pageok
pageok
pageok
Abortion Art, Possible Hoaxes, and Academic Freedom:

The Yale Daily News reports:

The University will not allow Aliza Shvarts '08 to display her controversial senior art project at its scheduled opening Tuesday unless she confesses in writing that the exhibition is a work of fiction, Yale officials said Sunday.

The University, meanwhile, acknowledged that it has disciplined two faculty members for their role in allowing Shvarts to proceed with a project that she claimed included nine months of repeated artificial inseminations followed by self-induced miscarriages.

As news of Shvarts' project swept across the Web last week and attracted the ire of students and private citizens alike, Shvarts and the University engaged in a match of he-said/she-said: Shvarts stood by her project as she described it earlier last week in a news release, while the University -- claiming Shvarts had privately denied actually committing the acts in question -- dismissed it as a hoax that amounted to nothing more than "performance art." ...

"I am appalled," Yale College Dean Peter Salovey said in a statement Friday. "This piece of performance art as reported in the press bears no relation to what I consider appropriate for an undergraduate senior project."

School of Art Dean Robert Storr also condemned the project in a written statement Friday.

"If I had known about this, I would not have permitted it to go forward," Storr said in the statement. "This is not an acceptable project in a community where the consequences go beyond the individual who initiates the project and may even endanger that individual." ...

[Sunday], Salovey and Storr announced that an investigation had found "serious errors in judgement" on the part of two unnamed individuals -— ostensibly her thesis adviser, School of Art lecturer Pia Lindman, and School of Art Director of Undergraduate Studies Henk van Assen -- who had been involved in her project before it incited mass condemnation across campus and across the country and that "appropriate action" had been taken against them.

"In one case, the instructor responsible for the senior project should not have allowed it to go forward," Salovey said. "In the other, an adviser should have interceded and consulted others when first given information about the project." ...

In his statement Sunday night, Salovey called on Shvarts to produce a written confession admitting that her project did not actually include the graphic acts that she had first described. He added that Shvarts will not be allowed to install her project unless she admits she did not try to inseminate herself and induce miscarriages and promises that no human blood will be displayed in her exhibit....

In his statement, Storr emphasized that the University "has a profound commitment to freedom of expression" and that he, personally, supports the legality of abortion.

"That said, Yale does not encourage or condone projects that would involve unknown health risks to the student," Storr said. "Nor does it believe that open discourse and inquiry can exist in an educational and creative community when an individual exercises these rights but evades full intellectual accountability for the strong response he or she may provoke." ...

A few thoughts (keeping in mind that Yale is a private university, and the issue here is properly one of professional principles of academic freedom rather than of the First Amendment as such, though most of what I say would equally apply to public universities):

1. A university is surely entitled to impose content-neutral conditions on the projects that it will exhibit -- even if it has a practice of exhibiting all student projects -- as well as on the projects that are entitled to school credit. It may also impose many content-based conditions, since quality evaluations are generally based on content, but surely content-neutral conditions are generally quite apt. Obvious examples are conditions related to medium (this exhibition is paintings only, or to graduate you have to produce at least one painting and one sculpture), or materials used (you must produce this using oils and not watercolors).

With much modern art, the line between content-neutral and content-based restrictions is less obviously sound than it is with most speech, because the medium is quite literally an inherent part of the message. Nonetheless, it seems to me that tolerance of a wide range of content-neutral restrictions is required for pedagogical reasons (e.g., to teach people how to work in different media). Nor does the university have to defend such lines as a matter of academic freedom (as opposed to as a matter of sound judgment). Insisting, for instance, that everyone do at least one realist watercolor is a legitimate pedagogical decision on the university's part, though artists may or may not agree that this is a sensible requirement.

In particular, it seems to me that requirements that people not use human blood, or do things that jeopardize their health -- even slightly -- in the preparation of school projects are indeed permissible, whether as a means of protecting students' health, protecting others' health (even if the risk is very slight), or simply focusing the project on what is being depicted rather than on the medium being used. Such rules can be enforced both against students and advisors.

2. More broadly, one quite basic rule of universities is "tell the truth." Even without specific guidelines so saying, generally speaking students and faculty members need to be candid about the nature of their projects, whether it's the data they're reporting on or their own accounts of how the projects were put together.

Naturally, if a reasonable reader is aware that the statement is not meant literally, the author's duty of candor isn't violated: A short story submitted in writing class can't be faulted for being dishonest because it's fictional, so long as the reasonable reader knows that this is supposed to be a short story. The same is true of obvious parodies and the like.

Yet if the reasonable reader would interpret an assertion as being literally made, then the student (or a faculty member or anyone else in the university) has an obligation to make sure that the assertion is indeed true. Perhaps in some other contexts hoaxes might be forgivable -- but not in class work, unless there's some strong contextual cue that the hoax is indeed a hoax. So if Shvarts did indeed misdescribe what she did (the accounts I've seen are somewhat contradictory), she should be faulted for that, and at least required to correct the misdescription.

3. Yet it seems to me that, when it comes to the requirements described in #1, it's important that the university set out pretty clear rules, and not punish students or faculty members in the absence of such rules. This is especially true, I think, for art. As I understand it, avant-garde art and academic art, for better or worse, has in recent decades heavily prized the transgressive and shocking.

Shvarts and her advisors, it seems, gave the university pretty much what academic artists are asked to give. So if the university had a preexisting no-human-blood rule, then it could reasonably enforce it. But if it didn't, then I'm not sure what sort of "appropriate action" (setting aside a good talking-to) could reasonably be taken against faculty members who saw the transgressiveness of Shvarts' project as a plus rather than a minus. In other fields, it might be possible to fault faculty and students for violating unwritten but broadly accepted rules of scholarship. But my sense is that this is hard to assert (again, for better or worse) about modern academic art.

One question is whether this applies to #2 concerns as well, or whether the norm against false statements is scholarship is so well-understood that it need not be expressly stated (and perhaps it is expressly stated in some relevant policies). I'd be inclined to say that this is the sort of basic norm, alongside "don't commit crimes in making your project" or "don't do things that make your audience feel in danger of being shot," that goes without saying. A norm of "don't use your blood" or even "don't try to deliberately abort early-term fetuses for your art project" doesn't strike me as comparably well-entrenched in the academic art community.

