant to, through positive action, make abortion more rare?

"As far as adverse health effects, abortion is safer than carrying a pregnancy to term. If this proposed framework about concern for women and women's health can be distilled to "our abortion policies should do the utmost to preserve a woman's emotional and physical health," then we would have a good argument for allowing easy access to abortion no questions asked, because it provides the greatest range of options, which makes the maximum number of choices for pursuing the right outcome for each individual woman available."

Yes, of course. Where does the desire to make abortion rare conflict with that? I also support comprehensive sex education, which decreases the number of abortions, and the distribution of other means of contraception. Call if soft paternalism if you must, but I also believe that eating ho-hos for dinner, while legal and none of my business per se, should be rarer than eating balanced meals, and I support educational programs to help make that so. Not only that, but I'd argue that I'm in the majority. Perhaps you should recalibrate whom you're arguing against.

"But it actually is birth control - one form of it. Also, there's a circular argument here: it should be avoided because it's avoidable. If something's not bad, though, there's no reason to avoid it, even if it's avoidable. So the fact that it's avoidable isn't alone enough justification to restrict abortion policy. You're essentially proposing the framework "In our reproductive-rights policies we should not allow women to do anything avoidable," I think you'll agree that's too broad. In most cases, sex is avoidable."

That's, again, foolish and ignoring what I'm actually saying. Go back and reread it.

Abortion is fundamentally a decision that a woman must make based on her personal circumstances, and is always a contemporary decision. But given the long-term health risks, especially for multiple abortions, those risks are much more deleterious than the risks of using a condom, for example. Given the low price of condoms, and their generally low risk, I don't have any problem saying that a woman who chooses abortions instead of condoms is making a poor decision.

So, no, the risks involved in abortions and the discomfort it provides are, to any honest observer, less worth taking than the risks of many other forms of birth control. That argues against it being the first choice in any rational system. That there are greater risks involved in pregnancy is a red herring, because there are also greater rewards and a different calculus must be applied—the risks of pregnancy are accepted because of the perceived outcome. The risks of abortion, in a rational assessment, make it less desirable than most other behaviors that also result in not having a child.

Even from a public economy standpoint, abortions are less desirable as they simply cost more.

This does not argue against abortions being easily available or even supported with public funds—for many women, they are still a least-worst outcome of pregnancy dependent upon personal factors. However, preventing that pregnancy prior to the abortion is pretty inarguably less of an ordeal on just about every level.

There is nothing circular about this, and I'm having trouble understanding what you're not getting about it.
posted by klangklangston at 10:47 AM on April 18, 2008


"The point we're stuck in is: If I don't accept your framework, I don't accept your argument. If you don't accept my framework, you won't accept my argument. People are building their reasoning on unconnected (and often weakly developed) frameworks that mean nothin to one another. And we'll never get anywhere like that. We need to develop and reason from a framework we can agree on, so that arguments can take place within that."

That's demonstrably incorrect—we have a fairly well-established social system for dealing with abortions. We have "gotten somewhere."

"Birth control is quite expensive, you know - for what I pay for mine each year, I could have three abortions. "

And yet, you don't. Why are frequent abortions desirable for other women but not for you? Why do you believe that your infrequent abortions are something that should be argued against, which you seem to be doing?

"Or if this is again the framework of concern for women, then where is this concern properly to be located? In the hands of the woman and her medical professional, or in the hands of strangers? If someone is concerned about women's health, shouldn't they make sure that there is the most abundant array of choices possible for women rather than narrowing the choices?"

When public funding becomes attached, then the public does necessarily have a say in the way the money is used. I consider it a social good to have abortions readily available for the women who need them, just as I consider it a social good to have emergency rooms publicly subsidized. This does not mean that I should not or do not support preventative, prophylactic, care. To argue otherwise is to assert a false dichotomy.

"And yet it is a compromise that still makes a great many people unhappy; abortion opponents because their system supports legal abortion, and abortion supporters, and women who need an abortion but find the obstacles to getting one are difficult to surmount. In something like 85 percent of American counties, there is no doctor who performs abortions. Even in the ones where facilities exist, women must navigate sloppy compromise policies like parental notification, waiting periods, mandatory counseling, and other things that add to the stress of receiving the procedure."

Compromise always leads to some people being unhappy. The majority of Americans currently support this compromise, as does a fair amount of judicial precedent. While I cannot prove a negative, I have yet to see a framework that would make everyone happy. Currently, the rights of women are privileged above any rights that the fetus may or may not have, and privileged above the right of some people to democratically determine their laws and social policies. Rights always conflict, and without seeing this framework you propose to have encompass all things and all people, I believe that as the situation for women seeking abortions is inarguably better in this country than it was, say, 40 years ago, and that, aside from some backlash regarding late-term abortions, things have generally progressed.

That people are unhappy isn't necessarily a bad thing, and both sides pursue mutually exclusive goals. Abortion supporters have largely won, and are still free to make their case for fewer restrictions, which I support. However, arguing that there needs to be a new framework that incorporates all of the anti-choice objections in order to make further progress is simply not borne out by the evidence.

"I'm not saying I know what that is: just saying that until we get there, we are stuck in a world of competing moral frameworks, and we will always been in this messed-up land of shifting policy built on unexamined belief."

