Yale undergraduate Aliza Shvarts' senior art project has created a little bit of controversy. She has apparently created "a documentation of a nine-month process during which she artificially inseminated herself 'as often as possible' while periodically taking abortifacient drugs to induce miscarriages." That's just lovely. (Already posted by whoeverur in the forum, but so bizarre it warrants being on the front page.)
Shvarts insists that her project was not designed for "shock value." Funny. I would have thought it was designed precisely for shock value.
She also says that "she was not concerned about any medical effects the forced miscarriages may have had on her body. The abortifacient drugs she took were legal and herbal, she said, and she did not feel the need to consult a doctor about her repeated miscarriages." I'm always puzzled about why people think that just because a drug is "herbal" it can't possibly be harmful.
The final display of the project will be like something out of a horror movie:
The display of Schvarts' project will feature a large cube suspended from the ceiling of a room in the gallery of Green Hall. Schvarts will wrap hundreds of feet of plastic sheeting around this cube; 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. Schvarts will then project recorded videos onto the four sides of the 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.
As word of Schvarts' project got around, Yale hurriedly released a statement assuring everyone that it was all just "creative fiction":
“Ms. Shvarts is engaged in performance art. 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,” a Yale spokeswoman, Helaine Klasky, said in a statement sent by e-mail to reporters. “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.”
But according to a follow-up report in the Yale Daily News, Sharvarts is still insisting that she really did what she initially claimed:
Shvarts reiterated Thursday that she repeatedly use a needleless syringe to insert semen into herself. At the end of her menstrual cycle, she took abortifacient herbs to induce bleeding, she said. She said she does not know whether or not she was ever pregnant. “No one can say with 100-percent certainty that anything in the piece did or did not happen,” Shvarts said, “because the nature of the piece is that it did not consist of certainties.”
My hunch is that Shvarts probably did conduct her bizarre project. But who can say for sure? Creating doubt seems to be the basic point of her project.
There's a long history of hoaxes and "art projects" involving reproduction, which is why I devoted an entire chapter to that subject in Hippo Eats Dwarf. The two that remind me most of Shvarts' project are Mary Toft, the woman who gave birth to rabbits, and Chrissy Caviar, the performance artist who claimed she harvested the eggs from her body and sold them as food.