* * *

There are a lot of "if"'s here -- I don't know exactly what the "appropriate action" was, I don't know exactly what the rules were, and I don't know to what extent Yale's action focused on the #1 concerns (rules about what's permitted generally for art projects) rather than #2 concerns (rules of academic candor). This is why I don't feel comfortable expressing a bottom-line judgment here, especially as to the matters is item #3. Still, I hope some of this general discussion strikes a chord.

Thanks to Dana Nguyen for the pointer.

alias:
On the candor thing, I'm a little curious. Although psychologists are supposed to be candid in their presentation of the final results of their experiments, the experiments themselves often involve a lot of lying to subjects or otherwise deceiving them to see how they react. And no one (to my knowledge) thinks that that's academically unethical.

Performance art probably also includes some element of the "artist" seeking to provoke a reaction of some kind from the audience... maybe there's an analogy somehow?

That's just for the sake of playing devil's advocate, though. Universities can permissibly tell art students that lying through the ultimate presentation of the work isn't allowed. And this whole project is reason #500 why I'm disdainful of modern "performance art."
4.21.2008 3:56pm
rarango (mail):
Presumably "performance art" does not require a human subjects committee review. It sounds very much to me that human subjects committees might need to have a look at this (the heavy hand of censorship notwithstanding).
4.21.2008 4:03pm
rcp311:
I'm a little unclear on the "tell the truth" injunction, too. Assuming that rule was in place and Orson Welles was at a university, would he be in violation of it for "War of the Worlds"? I would that that certain artistic projects (like that one) require the audience to believe that the content is true, and part of the art is the revelation, later, that it was not true. What if it was a video project and the student did a "documentary" about her life, but actually parts of it were fictitious? What if Borat were done as a school project? Sasha Baron Cohen is obviously not a Kazakh named Borat, but he led people he met on the street to believe he was, and in so doing created (in some people's views) a pretty incisive look at American life. There, he did not "tell the truth," but that was integral to the art. What happens in these cases?
4.21.2008 4:06pm
alkali (mail):
Although psychologists are supposed to be candid in their presentation of the final results of their experiments, the experiments themselves often involve a lot of lying to subjects or otherwise deceiving them to see how they react. And no one (to my knowledge) thinks that that's academically unethical.

Academics using human subjects in research must have their projects reviewed by the institution before they proceed (the usual term for the reviewing body is "Institutional Review Board," or "IRB"). So that's an important distinction.
4.21.2008 4:06pm
MDJD2B (mail):

In other fields, it might be possible to fault faculty and students for violating unwritten but broadly accepted rules of scholarship. But my sense is that this is hard to assert (again, for better or worse) about modern academic art.

If the standards are so vague, does modern academic art consititute scholarship? Should universities provide programs where students can engage in it for academic credit?

Universities grant degrees and award honors and class rank. The grade that Ms. Shvarts gets in displaying menstrual blood (with or without products of conception) competes with the grade that someone gets in physical chemistry, Chaucer, or philosophy of mind in determining whether (for example) Ms. Shvarts is awardee Phi Beta Kappa. Is this fair to the students with whom she is competing?
4.21.2008 4:07pm
BarrySanders20:
I have an art project that is designed to inspire deep thought about the class struggle and modern day serfdom. I have arranged a spray bottle in a coat of armor to allow my viewers to experience a refreshing "mist" reminicent of Medieval Europe. And to make it more authentic (and to strike a blow against the ruling class), I've included some bubonic plague.

Now don't oppress me with your conventional mores about what's "acceptable" or "hygenic." I am an artist, and I demand you display my works in your buildings (and send me some o' dat public tax money while you're at it).
4.21.2008 4:07pm
Suzy (mail):
I just wanted to thank you for writing a piece that lays out some of the relevant issues in a clear and thought-provoking manner. This story has become so sensationalized and is so weird, that it's really nice to read your analysis. One of the reasons I love reading this blog!
4.21.2008 4:08pm
MDJD2B (mail):
This being a Yale undergraduate program, I could make some really tasteless comment about the possible nexus of this project with Skull and Bones, but I won't.
4.21.2008 4:08pm
NYU 3L:
Particularly in the case of a senior project, a punishment for a rule that didn't clearly exist is extremely unfair. Assuming that there was no clear rule like, "Artists may not work in their own blood," Shvarts submitted a thesis proposal, had it approved, completed it, and is ready to present it; it's probably a prerequisite for graduation (I don't know if a senior thesis at Yale is required or optional.) Even if there's some sort of norm in the academic art world that prohibits this sort of thing, it's not Shvarts's job to notice it, but her thesis advisor's--how else would Shvarts know what the norm is?

It seems to me the sensible action on Yale's part would be to discipline the faculty responsible, possibly prevent Shvarts from displaying her work at Yale, but to still give her credit for her thesis. Unpleasant situation, but what else can they do? Stop her from graduating because her advisor screwed up?
4.21.2008 4:13pm
Guessing (mail):
There is an interesting opposition between "art" and "everything else" How deep does that distinction run? Would a completely plagarized history paper, one that would result in an automatic "F" and disciplinary action if submitted to a history class, be acceptable as art?

On another note, I am having to try really hard not to point out that Ms. Shvarts may explain in part the correlation between Yalie clerks and negative citations.
4.21.2008 4:21pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Particularly in the case of a senior project, a punishment for a rule that didn't clearly exist is extremely unfair.
I suppose if she worked out a deal with someone in the medical school to make humanburgers (made of chunks of tissue removed in operations) as performance art, you could make the same argument.

What? This is repulsive? This is grotesque? Then you must be one of those narrowminded Bible thumpers from flyover land.

There used to be some standards of civilized behavior that didn't require formal rules. But this brings us back to the necrobestiality discussion of a few weeks back....
4.21.2008 4:21pm
Vernunft (mail) (www):
If you're about to graduate from Yale and still don't know the difference between art and not-art, maybe you don't deserve the degree.
4.21.2008 4:22pm
Benjamin Davis (mail):

It seems to me the sensible action on Yale's part would be to discipline the faculty responsible, possibly prevent Shvarts from displaying her work at Yale, but to still give her credit for her thesis. Unpleasant situation, but what else can they do? Stop her from graduating because her advisor screwed up?


I agree with the above comment at a private school - I wonder though at a public school.

For both types of schools, I think the issue that this does capture is the "human subjects" point. I think the faculty and advisor should have looked at whether this should have been passed by that committee (if there is one) and that is a significant error of judgment.