And also examined belief. Which you keep discounting.
posted by klangklangston at 11:53 AM on April 18, 2008


"Abortion in itself is an extremely low-risk procedure."

Because root canals are extremely low-risk, we should not hope that they are rare, nor promote social policy that encourages brushing or dental education.
posted by klangklangston at 11:55 AM on April 18, 2008


Yeah, what klangklangston said.
posted by wabbittwax at 11:56 AM on April 18, 2008


I find this discussion of abortion very interesting, but the discussion of the art, perhaps necessarily, is almost worthless. The more extreme mischaracterizations of 'postmodern art' here seem to simply function as verbose rationalizations for dismissing a work that may or may not confirm a bias. But I enjoy the irony of a critique focused on the craft, skill and taste of a work - unseen.
posted by xod at 12:16 PM on April 18, 2008


But I enjoy the irony of a critique focused on the craft, skill and taste of a work - unseen.

Shvarts said her project would take the form of a large cube suspended from the ceiling of a room in the gallery of Holcombe T. Green Jr. Hall. Shvarts said she would wrap hundreds of feet of plastic sheeting around the cube, with blood from her self-induced miscarriages lining the sheeting.

Recorded videos of her experiencing her miscarriages would be projected onto the four sides of the cube, Shvarts said.


i suppose if i released a turgid, convoluted statement about how shitting on a newspaper was an expression of the modern audience's relationship to media and mediation, you would actually have to see it to judge the craft, skill and taste of the work, right?

in fact, the real problem with this "art" is that all she has to do is describe it - she wouldn't even have to follow through with really constructing it - in fact seeing it is probably going to be quite anti-climatic and unnecessary

so the irony cuts even deeper than you think it does, doesn't it?

now excuse me - the paper's at the door, i've just taken some ex-lax, and my art is calling me - i'm putting it in the middle of the local art gallery and don't you dare critique it until you've seen it
posted by pyramid termite at 12:40 PM on April 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


And....it was all a fake. Don't you all feel silly now?
posted by youcancallmeal at 12:45 PM on April 18, 2008


And....it was all a fake.

Yeah. Thanks for letting us know. Oh, wait we knew it was fake last night at 6:30 p.m..
posted by ericb at 12:49 PM on April 18, 2008


I'm not discounting examined belief - just asking that people explain what, exactly, the beliefs are. I started down this road because of the many comments that people found the project disturbing, and were feeling a cognitive disconnect because they normally support abortion rights - but if abortion isn't bad, as they've generally argued, then why should this project be bad?

And I'm not even arguing with you, klangklangston (except about the framework thing, which I don't see as opposed to the democratic process, but as part of it. I think the example of expanding human rights in American history is a good example of gradual intellectual work to establish larger frameworks that were not, in fact, so broad as to be meaningless - only broad enough to end slavery and extend voting rights to previously disenfranchised groups). I'd never argue that frequent abortions are a good idea, or that abortions make a good front-line form of birth control. That's not what I'm trying to do here. And it's a huge red herring, because it's so incredibly rare that women have a lot of abortions, that whenever it's discussed one ends up reasoning from extremes.

But I personally oppose efforts to create law with the justification that people should be protected from their own bad ideas. For one thing, when women do use abortion as a front-line birth control method, usually there are complex circumstances that make it harder to chalk it up to simple "bad decision" - developmental disability, poor sexual literacy, poverty, combinations thereof, etc.

But for another, the justification "it's for their own good" is a pillar of paternalism. Maybe it is a bad decision to have multiple surgical abortions. Maybe it's the worst imaginable decision in the world. But how far are we willing to go to protect people from their own bad decisions? People are generally allowed to determine their own good, especially in consultation with doctors (which they have to have in order to have an abortion anyway.) I do think it's paternalistic to say that legislation needs to prevent bad decisions. If there is no moral wrong being done, and any potential harm done is only to the person making the choice, and the person making the choice is informed of the potential harm (as happens when doctors discuss abortion with patients) I'm not sure there's much of a basis for getting the law involved.

That there are greater risks involved in pregnancy is a red herring, because there are also greater rewards and a different calculus must be applied

There aren't necessarily any rewards when you're talking about women who are choosing between abortion and carrying a pregnancy to term. If the woman doesn't intend to raise the baby herself, the rewards are fewer and also quite mixed, sometimes involving emotional pain and second-guessing for a lifetime. If she genuinely doesn't want to be a parent at all, the rewards are totally absent. When you don't want parenthood, the calculus isn't risk vs. reward, it's risk vs. other risk.

Most people with resources and knowledge end up with a stepped approach to risk management for pregnancy, it's true - taking the risk of having sex, but managing it with contraception - perhaps barrier methods for infrequent sex or if you can't afford/see a gynecologist, then maybe hormonal methods or IUDs if you can and if sex is frequent enough to pose increased risk, then maybe the morning-after pill a failure occurs, if you can get it, then maybe first-term abortion if you can't get morning-after, missed the window, or didn't know you were pregnant.

Why this stepped approach? As you say, largely, convenience. Getting an abortion (not to minimize it) is a pain in the ass - you've got to find a doctor, make an appointment, fill out paperwork, come up with the cash on hand, put up with the discomfort, and deal with whatever relationship and/or emotional repercussions this has. It's just easier not to have abortions than to have them. But is that all?

If it's just a matter of inconvenience, why would the project of the FPP bother anybody? And if it's not a matter of ordeal, inconvenience, public expense - then what is it?

the risks of pregnancy are accepted because of the perceived outcome. The risks of abortion, in a rational assessment, make it less desirable than most other behaviors that also result in not having a child....there is nothing circular about this, and I'm having trouble understanding what you're not getting about it.

Now that you've added clarification, it's not circular. But it was before, because you said simply that because it was avoidable it should be avoided. There's much more to it than its simply being avoidable, and the "more to it" is what I was interested in hearing about.
posted by Miko at 1:31 PM on April 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


[...] if i released a [...] statement about [...] an expression of the modern audience's relationship to media and mediation, you would actually have to see it to judge the craft, skill and taste of the work, right?

Right. Note that your statement, after eliding the emotional hyperbole, argues for a simple, reasonable prerequisite to judgment.

so the irony cuts even deeper than you think it does, doesn't it?

No. It remains at the superficial depth I initially gaged.
posted by xod at 1:41 PM on April 18, 2008


we knew it was fake last night at 6:30 p.m.

Bud, I was 99.9% certain this was just some goofy ass stunt on April 17, 2008 8:41 AM. I'm genuinely surprised a good number of people here, most smarter than me, even considered it to be real for a second.
posted by tkchrist at 1:53 PM on April 18, 2008


xod -

It's true that we haven't seen her cube smeared with menstrual blood with video projected on it, but since this is "performance art", according to Yale (I'm fascinated by the fact that the university and the artist disagree about what's happened), then the original press release and the public's reaction to it are, in a major sense, part and parcel of the work.

I actually think the discussion about questions of art are interesting in this context. Does a prank like this have value as art? Does the fact that it has stirred up discussion, like this one, about both art and abortions, mean that she's succeeded, as an artist?

Even if you think her art is kind of lame (I mean, did you read her explanation of the whole thing? Ugh! I can't stand that kind overwrought pretentious language! I have an M.F.A. myself, and luckally I've never seen much need to talk like this!), you have to admit that she's successfully drawn attention to it. She just needs to figure out how to capitalize on it. Maybe she can sell DVDs or little paperweights with menstrual blood embedded in the center...

I doubt I'd want to buy her blood soaked cube with videos to hang over my sofa [isn't that the main function of art, really? ;) ], but at the same time this discussion is quite interesting. But her thinking about art is also so academic and painful to read. I had a professor in grad school like this. For her it was all about Laura Mulvey and the Masculine Gaze. Sometimes people read too much Theory and it warps their thinking process.
posted by MythMaker at 1:59 PM on April 18, 2008




This whole thread is ... ART!!


I would like to copy it, format the font (large/small, different colors, fonts, etc.) ... add graphics ... Wow ... it would make a great wall mural ...

Never mind ... the beauty of this was in the moment, reading the 'play-by-play' as it unfolded ...

... life goes on ...

(thanks for all the laughs)
posted by Surfurrus at 2:11 PM on April 18, 2008


Does a prank like this have value as art?

I don't think of it as a prank. And, yes, I think it has value.

Does the fact that it has stirred up discussion, like this one, about both art and abortions, mean that she's succeeded, as an artist?

I think she has clearly succeeded in her stated intention in making part of the "artwork" a "public discourse." For all I know, her videos are the most gorgeous things I've never laid eyes on.
posted by xod at 2:23 PM on April 18, 2008


"But it was before, because you said simply that because it was avoidable it should be avoided. There's much more to it than its simply being avoidable, and the "more to it" is what I was interested in hearing about."

No, you said that. I said that it was taxing, risky and avoidable. All one sentence.

"But for another, the justification "it's for their own good" is a pillar of paternalism. "

I don't mind some paternalism. I see a great many social goods coming out of the idea that people cannot be trusted to make the right decisions, and that there should be social services to help them out. This both mitigates group risk and aids those in need. I have absolutely no problem funding programs to help with addiction, programs to help establish savings accounts, programs for sex education, any number of things that recognize that we as a society hold some things to be social ills even as they primarily affect only the individual. Hell, I support public funding for abortions because I think it's a better outcome to allow women to make that decision on their own, even if it means spending money just to keep that option available. It is for their own good that the option exists and is funded. It is for all our good. That's fine with me. That's why I copped to "soft paternalism" above, and why I'll talk J.S. Mill chapter and verse about the difference between liberty and license. I don't trust individuals to make the right choices about educating their children, generally.

I'm willing to accept that some people will make choices that I disagree with, but you started out as arguing that if something was safe and legal that it was an unexamined bias to also say it should be rare. I think that's wrong.

"If it's just a matter of inconvenience, why would the project of the FPP bother anybody? And if it's not a matter of ordeal, inconvenience, public expense - then what is it?"