I would suspect that human subjects ethics committees might refuse to allow the project to go forward on the real or perceived health risk grounds.

Usually, in submitting a project proposal that involves humans you have a university committee that has to give its approval on that project where human subjects are part of it. I guess it would be good to see whether the human subjects rules at the school include concern for the project author (project: shoot myself in foot and photograph the operation and healing).

I remember having to get human subjects committee approval for an article whose invasiveness was to have people fill out a questionnaire.

Question: could the student also not get a grade for not having thought to go by the "human subjects" committee also. The, "they did not tell me" might reduce some responsibility for what the student did but now that the committee knows about it, maybe the committee would step in to reject the project. Like the faculty authorization would have been an authorization improvidently granted.

Best,
Ben
4.21.2008 4:32pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
I believe rarango and alkali are correct -- the actual use of individuals' semen in the artwork would require the approval of or at least review by Yale's Human Investigation Committee to avoid violating ethical norms and perhaps Federal regulation (for Federally supported work).
4.21.2008 4:34pm
Freddy Hill:
Any proposal for a project that includes injecting semen (under what medical safeguards? How was it screened for HIV or other STD?) and provoking excessive bleeding (what herbs, how safe are they, under what medical supervision?) should be looked at with extreme caution. I'm sure that Yale has guidelines against endangering the life or heath of its students or allowing them to endanger them without intervening, guidelines that the advisors should have followed. Not to speak of the liability issues involved, had she been infected, or had she died of an uncontrolled hemorrage.

The alternative, of course, is that she was not telling the truth. Then surely her advisors would have covered their asses by demanding signed statements from the student to the fact that this was a hoax, woudn't them? Do they have proof?

The above only covers my opinion on why the student's advisors and the university are responsible, and does not get into the real abomination: the idea of willingly performing serial abortions "for the fun of it."
4.21.2008 4:37pm
Anonymous II (mail):
Everything I've read has indicated that the entire "project" is a hoax - the art project never actually happened as described. As a result, arguing about whether or not there is a "real abomination" here seems pretty silly. And more to the point, arguing about whether someone can present an exhibit stating that something contrary to fact took place has been mooted by events - what about the guy with the "starving" dog?
4.21.2008 4:48pm
John (mail):
This "lie/truth" distinction is VERY fuzzy. For example, representational paintings are, in a sense, lies--purporting to show 3 dimensions to the viewer when there are only 2 in the painting. And what about trompe l'oeuil? A lot of current art asks the viewer to wonder if it is "real."

I think this Yale thing is terrific. The artist's work has provoked wild-ass reactions all over the place, just as much of our art must do.

I also find it highly amusing that Yale is suddenly consumed by interest in women's bodies and their now apparent lack of freedom over their bodies while at Yale.
4.21.2008 4:53pm
theobromophile (www):
Erin O'Connor made the point about IRBs. When the student's own body, potentially those of her unborn children, and, of course, those of those provide the semen are involved, IRB approval is needed.

This dovetails into EV's point about preexisting (or not) "no human blood allowed" rules. While there are likely no such rules for the art department, and when it is nearly impossible to predict what whackiness students will come up with that the university wants to prohibit, the general requirement of IRB approval before using human subjects adequately addresses the issue.

Perhaps you could even read the "this exhibit is a work of fiction" requirement as one stating that she did not do anything that would have required IRB approval.

More broadly, one quite basic rule of universities is "tell the truth." Even without specific guidelines so saying, generally speaking students and faculty members need to be candid about the nature of their projects, whether it's the data they're reporting on or their own accounts of how the projects were put together.

Some universities codify this into an honour system. Does Yale have one? Are seniors who do any of these projects required, generally, to state that their work is their own? (Presumably, the underlying requirement is that there is "work" to begin with.)

Universities grant degrees and award honors and class rank. The grade that Ms. Shvarts gets in displaying menstrual blood (with or without products of conception) competes with the grade that someone gets in physical chemistry, Chaucer, or philosophy of mind in determining whether (for example) Ms. Shvarts is awardee Phi Beta Kappa. Is this fair to the students with whom she is competing?

I could have had a lot more fun as an undergraduate. Sigh. Missed opportunities, all around.

But if it didn't, then I'm not sure what sort of "appropriate action" (setting aside a good talking-to) could reasonably be taken against faculty members who saw the transgressiveness of Shvarts' project as a plus rather than a minus.

Prohibit them from acting as official thesis advisors to students for a term of years?
4.21.2008 5:00pm
loki13 (mail):

If you're about to graduate from Yale and still don't know the difference between art and not-art, maybe you don't deserve the degree.


I consider myself reasonably intelligent (although not a Yale graduate), and I was hoping you could make the distinction. What is the difference between art and non-art? How about high art and low art? Pop art? Commercial art? Is it just 'what artists do'? If my 2 yr. old scrawls with a crayon, and I put in on my fridge, is that art? If my 11 yr. old plays a composition he created on his guitar, is that art (I know that if he plays on his drums, it most certainly isn't!)? If an artist trained at, say, Pratt, draws a "Bananas 49 cents/lb" on a chalk board for Whole Foods, is that art? Rembrandt is art (of course), but what isn't?

I could continue, but I would like to ask you- since the distinction is so obvious to you, would you care to explain it? Do you know it when you see it?
4.21.2008 5:01pm
Archon (mail):
My guess would be that at a public university the art display would be protected speech but that the administration could come up with many, many content neutral reasons for not allowing it - health concerns being the first that comes to mind.
4.21.2008 5:04pm
calmom:
Why take her word for it that it's a hoax? Send a lab tech from the medical school over to the art school to take samples. They'll be able to tell if it's regular blood, menstrual-type blood, the products of conception, paint, vegetable dye or whatever.
4.21.2008 5:08pm
William D. Tanksley, Jr:
"Everything I've read has indicated that the entire 'project' is a hoax - the art project never actually happened as described."

You're behind the news cycle, then. The student paper reported the art, the administration denied it, the press reported that (which seems to be where your information comes from), then the artist stepped out and claimed that the administration was lying to save face.

Interestingly, in its denial the administration claimed that the purpose of the hoax was to create ambiguity, with people not really knowing whether the exhibit was really human blood (in fact, in their denial they didn't state whether or not it was real human blood; they only denied the insemination).