Because it's manipulative and in poor taste? Yelling "Nigger!" on a public bus isn't an ordeal, inconvenience or involving public expense, but it's still distasteful. In particular, this art project seemed shallow, unreflective and glib.
posted by klangklangston at 2:26 PM on April 18, 2008


Note that your statement, after eliding the emotional hyperbole

and the noun, too, changing the meaning of the sentence

that's intentional intellectual wankery on your part and pretty much disqualifies you from a debate with me

---

Maybe she can sell DVDs or little paperweights with menstrual blood embedded in the center...

kiss did a deal with marvel where they had their blood mixed in with the ink - i'm glad to see ivy league art students following in the rich intellectual tradition of adolescent quaalude rock and comic books

by the way, i've decided to have a dog crap on the newspaper instead of doing it myself, as this would make a statement about the anthropocentrism of the artistic tradition as perceived or unperceived by other species and whether they can find a conscious position in relationship to it, in spite of the epistemological and existential problems presented by canine aesthetics; or whether this is simply more coercion on the part of that tradition - that, and i don't want to take him out in the rain to do his business
posted by pyramid termite at 2:29 PM on April 18, 2008


p.t., I didn't change the meaning of your question; I simply took the 'shit' out of it.
posted by xod at 2:44 PM on April 18, 2008


p.t., I didn't change the meaning of your question; I simply took the 'shit' out of it.

and the newspaper, which was the noun, wasn't it?

by the way, do you experience emotional hyperbole every time you go to the bathroom or are you just constipated?
posted by pyramid termite at 3:16 PM on April 18, 2008


"You are in a maze of twisty little passages..."
“…Shvarts (or somebody claiming to be Shvarts) denied the university's denial in an e-mail to msnbc.com, insisting that the acts were real.

‘I did very much impregnate myself and then induce the miscarriages,’ read the e-mail from her personal account that was sent late Thursday.

That was the only response from Shvarts, whose campus phone has been disconnected and who didn't return e-mails to her school account. When msnbc.com forwarded the e-mail to Yale officials, who forwarded it to Shvarts, Shvarts told them she didn't write the e-mail.

But then she echoed similar sentiments in the school paper, but slightly changed her story, saying she didn't know if she had actually been pregnant, but that she had inseminated herself and later induced bleeding.

University officials said Shvarts told them she would deny their version of events.

‘Her denial is part of her performance,’ Klasky said. ‘We are disappointed that she would deliberately lie to the press in the name of art.’

The project was approved by a faculty adviser in the Yale School of Art, Klasky said, adding that the proposal did not include details.

It’s still not clear what Shvarts actually did — or why.

The e-mail to msnbc.com from Shvarts' account stated the project was designed to illuminate a fundamental aspect of ‘Womynhood.’

‘I take absolutely nothing more seriously than birth because creating life is the sole domain of Womyn,’ the e-mail went on. ‘But I feel that birth and death are inextricably linked and recognizing this link is key to understanding the greater purpose of my piece.’

Shvarts apparently recorded the forced miscarriages on video and planned to exhibit the images on a large cube suspended from the ceiling of a gallery in Yale’s Holcombe T. Green Jr. Hall. She also planned to include hundreds of feet of plastic sheeting layered with blood from the purported miscarriages mixed with petroleum jelly.

Ambiguity was the point, she told the student paper.

‘No one can say with 100 percent certainty that anything in the piece did or did not happen,’ she said. ‘The nature of the piece is that it did not consist of certainties. ‘

The editor of the student paper, Andrew Mangino, said Friday he stands by his story, though he notes that it’s possible Shvarts was never pregnant.

‘The News’ reporting indicates that Aliza’s project is not a hoax,’ Mangino said. ‘Two News reporters demanded and received physical evidence as well as graphic (and, at times, bloody) photographs in order to confirm that the project indeed has a physical manifestation beyond the shock value of its public explanation.’

Mangino said he doesn’t believe the paper was duped, and he rejected the idea that the paper could have been cooperating in Shvarts’ performance.

‘The News absolutely did not collude with Ms. Shvarts in any giant media hoax,’ he said. ‘Any suggestion to that effect is ludicrous and flatly wrong.’

…Whether the student paper that started the story was a victim of a ruse or helped perpetuate one, the young journalists violated basic ethical principles, said Art Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania and an msnbc.com columnist.

‘There are some topics that just cry out for verification,’ Caplan said. ‘There’s a lot of punking going on by performance artists and journalists need to be wary and savvy — even student journalists.’

That can be difficult, even for veteran journalists, [Kelly] McBride [an ethics columnist for the Poynter Institute] added.

‘We are no longer the gatekeepers of information,’ she said. ‘We have to act as if we're providing perspective where truth is elusive.’”*
posted by ericb at 3:20 PM on April 18, 2008


Bud, I was 99.9% certain this was just some goofy ass stunt on April 17, 2008 8:41 AM.

Yeah -- I joined the "hoax brigade" at 3:12 p.m. (East) | 12:12 p.m. (West) - 31/2 hours after you.
posted by ericb at 3:31 PM on April 18, 2008


Aliza Shvarts: The Halloween How-To For Harvard Students.
posted by ericb at 3:32 PM on April 18, 2008


Yale could easily confirm whether that e-mail was sent through their servers.
posted by oaf at 3:33 PM on April 18, 2008


as a dedicated follower of ms shvarts, i now feel compelled to make the confession that i don't have a dog - well, that's not quite true either - i bought it from a guy named schrodinger who told me i wouldn't know if i really had a dog until i opened up the box, so i'm not sure if i've committed a hoax or a work of art

my current dilemma is, how do i put the newspaper in without opening the box?
posted by pyramid termite at 3:39 PM on April 18, 2008


Aliza Shvarts: The Halloween How-To For Harvard Students.

was this photo taken at a pat benatar look alike contest?
posted by pyramid termite at 3:41 PM on April 18, 2008


[...] how do i put the newspaper in without opening the box?

Ask Gilbert and George.
posted by xod at 3:43 PM on April 18, 2008


how do i put the newspaper in without opening the box?

Psst ... via quantum superposition. Err, what? And I'll bet it's not a dog. Just a guess.
posted by ericb at 3:46 PM on April 18, 2008


Psst ... via quantum superposition.

oh ... well, i tried that - and then i opened the box - i didn't find a dog, and the newspaper turned into a collection of newsletters about some art strike

is that what ms shvarts is participating in?
posted by pyramid termite at 4:03 PM on April 18, 2008


That doesn't make much sense. How would such a committee ever become involved? Setting aside for a moment the fact that it's all a hoax, and taking the hypothetical case of it having been real, it's not as though she was recruiting other students for her turkey-baster-and-abortificent parties. (Kadin2048)

It doesn't make a lot of sense, but it's not clear to me how the university draws the line between who it's protecting and who it's not. Is protecting someone from themselves a lower priority than protecting a potential interviewee from a student's questions? Judging by the number of campus counselling programs that deal with suicidal students every day, it seems like a bit of a double standard.
posted by Dr. Send at 5:43 PM on April 18, 2008


pyramid termite-- i suppose if i released a . . . statement about how shitting on a newspaper was an expression of the modern audience's relationship to media and mediation, you would actually have to see it to judge the craft, skill and taste of the work, right?

There, I put your nouns back in. . .now, then:

My capacity to make a judgement about the visual impact of, well, anything, based on a written description depends on the quality of the description. In general, though, I defer to the actual visual perception--reading the words "large red sphere" and seeing a large red sphere, e.g. are very different experientially.

In the example of Ms. Shvart's piece, the written description alone doesn't allow me to prejudge the aesthetic experience of actually seeing it. It could be shoddy, it could be elegant. It could be ugly, beautiful, powerful or blase. etc. I really can't tell.

The same is true for your "Shit on Newspaper" piece. I can imagine very interesting possibilities for work using shit and newspaper. Even if I assume--as I think you intend--that the work will very simply be a newspaper on which you have shit--in other words, that you have not worked with or altered the forms of the newspaper or the shit in any way--there are still other factors to be considered. How is it presented? e.g., on a pedestal, in a cardboard box, on the floor, in an aquarium, on a silver tea tray--there are rich possibilities both in visual terms, and with regards to meaning, in these choices. Beyond, even, the question of such choices, I imagine that seeing some shit on a newspaper in a gallery/museum would, for me, probably be pretty entertaining and resonant.

Which isn't to say that with regards to art, for me, "anything goes," but simply that your chosen example doesn't strike me in the same way it strikes you. I would also point out that, in terms of craft, your example doesn't seem very analogous to Ms. Shvart's piece.

More simply, I think that you, and some other posters, are possibly conflating your objection to the concept of the piece with an objection to the execution of its visual aspect (which, I argue, you can't really have, since you haven't seen it).
posted by flotson at 9:31 PM on April 18, 2008


PS--I realize I haven't given my own reaction to the piece. . .interestingly (to me, at least), I also am leaning towards finding this in poor taste, and potentially something more troubling than that, were it not a "hoax", but feel that the visual execution could potentially redeem it for me, to some degree. . .so am somewhat suspending judgement, having not seen it.

PPS--what I object to in your post, pyramid termite, is that you seem to be arguing against the piece on the basis that it is, simply, "bad art" a viewpoint which you present as if it is self-evident. First of all, this isn't argumentation--that is, you haven't made an argument. Secondly, the reason that I object to this so strongly--and I'm picking on you a bit here, as a stand-in for a group of posters who made similar statements--is that this kind of discourse, and the thought behind it, would attempt to place unreasoned limits on the scope and variety of art--in other words, is the enemy of art. You have taken a statement about yourself--"I don't like this"--and dressed it up as if you're making a critique about this artist and her work. I call shenanigans.
posted by flotson at 9:52 PM on April 18, 2008


You know, in the final analysis, if this is a project that involves jerking around the American media, more power to her. The media cannot deal with ambiguity, and it looks like she wants to give it to them in spades. Picking 'abortion' as her target subject was actually pretty sharp. If only she could have found a pedophilia angle...
posted by mr_roboto at 1:54 AM on April 19, 2008


Also, didn't Matthew Barney go to Yale? These Yale sculptors....
posted by mr_roboto at 1:59 AM on April 19, 2008


Flotson, there's no way to define art, and the only way we define what is not art (once it has been claimed to be art) is by thinking it is so horrible, stupid, or worthless (the last a good summation and best factor) that it can't be. I'm not scrolling up to find his comment but I assume it is well in line with that. Saying "this isn't art, it is utter crap with no real meaning" is not putting any logistic limitations on art. It's a subjective opinion no different than saying "this is art that is not good." In fact, it is synonymous, given that we can't define art.