There may be a legal issue here (the university may be required to treat the attempted exhibit as an accepted thesis), but there are overwhelming ethical issues as well, and somebody should take some serious heat for them. Engendering controversy is one thing, but actual ethical lapse for the sake of controversy is another.
4.21.2008 5:10pm
Amber (www):
I don't see how IRB approval would be required for something like this. The Yale IRB website states that
When designing the study, [a Principal Investigator; here, probably, the thesis advisor] must determine if the study constitutes research involving human subjects by comparing the proposed project to the following definitions:

RESEARCH is a systematic investigation designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge.

A HUMAN SUBJECTS is a living individual about whom an investigator obtains data through interaction or intervention with the individual or obtains identifiable private information.
The use of Shvarts's body or of her fabricators' semen is not directed toward a systematic investigation into generalizable knowledge. She asserts that the entire piece exists in a fog of ambiguity, since she didn't know whether she was pregnant at any point. There's no scientific method here--no method at all, really, to this madness.

Regardless, I'd give her an A.
4.21.2008 5:11pm
Amber (www):
I don't see how IRB approval would be required for something like this. The Yale IRB website states that
When designing the study, [a Principal Investigator; here, probably, the thesis advisor] must determine if the study constitutes research involving human subjects by comparing the proposed project to the following definitions:

RESEARCH is a systematic investigation designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge.

A HUMAN SUBJECTS is a living individual about whom an investigator obtains data through interaction or intervention with the individual or obtains identifiable private information.
The use of Shvarts's body or of her fabricators' semen is not directed toward a systematic investigation into generalizable knowledge. She asserts that the entire piece exists in a fog of ambiguity, since she didn't know whether she was pregnant at any point. There's no scientific method here--no method at all, really, to this madness.

Regardless, I'd give her an A.
4.21.2008 5:11pm
Hoosier:
"School of Art Director of Undergraduate Studies Henk van Assen"

Please tell me that is his real name.
4.21.2008 5:17pm
William D. Tanksley, Jr:
"This 'lie/truth' distinction is VERY fuzzy. For example, representational paintings are, in a sense, lies..."

The lack of distinction you display is extremely shallow and thoughtless.

"I think this Yale thing is terrific. The artist's work has provoked wild-ass reactions all over the place, just as much of our art must do."

I won't argue with you what art is and is not; but I can tell you that not everything that "provokes wild-ass reactions" is therefore art (witness actions such as a heartless murder which produces reaction without being art), nor is one of the purposes of art as such to "provoke wild-ass reactions" (witness admitted works of art which nonetheless fail to provoke your desired reaction).

"I also find it highly amusing that Yale is suddenly consumed by interest in women's bodies and their now apparent lack of freedom over their bodies while at Yale."

Chortle on, then. Your amusement -- disconnected with reality as it is -- is of no imaginable concern.

-Wm
4.21.2008 5:27pm
dre (mail):
"I think this Yale thing is terrific. The artist's work has provoked wild-ass reactions all over the place, just as much of our art must do. "

It is only a short distance to this:

Karlheinz Stockhausen on the 9/11 attacks: "What happened there is—they all have to rearrange their brains now—is the greatest work of art ever. . . That characters can bring about in one act what we in music cannot dream of, that people practice madly for 10 years, completely, fanatically, for a concert and then died. That is the greatest work of art for the whole cosmos. . . I could not do that. Against that, we composers are nothing."
http://www.bilkent.edu.tr/~jast/Number14/Minor.htm
4.21.2008 5:32pm
Hoosier:
JOHN: I was way ahead of my time, then. In college, I spent the entire four years "consumed by interest in women's bodies." What the Hell is wrong with those Yalies?

Contemporary art depends so heavily upon the intentions of the artist that there is no way to decide what is good art, bad art, or not art. Art is whatever an artist creates. And an artist is anyone who can get a grant, review, or exhibition.

A cloying picture of children at play? Depends on the intent: If it's on a Hallmark card, it is schlock. If done by an art student as a satirical look at Middle Class kitch, it is transgressive and subversive.

Why should I care?
4.21.2008 5:36pm
phants (mail):
I agree that the introductory analysis is good. That said; I have to wonder about the subject and topic. This is "art" and the reason it creates such controversy is not in the materials, in and of themselves. I doubt that most viewers would be able to accurately identify them as ersatz or real. This is furor only because it pertains to a politically polarizing topic.

Removed from the abortion issue this is hardly shocking. I can find "art" involving blood, tissue, body parts and various types of gore in pictures, movies, writing, etc. everywhere and in every (tv, movies, etc) medium. In fact it is difficult to avoid them. Some of these are highly recommended (The Red Violin comes to mind), some are controversial (SouthPark's Mr Henke) and others are garbage with no example needed.

And it is disigenuous to forbid it as "shocking" as I have found that "shocking' is actually part of the common descriptive definition of art.

Once again, like the SCOTUS judge that couldn't define pornography but knew it when he saw it - all we have to do is view art only when accompanied by Dean Salovey:

"I am appalled,[sic]" Yale College Dean Peter Salovey said ..."

And: "... bears no relation to what I consider appropriate for an undergraduate senior project."

Perhaps he is right, but if so would he publish his phone number so I can call him as an authority... I am not appaled or shocked and might require his advice to "save me."

Why is this subject repeatedly blown to such proportions every time it comes up..? Yes - precisely because it is catered to by being so ...

JimH
4.21.2008 5:38pm
Benjamin Davis (mail):
First line of the Guide for Investigators.


Any research conducted by a Yale affiliated researcher which involves the use of human
subjects* must be reviewed by one of the four Yale institutional review boards (IRB).



and the definition of "research" and "human subject" from above.


A HUMAN SUBJECTS is a living individual about whom an investigator obtains data through interaction or intervention with the individual or obtains identifiable private information.


I agree it might be argued the IRB does not cover this art by a "letter" vs. "spirit" type. Though more than once vs. 9 times does suggest some "systematicness". I think there would be enough though to block her grade.

I would expect a revision of this rule to capture the "once" also for this kind of thing very quickly.

One other thing, is there any public policy override here? I am not aware of a criminal statute that would fit.

Best,
Ben
4.21.2008 5:45pm
MDJD2B (mail):

Prohibit them from acting as official thesis advisors to students for a term of years?

At most research universities, that would be a reward, not a punishment!
4.21.2008 5:48pm
Al Maviva (mail):
Who cares?
4.21.2008 5:53pm
NYU 3L:
Clayton Cramer -

I suppose if she worked out a deal with someone in the medical school to make humanburgers (made of chunks of tissue removed in operations) as performance art, you could make the same argument.