The "What if Abu Ghraib was performance art" comment started off with some really on-target points until the last paragraph, which was absolutely ridiculous. What if we regarded it as performance art? How could we. It doesn't relate to your citations nor could we regard the real actions as anything less than terrible things (at the least broadly -- the very setting) out of a serious and important purpose (albeit at times ranging from misguided actions to downright exploitative power moves in execution, few would contend the goal of preventing attacks to not be an important purpose). I don't know anyone who sees a starving dog die less offensive than relating art. The notion that dogs starve to death and seeing it in an art piece do not compare, as seeing something is far more affecting than being aware of it. If you can think of a realistic example of an art piece regarding torture that would be more offensive to us than actually learning of the torture that has happened, well, you can't. If you say something ridiculous like "an artist taking pictures of themself torturing someone"... then I can't possibly get myself onto your plane of unthink. Anyone truly offended by what's in this case called art would be as offended or more by the reality of the actions taken to achieve it. Knowing this is a hoax, no one would be more offended by a piece meant to represent what was initially claimed as real miscarriage than someone who really serially miscarried. If she really miscarried for 'art', it isn't the art that would have been most offensive to people. They'd be offended because she did serially miscarry. They'd be even more disgusted that she did it for "art" than if she just did it out of some twisted compulsion. That makes perfect sense to most objective thinkers. No one was tortured for art. They were tortured by people with genuine--right or wrong--concern for their country's safety, sick compulsion, or utter frustration from the situation the war (in battle or abroad) has put them in. Yeah, great analogy.

Every single argument in these comments trying to guilty a pro-choice individual for having any sort of objection (from "this is poor art" to "this is fucked up") is fatally flawed, as has already been proven from what I've read, but I'd like to go on the record. Laughable at best. MANY pro-choicers people think abortion is terrible, for starters. At this point in my young life I don't, and I still think the concept here (or rather the execution if it were have to been real, the concept itself is hilarious) is pathetic. However, as the notion is hilarious and the result's a total clusterfuck (even -- or especially -- on an enlightened place such as here), I think the real action of this 'hoax' is fantastic. Welcome to the 5th circle of looking like a total jackass.
posted by rob paxon at 1:59 AM on April 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


PPS--what I object to in your post, pyramid termite, is that you seem to be arguing against the piece on the basis that it is, simply, "bad art" a viewpoint which you present as if it is self-evident.

nowhere have i said that something is bad art because i said it is; i've actually given reasons for that

the most telling part of your rebuttal is that you can't seem to come up with a way to defend her art without also defending my obviously facetious parody - in short, you weren't able to come up with criteria that would separate the real thing from a piss take - in fact, she's been deliberately playing with that knowledge that people can't tell

not only that, but you've glossed over the main point of my argument - that this "art" is so deliberately provocative in concept that it doesn't even matter if she finishes the work or presents it in public - you've criticized me for critiquing it without seeing it, but it's not the seeing it that has caused the reaction, has it? - it's the description of the "art", not the "art" itself

so, it's a conceptual piece - and concepts are a dime a dozen, often indistinguishable from parody, and don't even have to be realized and presented to have their effect - the media reaction is proof of that last point

if she presented it without describing it or explaining it, would it have the same impact?

is that this kind of discourse, and the thought behind it, would attempt to place unreasoned limits on the scope and variety of art--in other words, is the enemy of art.

no, the enemy of art is bad art - and one thing that can cause bad art is the insistence on concept over execution or instead of execution - how is she ever going to come up with an execution that's going to have half the impact that just stating the concept did? - mere writing of the proposal was enough - and after having read her writing, i can say her craft at that sucks, too

we limit art every time we do art - and often we haven't reasoned why we have done so
posted by pyramid termite at 6:22 AM on April 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


I think her project was cool.
posted by jayder at 10:07 PM on April 21, 2008


Too bad she wasn't a MeFite -- it would have been a great Projects contribution.
posted by jayder at 10:08 PM on April 21, 2008


Yale may not put student's art on display.
posted by ericb at 10:06 AM on April 22, 2008


The "What if Abu Ghraib was performance art" comment started off with some really on-target points until the last paragraph, which was absolutely ridiculous. What if we regarded it as performance art?

Well, while we're at it, let's be clear: Abu Ghraib WAS performance art. Errol Morris's new documentary, Standard Operating Procedure, suggests that the photographs of Abu Ghraib we now have are the results of re-enactments of torture procedures used in the prison. Some were even taken with the intention of exposing the horrors there, not for the photographer's enjoyment.
From his Wired interview:
The famous torture photographs from Abu Ghraib are not photographs of inmates being tortured. They were deliberately created by the guards, whose reasons for posing the pictures were complex, layered, weird, and in some unexpected cases even admirable. Morris reinterprets the infamous pictures as a kind of highly sexualized samizdat parody of the bizarre and even more terrifying reality inside and outside the prison's walls. He also suggests that some of the photos were taken on purpose to expose abuses but wound up landing the photographers in jail. It is one of the outstanding ironies of Morris' story that the photographs, which were seen by the world as documentary evidence of torture, were used as a way to distract attention from the brutal crimes that took place off-camera. While the low-ranking soldiers caught in the staged pictures went to prison, the teams of professional Army and CIA interrogators who actually tortured and murdered prisoners inside Abu Ghraib were never identified or punished.
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:55 AM on April 22, 2008


The same is true for your "Shit on Newspaper" piece. I can imagine very interesting possibilities for work using shit and newspaper. ... How is it presented? e.g., on a pedestal, in a cardboard box, on the floor, in an aquarium, on a silver tea tray--there are rich possibilities both in visual terms, and with regards to meaning, in these choices.

Sounds like what we call "polishing a turd."
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 5:09 PM on April 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


The difference between good performance art and bad performance art is the former is witty. It is inventive, unforeseen, new.

A whole lot of performance art these days is very boring. Shit on Newspaper is not imaginative, no matter how you dress it up. It has been done before and done better. Abortions in Plastic is not witty: any cynical mind can come up with that idea. Frankly, even Piss Christ was about as lame as art can get: freaking out the religious establishment by mistreating one of their icons is just so tired.

The thing about this sort of art is that it's really difficult to come up with a startlingly original idea. Duchamp pulled it off with the urinal: no one had ]ever thought to do such a thing before. And in doing so, he pretty pocketed the entire field of "common household juxtaposed against serious art." Anyone calling a toilet, a griddle, or Auntie's sofa a "work of art" because it's an infelicitous piece is boring us.

Squishing one's miscarriages between sheets of plastic isn't so very different from the guy who was threatening to drop a brick on a rat on a canvas. Same general, generic, boring idea.

Boredom is the ultimate performance art sin. Missy Shvarts may have gained her fifteen minutes of media fame, but she's a fucking boring artist.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:32 PM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


pyramid termite: nowhere have i said that something is bad art because i said it is; i've actually given reasons for that

pt, the "reasons" you have given are:

--her piece is banal, lazy, easy, and not painting
--it's junk food
--it's (obviously) stupid politics
--it is akin to "Shit on a Newspaper"

The first three bullets are not reasons, they are simple assertions, as I said. On the topic of your analogy, and my response, you say:

the most telling part of your rebuttal is that you can't seem to come up with a way to defend her art without also defending my obviously facetious parody - in short, you weren't able to come up with criteria that would separate the real thing from a piss take - in fact, she's been deliberately playing with that knowledge that people can't tell

No, my point is that your analogy does not persuade, because it is as unreasoned and premised on the same assumptions as your original critique of Ms. Shvarts's piece, and I take issue with those assumptions. It is quite possible that your piece would be interesting, which illustrates two of my points. Again: 1) you can't critique the visual impact of an artwork without having, you know, seen it. 2) you haven't said anything more than "I would not like such an artwork," but you present your opinion as if it's an argument--this is arrogant, and fails basic criteria for rational argumentation.

As for your assertion that she's, essentially, an artist in "bad faith", i.e. that her intentions are insincere. . .that too is an opinion, premised on the assumptions above (that this is "bad art").

not only that, but you've glossed over the main point of my argument - that this "art" is so deliberately provocative in concept that it doesn't even matter if she finishes the work or presents it in public - you've criticized me for critiquing it without seeing it, but it's not the seeing it that has caused the reaction, has it? - it's the description of the "art", not the "art" itself

Perhaps she intended this to be purely conceptual, perhaps not. Our media have created a controversy, prior to the work being shown, that's true. Whether or not she intended this to be so is a matter of conjecture. However, as I said, it does matter to me whether the art is shown, and what it looks like. If this work is visually powerful, it will, for me, justify itself.

so, it's a conceptual piece - and concepts are a dime a dozen, often indistinguishable from parody, and don't even have to be realized and presented to have their effect - the media reaction is proof of that last point

I'm somewhat sympathetic to this view, but like some conceptual art quite a lot, namely Yoko Ono's work, much of which I find beautiful, powerful, and highly relevant. Ms. Shvart's work engages an important societal debate, i.e. it's relevant. Whether it's beautiful, or powerful, for me, largely hinges on the visual presentation, as I've said. (By contrast, much of Ono's work, is well aware that it is engaging the world of ideas, i.e. the imagination, and effectively, beautifully, uses that awareness.)

if she presented it without describing it or explaining it, would it have the same impact?

Unknown.

is that this kind of discourse, and the thought behind it, would attempt to place unreasoned limits on the scope and variety of art--in other words, is the enemy of art.

no, the enemy of art is bad art - and one thing that can cause bad art is the insistence on concept over execution or instead of execution - how is she ever going to come up with an execution that's going to have half the impact that just stating the concept did? - mere writing of the proposal was enough - and after having read her writing, i can say her craft at that sucks, too

Again, whether or not the artist has prioritized concept over execution is not known. And, again, your reaction to her writing is just that, a reaction, an opinion, not a critique. (For the record, I didn't care for her artist's statement either, but thought it was very well crafted--intelligent and articulate.)

My main point was that your reaction, and others like it, was, well, reactionary. You assert your opinions, but present them as if they're critiques of the artist and her work. This is, as I've said, arrogant. It's also lazy. And it doesn't contribute to discourse. And this sort of thing is bad for art, and society in general--it dumbs us down, Rush Limbaugh style.