What? This is repulsive? This is grotesque? Then you must be one of those narrowminded Bible thumpers from flyover land.

There used to be some standards of civilized behavior that didn't require formal rules. But this brings us back to the necrobestiality discussion of a few weeks back....


Oh, it's certainly repulsive and grotesque, but so is a lot of what's going on at Yale (actually, I'd find the work you describe less grotesque than what Shvarts actually created, since no humans would be killed in the process.) When you get to the issue of punishing the student, the question has to be whether the student knew that she was doing something wrong. In the Yale art department, there doesn't seem to be an ethical norm that would say otherwise, and in fact her immediate advisors said it was OK.

Think of a less inflammatory context:

1. MechE student proposes as his senior thesis in the fall of his senior year, that he'll come up with a cool new method for doing vision tracking for a mobile robot.
2. Advisor approves, Department head signs off on it without really looking.
3. Some time in April of the , the Department head realizes after another whiny student complains that the student hasn't really done anything particularly interesting on the mechanical side, and in fact his thesis was really just a computer science project that doesn't belong in MechE.
4. Department head informs the student in April that he will be failing his thesis, because his project shouldn't have been approved in the first place.

This should strike anyone involved as dreadfully unfair. When the lines are blurry, how is the student new to the discipline supposed to know whether he's crossed the line? That's what advisors are for, and when the advisor fails, the student shouldn't be punished for it.
4.21.2008 5:53pm
NYU 3L:
Correction--"more grotesque than what Shvartz claims to have created"
4.21.2008 5:57pm
PLR:
I would think that her work of "art" for the thesis has to have a narrative that goes with it. If she wants to be graded on performance art that involves transgressive body functions, that's one thing. If she wants to be graded on an artistic hoax, that's another thing. If she wants to be graded on a work of art that inspires outrage because of uncertainty over whether the art represents a real experience or a hoax, that's a third thing.

But in that third scenario, the university becomes an unwilling accessory to her art if it cannot disclose to the viewer the essential nature of what he or she is seeing. I would definitely leave it off of display if the student refuses to explain the art in a way that absolves the university from participation in either a fraud or a borderline infliction of emotional distress.
4.21.2008 6:10pm
MXE (mail):
Wow, it gives me a headache to read Shvartz' article in the Yale Daily News. I mean, "It creates an ambiguity that isolates the locus of ontology to an act of readership?" AFAICT this basically says the same thing as the much more intelligible sentence, "The reality of the pregnancy [...] is a matter of reading."

Not to mention: "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." Translation: "While my organs are capable of creating and giving birth to a baby, they can do other stuff, too."

Jesus, this is what gives academia such a bad reputation. How embarrassing.
4.21.2008 6:21pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Clayton Cramer: I suppose if she worked out a deal with someone in the medical school to make humanburgers (made of chunks of tissue removed in operations) as performance art, you could make the same argument.

That would probably fail due to lack of novelty, see the Bodyworks exhibits.
(My daughter's 7th grade class went to one of those. She had to pack a bag lunch, so I sent her in with a big slab of well-marbled capicola. It got some curious looks from her classmates, but I'm an engineer, so that wasn't Art.)

MDJD2B: Universities grant degrees and award honors and class rank. The grade that Ms. Shvarts gets in displaying menstrual blood (with or without products of conception) competes with the grade that someone gets in physical chemistry, Chaucer, or philosophy of mind in determining whether (for example) Ms. Shvarts is awardee Phi Beta Kappa. Is this fair to the students with whom she is competing?

Also not novel. 25 years ago an amazingly large fraction of the summas, at least in my house, went to those who majored in Folklore and Mythology.

As for the truthiness of the exhibit, please see Invisible Cities:

Spread out over eight square blocks near Union Square in Somerville, Invisible Cities combined theatrical vignettes with installations of visual art. The audience was led on a guided tour of the neighborhood, tracing the route of the long-buried Miller's River. Along the way, local history was revealed, as well as hidden subcultures.



——————————————————
There are invisible cities.
They exist between and under this one. Sometimes they are entered through sleep. Sometimes they present themselves in a census' blackened circles. In one live veterans of various wars, some still clinging to their posts. Another exists only through phone lines threaded above labyrinthian streets.


I bought tickets and attended that performance, thinking from the description (similar or exactly as quoted above) that it was about local history. It was certainly interesting as different groups set out a few minutes apart hearing the tour guides give exactly the same performance, down to the name they introduced themselves with. When I was about four years old I used to make up stories about the people I imagined lived in various houses in my neighborhood but I was a toddler, so that wasn't Art.
4.21.2008 6:26pm
Endocrine (mail):
This doesn't compute: the inseminated herself and then took herbal drugs to abort at the end of her menstrual cycle.

If it's done at the end of her cycle, she isn't and wasn't pregnant.

If she had said that she took the herbal drugs when her cycle should have and didn't start, I'd think that there was something to the original claim. Now, though, much ado . . .
4.21.2008 6:26pm
Sean O'Hara (mail) (www):
I suppose if she worked out a deal with someone in the medical school to make humanburgers (made of chunks of tissue removed in operations) as performance art, you could make the same argument.


If the burgers are ingested, I'm fairly certain it would violate a law. Putting some semen in a turkey-baster, injecting it into her own vagina, and then drinking some pennyroyal tea isn't illegal as far as I know.
4.21.2008 6:41pm
Bill Sommerfeld (www):
Isn't there a biohazard angle to this? there are probably regulations relating to proper storage of such materials which would likely preclude their appearance in an art gallery..
4.21.2008 6:56pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

If the burgers are ingested, I'm fairly certain it would violate a law.
Which law? Im not aware of any laws against cannibalism--just against desecrating corpses and murder.
Putting some semen in a turkey-baster, injecting it into her own vagina, and then drinking some pennyroyal tea isn't illegal as far as I know.
And it makes you proud to be a liberal, doesn't it?
4.21.2008 6:59pm
MXE (mail):
And it makes you proud to be a liberal, doesn't it?

Gosh, Cramer, stop imposing your normative mythology of biological function on fetusburgers.
4.21.2008 7:15pm
randal (mail):
It is almost certainly the case that the Yale Art Department forbids incorporating human tissue / fluids - with the possible exception of hair - in art installations. I expect that the waiver an undergraduate would need in order to pursue this sort of project is effectively beyond reach.