Finally, and most importantly, this sort of talk, as I've said, attempts to place limits on art--i.e. "no bad/obscene/offensive, etc. please". And it does so in the basest way. The same is true for all the collective decisions required by society--rational discourse leads to better decisions, and a better society. I'd rather have intelligent debate than have the loudest, angriest voices push through their definitions of "bad art", or anything else. . .
posted by flotson at 7:59 AM on April 23, 2008


NY Times Blog: Science Sheds Light on Yale Art Project
posted by Locative at 9:18 PM on April 23, 2008


My main point was that your reaction, and others like it, was, well, reactionary. You assert your opinions, but present them as if they're critiques of the artist and her work. This is, as I've said, arrogant. It's also lazy. And it doesn't contribute to discourse. And this sort of thing is bad for art, and society in general--it dumbs us down, Rush Limbaugh style.

i really don't have time to debate this much further, but note that your statements are mere rhetoric and name-calling with a political bent, as if you were trying to smear me and her other detractors with being rush's ditto-heads

hair-splitting and double talk such as the difference between "opinion" and "critique" simply shows me how weak your rebuttal is

Perhaps she intended this to be purely conceptual, perhaps not.

the whole point is this - you are not going to be able to tell from looking at it whether the art contains a miscarriage or not - you would not be aware of the concept and be able to participate in a controversy about it unless the artist was to tell the public about the concept - and the concept is much more attention-getting than the execution is, proof of which is in the fact that we know the concept and haven't seen the art yet

she's selling the sizzle, and the steak's an afterthought

Finally, and most importantly, this sort of talk, as I've said, attempts to place limits on art

any work of art or critique of it limits art - just defining X as a work of art, separate from the universe, is a limitation - a necessary one, as there could be no work of art without that separation

anything you do say or think about art places limits on it - your complaint about limitations show a fundamental misunderstanding - there is no art without limitations


Finally, and most importantly, this sort of talk, as I've said, attempts to place limits on art--i.e. "no bad/obscene/offensive, etc. please".


your dedication to fighting last century's artistic battles is interesting, but it's irrelevant, as is your continued insistence in trying to make this about some kind of social and political conservatism you think i hold

her work and your defense of it are dated - epater les bourgeois is dead, dead, dead - get over it, the bourgeois did

I'd rather have intelligent debate than have the loudest, angriest voices push through their definitions of "bad art", or anything else.

that won't be possible unless you learn the difference between artistic argument and political argument - hint - "reactionary" is not an artistic argument

five fresh fish summed it up best - "fucking boring artist"
posted by pyramid termite at 9:26 PM on April 23, 2008


That should be "fucking boring 'artist'", actually. My bad.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:40 AM on April 24, 2008


hair-splitting and double talk such as the difference between "opinion" and "critique" simply shows me how weak your rebuttal is

My point is that critique engages the work. Opinion is a statement about one's self.

As I tried to say above, I find your "critique" insufficiently engaged with the work.

the whole point is this - you are not going to be able to tell from looking at it whether the art contains a miscarriage or not - you would not be aware of the concept and be able to participate in a controversy about it unless the artist was to tell the public about the concept - and the concept is much more attention-getting than the execution is, proof of which is in the fact that we know the concept and haven't seen the art yet

And my point is that an evaluation of the work that does not engage with its material/visual aspect is incomplete and premature.

any work of art or critique of it limits art - just defining X as a work of art, separate from the universe, is a limitation - a necessary one, as there could be no work of art without that separation

My objection is not to limits to art per se, but to the manner in which such limits are created. Discourse good. Blowhardiness bad.
posted by flotson at 11:33 PM on April 24, 2008


My point is that critique engages the work.

and the work has more to do with the concept than the execution - a point that you continue to blow off

My objection is not to limits to art per se, but to the manner in which such limits are created.

that's not what you said, though

Discourse good. Blowhardiness bad.

insults weak
posted by pyramid termite at 6:05 AM on April 25, 2008


and the work has more to do with the concept than the execution - a point that you continue to blow off

I repeat:

an evaluation of the work that does not engage with its material/visual aspect is incomplete and premature.

You haven't seen the work. Therefore you can't judge the worthiness of the execution. The fact that the work has generated controversy and garnered publicity for the artist prior to her show is irrelevant to this. You assume that the artist is primarily interested in the controversy. You assume that the work will be visually uninteresting. But you don't, and can't, know either.

My objection is not to limits to art per se, but to the manner in which such limits are created.

that's not what you said, though


Sure I did:

rational discourse leads to better decisions, and a better society. I'd rather have intelligent debate than have the loudest, angriest voices push through their definitions of "bad art", or anything else. . .

Apparently you didn't understand, or chose to ignore this.

insults

It wasn't an insult. People who condescend to me, and display arrogance, and feel entitled to privilege their opinions over others', and mistake their statements of opinion for argumentation, are blowhards.

(The comparison to Rush Limbaugh was in terms of the manner of discourse--I don't attribute his politics to you. Though, in this particular case, it's likely you share common ground.)

Point being: you're entitled not to like this. You're not entitled to attribute your dislike to a self-evident quality of the work, implying, to quote another MeFite, "that anyone who does so is a liar or a moron."
posted by flotson at 8:16 AM on April 25, 2008


I repeat:

yes, you do
posted by pyramid termite at 8:21 PM on April 25, 2008


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