This probably extends to animals generally (but with more exceptions and / or more accessible waivers).
4.21.2008 7:17pm
Gab (mail):
This doesn't compute: the inseminated herself and then took herbal drugs to abort at the end of her menstrual cycle.

If it's done at the end of her cycle, she isn't and wasn't pregnant.

If she had said that she took the herbal drugs when her cycle should have and didn't start, I'd think that there was something to the original claim. Now, though, much ado . . .


Each menstrual cycle begins with the onset of menstruation (bleeding). Thus, the end of a woman's menstrual cycle is the time right before she is due to bleed, if she is not pregnant. Shvarts's account is coherent. She says that she took the herb just before she was due to menstruate. In this scenario, it would be impossible to know whether the subsequent bleeding constituted a miscarriage or simply occurred because she was not pregnant and just began a new cycle. BTW, as most women and OB/GYNs know, it is not uncommon for women to miscarry fertilized ova within a very short window of time, i.e., for women to be unaware, when they bleed, of whether they are technically miscarrying.
4.21.2008 7:19pm
Fub:
MXE wrote at 4.21.2008 6:15pm:
Gosh, Cramer, stop imposing your normative mythology of biological function on fetusburgers.
MXE wins the thread.
4.21.2008 7:44pm
Jerub-Baal (mail) (www):
NETFEED/ART: Artistic Suicide Challenge
(visual: Bigger X at Toronto arraignment)
VO: A guerrilla artist known only as No-1 has challenged the better-known forced involvement artist Bigger X to a suicide competition. No-1's broadside against Bigger X, which calls him a "poseur" because "he only works with other people's deaths," suggests a suicide competition between the two artists, to be broadcast live by "artOWNartWONartNOW." The one with the most artistically interesting suicide would be judged the winner, even though he or she would not be around to collect the prize. Bigger X, who is wanted by the police for questioning in a Philadelphia bombing, has not been available for comment, but ZZZCrax of "artOWNartWONartNOW" called it "an intriguing story."

Fictional news blurb from the beginning of chapter 21 of "Mountain of Black Glass" by Tad Williams (Volume Three of "Otherland", a four volume SciFi novel) copyright 1999.

Loki 13 and Mr. Tanksley, the nihilistic direction of modern performance art (and the avant guard in general) has been easy to predict for a long time.

However, I have to agree with the basic premise of the post. How much of this situation was covered by pre-existing rules of scholarship and conduct at Yale. It would be interesting to peruse the Yale Student Handbook…

And Dre, I have to note that Mr. Williams fictional 'death artists' predated Mr. Stockhausen's comments by at least two years. As I said… entirely predictable.
4.21.2008 8:01pm
Perseus (mail):
If she wants to be graded on a work of art that inspires outrage because of uncertainty over whether the art represents a real experience or a hoax, that's a third thing.

But in that third scenario, the university becomes an unwilling accessory to her art if it cannot disclose to the viewer the essential nature of what he or she is seeing.


"Essential nature" of what is being seen?!? You sound like some reactionary Aristotlean or something. Tsk. Tsk.
4.21.2008 8:03pm
Jebel Hamrin (mail):
A.
In particular, it seems to me that requirements that people not ... do things that jeopardize their health -- even slightly

ROTC is out then, according to you?

B. What of the fathers? Have they no say?
4.21.2008 8:11pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
For those of you who prefer more conventional performance art:

After pickled sheep, unmade beds and painting with elephant dung, some questioned where modern art could go next.

Kira O'Reilly will provide her own answer today by spending four hours naked, hugging a dead pig - at the taxpayer's expense.


Not Safe for Work
4.21.2008 8:18pm
Matt_T:
Postmodernism is stupid. Film at 11. MXE takes best comment in this thread by a landslide.
4.21.2008 8:51pm
M. Simon (mail) (www):
The appropriate action is to auction it off with the University getting a cut which it applies to the student health facilities.

Every one will be happy. Except the people who don't want to be happy. So every one will get what they want. Except the low bidders.
4.21.2008 9:23pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Loki:

How's this?

Art is something somebody besides the artist thinks is art. And that means honestly thinks so. Giggling at somebody's attempt to epater les bougies does not count.
See Tom Wolfe on the subject of modern art.
4.21.2008 9:26pm
LM (mail):
If it's a hoax, I assume the honesty question is limited to whether it's OK to mislead the viewing public, not the instructors or the school. And isn't it possible Shvartz' insistence that it's real points to that distinction, i.e., she let the school in on it (she had no choice), but she's trying to keep the fiction alive for the performance?

I wonder what her parents think about what they got for their $200,000?
4.21.2008 9:38pm
David Schwartz (mail):
Art is something somebody besides the artist thinks is art.
Hmm, how do I use this? Somebody shows me something and asks me, "Is it art?" I say, I don't know, I'll ask a few people. (What else can I do?) What do those people do -- ask other people?

The answer to "how do you decide what is or isn't art" can't be "ask someone" because then that other person, to do it right, would have to ask someone else as well.
4.21.2008 9:38pm
Former Belgian (mail) (www):
It's interesting that Robert Hughes (at least at that time a liberal), as far back as 1993 (in "The cuture of complaint") put his finger on the issue:

"...the abiding traits of American victim art are posturing and ineptitude. In the performances of Karen Finley and Holly Hughes you get the extreme of what can go wrong with art-as-politics -- the belief that mere expressiveness is enough; that I become an artist by showing you my warm guts and defying you to reject them. You don't like my guts? You and Jesse Helms, fella.

"The claims of this stuff are infantile. I have demands, I have needs. Why have you not gratified them? The "you" allows no differentiation, and the self-righteousness of the "I" is deeply anaesthetic [sic]. One would be glad of some sign of awareness of the nuance that distinguishes art from slogans." ["The culture of complaint", pp. 186-187]

Also, the use of semen (and menstrual blood) in an "art" project is not innovative: Andres Serrano (yes, he of "P*ss Chr*st") actually made some 'art" pieces that consisted of a mixture of his own urine (in one case) and semen )in another case) with blood. Two pieces of this "art" ("P*ss and blood" and "Blood and semen III") were actually seen by a few million heavy metal fans, as they were used for the covers of the Metallica albums "Load" and "Reload", respectively.

As a publicity stunt (assuming it is a hoax) this was pure genius. But if this is art, I am the new Pope and Lubavitcher Rebbe at the same time ;-)
4.21.2008 9:43pm
A B:
The legal issues surrounding Ms. Shvarts and Yale are terribly uninteresting. Both sides can search talmudically all they want amongst the numerous by-laws, precedents, memos and whatnot. The real question is how do we as a society get back to doing more of this?
4.21.2008 9:58pm
Scrivener:
Off-topic.

An interesting situation in light of the Stanley v. Georgia, Osborne v. Ohio, Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition chain of cases:

http://www.theledger.com/article/20080418/BREAKING/453898235
4.21.2008 10:01pm
Juan (mail):
rcp311 is right
What about Sokal?
Or if this hoax was crafted to study reactions about it?
4.21.2008 10:29pm
Steven Den Beste (www):
It seems to me that the easiest answer here is to give her an "F" for this course. Then she has to repeat it and do better next time, and she will have learned something important.

Flunking her doesn't require getting into all the issues that Eugene worries about. It is inherent and appropriate for the University to consider the merit of her work in deciding her grade. It also isn't actionable, and it isn't a violation of any right of hers I've ever heard of. It does not, for instance, violate her First Amendment rights in any way.
4.21.2008 10:33pm
Oren:
<blockquote> It seems to me that the easiest answer here is to give her an "F" for this course. Then she has to repeat it and do better next time, and she will have learned something important. </blockquote> Normally, the final power to issue grades rests with the professor teaching the course -- in this case, her thesis adviser that allegedly approved this project. Letting the administration change students' grades seems like a profoundly terrible idea.

Now, perhaps the faculty in question can be disciplined, but I would demure on whether that's a good idea until I knew substantially more about this incident and substantially more about her long-term performance (no need to tar and feather anyone over one admittedly distasteful art project, eh?)
4.21.2008 10:44pm
Yogurt:
"May the Shvarts be with you."
4.21.2008 11:08pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
David &Loki,

You figure out what you think it is. Your opinion is...your opinion. The thrust of the discussion is that there is some definition the rest of us are bound to accept.
Nope.
Might have been the case before talentless hacks discovered they could get money out of people who were afraid of being seen as not hip.

No mas.
4.21.2008 11:11pm
Just Some Guy (mail):
So what if Yale has "vague standards"? That's not a sufficient defense, and it doesn't entitle this student to make an ass of herself with Yale's blessing. There's not a law or a policy statement for everything; humans are expected to exercise good judgment. Shvarts did not. Yale should dispose of her project as it sees fit.
4.21.2008 11:12pm
Jerub-Baal (mail) (www):
A B:
Check this out.

Cruise around the site, they have both a great digital museum, and also show a lot of excellent current representative artists.
4.21.2008 11:19pm
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
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. It is this mythology that creates the sexist, racist, ableist, nationalist and homophobic perspective, distinguishing what body parts are "meant" to do from their physical capability. The myth that a certain set of functions are "natural" (while all the other potential functions are "unnatural") undermines that sense of capability, confining lifestyle choices to the bounds of normatively defined narratives.

I am profoundly glad that I am not the sort of person who would ever write a paragraph like this one, other than as a satire.

Yes, this one may be a satire too, but there are others like it that functionally are not -- i.e, that have appeared in peer-reviewed publications and have been used to advance their authors' careers as academics rather than satirists. Unless the joke is on all of us ...
4.21.2008 11:19pm
LM (mail):
Mike G in Corvallis,

"If one examines social realism, one is faced with a choice: either accept the precapitalist paradigm of context or conclude that academe is elitist. Therefore, social realism states that art is capable of truth. The main theme of [Svartz'] work is the rubicon, and therefore the genre, of subcultural society. In a sense, if patriarchial libertarianism holds, we have to choose between cultural deappropriation and neotextual capitalist theory."

From the Postmodernism Generator
4.21.2008 11:43pm
therut:
Has anyone considered she may be mentally ill?
4.21.2008 11:47pm
Ardsgaine (mail) (www):
Am I the only one for whom this was the most interesting part of Storr's statement?


"Nor does it believe that open discourse and inquiry can exist in an educational and creative community when an individual exercises these rights but evades full intellectual accountability for the strong response he or she may provoke."


Whose strong response is he worried about, and what does he mean by "strong"? Are we talking about letters to the editor and the withdrawal of Federal funding, or are we talking about riots, beheadings, and burning down buildings?
4.21.2008 11:53pm
Henway (mail) (www):
I don't believe anyone needs to specifically create a rule against using human blood, since any 'art' that threatens the viewer ought to already be easily rejected. Medical professionals certainly consider unscreened blood to be a potential biohazard which requires specific disinfection. If it's pooling or smeared in uncontrolled temperatures over time or allowed to become aerosolized? No problem defining a definite health violation there, and I assume creating dangerous conditions for viewers as well as attached legal liabilities for their gallery and art program are enough valid reason to say no. No?
4.22.2008 12:07am
tioedong (mail) (www):
If it was a hoax they need to be punished.

If it were real, the staff who approved of this need to be punished, because herbal abortifactants are dangerous, and unless she took a "morning after pill" there is a danger of post abortion bleeding and sepsis (infection). Finally, if she took the "morning after pill", you should know it makes you sicker than a dog...I have only prescribed this for rape victims, and usually give them nausea medicine to take.
4.22.2008 12:14am
bc (mail):
But;is it art?
4.22.2008 12:27am
Warmongering Lunatic:
If you're about to graduate from Yale and still don't know the difference between art and not-art


...then you've been properly indoctrinated in the ideology which modern college art programs intend you to be programmed, and entirely deserve a modern Fine Arts degree. In fact, said degree should be tattooed to your forehead to properly warn innocent people who don't buy into the bullshit.

(Art has no identifiable definition or standards? Then that would require it to be expelled from university curricula entirely. No person can be certified as having met standards if there are no standards; there is accordingly no possible way for a university certify its students as educated in such a field. If art is entirely subjective, an ethical university could not demand any display of competence in art from those it was considering hiring as art professors, because there would be no standard by which anyone could judge such competence.)

(If we were to wish to define an actual academic subject, we could start with the older definition of "trained skill", and have art programs deal with the application of trained skill to the field of aesthetics. Granted, the people over in the Philosophy wing will debate over what aesthetics is, but we'd first be able to insist the artist demonstrated trained skill before we argued over whether the skill was applied to the field of aesthetics. Fountain might manage to be art, but it would not be credited to Marcel Duchamp.)
4.22.2008 12:53am
goldsmith (mail):

The real question is how do we as a society get back to doing more of this [link to Bouguereau]?


The real question is how do we as a society get back to doing less of this 19th century academic nonsense and more of this.
4.22.2008 1:19am
Vinegar Hill:
Good thing that she didn't perform this in front of Duke students!
4.22.2008 1:21am
steve (mail):
I think the art is in the rollout. She may or may not have done these acts, but thats besides the point now, at least as far as the art project is concerned. Clayton Cramer forgets a time when people were disemboweled in the streets for sport in the very society he claims these social "standards of civilized behavior" derive from. Of course its bullshit. We are all cannibals.
4.22.2008 1:25am
JLV:
I am profoundly disappointed and disgusted with all of you. You should all be ashamed of yourselves. My, aren't we intellectual and sophisticated to discuss the finer nuances of content-based speech restrictions and academic freedom.

Clayton is the only one here with the decency to simply condemn this sicko (whether hoax or not) instead of stroking his own ego.

I suppose you think it's beneath you to be outraged, like some kind of benighted religious zealot. But there are times when "mature detachment" from the actual moral issues underlying otherwise "interesting" intellectual analysis is nothing more than a cloak for cowardice.
4.22.2008 1:44am
theobromophile (www):
Prohibit them from acting as official thesis advisors to students for a term of years?



At most research universities, that would be a reward, not a punishment!

Amended: Require them to be thesis advisors... for the College Republicans!
4.22.2008 3:28am
theobromophile (www):
The reality of the pregnancy, both for myself and for the audience, is a matter of reading.

Update: Aliza Shvarts first-ever woman to be "a little bit preggers."
4.22.2008 3:29am
hey (mail):
Either she committed academic fraud - grounds for expulsion, or she willfully violated all of the processes relating to activities involving human subjects as well as intends to violate 10s of laws and regulations with respect to hazardous material and must be expelled. Her advisors should similarly also be summarily fired.

In real majors/faculties, human subjects are treated with extreme vigilance. Any survey or interaction with people MUST be passed by the review process - failure to do this is met with extreme sanction. The bad old days of research - psychotropic drugs, careless handling of radioactive material, no hazmat handling for any of the endless list of risky chemicals, etc - caused everything to be redone. Liability and basic ethics require all parts of the university to abide by the same processes - otherwise you would have the fine art department able to hand out plutonium covered breakfast cereal as art or willfully infecting people while just a basic human factors assessment of a webpage for an engineering student project would need study and review by the human subjects committee.

The art department is absolute BS as it is, but if they are able to do this then there cannot be any university as such. You have an elite without constraints that can intentionally destroy the world but call it art, and then you have responsible adults bogged down in red tape due to the risk of unknown unknowns. Another reason why there is no place at any university for art or artists - nor is there in any decent society.
4.22.2008 5:00am
steve_roberts (mail):
The statement "Yale does not encourage or condone projects that would involve unknown health risks to the student" is absurd.

Most actions we take involve unknown risks (we just hope they are small risks, as they usually are). To say "..involve SIGNIFICANT health risks.." would be more like it.

Students have the right to take risks with their own health, but the university has no obligation to encourage or condone their risk-taking.

If the higher-ups at Yale don't want to be associated with this because of the way it involves human reproduction they should "tell the truth" and be honest about their reasons.
4.22.2008 7:34am
David Chesler (mail) (www):

JLV

wrote: Clayton is the only one here with the decency to simply condemn this sicko (whether hoax or not) instead of stroking his own ego.

At the risk of further stroking my own ego, on April 18 I commented on this story on The Agitator,
Is it OK if setting aside the abortion question I find art that's made out of stuff that comes out of the human body to be icky?
4.22.2008 10:02am
shawn-non-anonymous:
A B:

The real question is how do we as a society get back to doing more of this?[Bouguereau]


Religious-centered art that depict the human body and its natural functions as "bad" by covering up the "dirty bits"?

Surely we don't have to return to the days where we paste fig-leaves over people?

...although a guy dressed as the Pope placing fig-leaf-shaped post-it notes over human body parts displayed in street advertisements might be great performance art...

Maybe I should go to Yale?
4.22.2008 11:12am
Ed Minchau (mail) (www):
Degrees from Yale are now officially worth zero.
4.22.2008 1:55pm
Brad Ford (mail):
While Academic Freedom would prohibit the restricting the content of speech, it would not prohibit regulating (or prohibiting) methods of speech.

In this case, people are not upset with the student's opinions or ideology, they are upset with the means she used to express herself.

Absent reasonable restrictions on methods of speech, some "idiot" is going to do things like try to express art through holding a fetus BBQ.
4.22.2008 3:20pm
General Disarray:
"Another reason why there is no place at any university for art or artists - nor is there in any decent society."

Geez, dude. I was with you for a while, but methinks you're getting carried away.
4.22.2008 3:58pm
Gaius Marius:
Who cares if Aliza Shvarts aborted fetuses. Those fetuses were only sub-humans or untermenschen.
4.22.2008 4:16pm
Fat Man (mail):
Way too much analysis Eugene. It is not worth it.

Ms Shvarts, her teachers and the Yale Art Department have earned the title: Artholes

She and they should be expelled from the University forthwith. Clearly none of them have the good sense of a headless chicken.

As for Yale. First the Taliban propaganda minister, then the law school (and not just because it graduates idiots), and now this. Three strikes, and you are out. Yale should have its tax exemption revoked for impersonating a useful institution.
4.22.2008 4:32pm
fishbane (mail):
I suppose if she worked out a deal with someone in the medical school to make humanburgers (made of chunks of tissue removed in operations) as performance art, you could make the same argument.

I can't tell if people are intentionally missing the point or not. It seems obvious to me that the purpose of the art is to strike controversy, using media and the school itself to promote it. This used to be known as "culture jamming". I seriously doubt she actually did what she states, but that isn't the point of the art. The art is in exposing what everyone (from Yale on down) thinks about her right to control her body. And frankly, coerced written confessions really freaks me out a bit.

Sure, be grossed out. You're making the work more successful with your condemnations. In a way, it is similar to when Operation Rescue used to show up at Planned Parenthood, who would then run a fundraiser, similar to a marathon, with X dollars pledged for each protester who turned up.
4.24.2008 7:02pm