Abortion as Art

Yesterday the Yale Daily News reported that an undergraduate named Aliza Shvarts is using abortion as art:

“Beginning next Tuesday, Shvarts will be displaying her senior art project, 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. Her exhibition will feature video recordings of these forced miscarriages as well as preserved collections of the blood from the process. The goal in creating the art exhibition, Shvarts said, was to spark conversation and debate on the relationship between art and the human body.”

Naturally, the report drew outrage from all over the country. I had at least two or three people e-mail me to alert me to the story because they were upset about the news. Well, it turns out that the whole thing may have been a hoax. According to the Washington Post:

“In a statement yesterday, Yale spokeswoman Helaine Klasky said: ‘Ms. Shvarts . . . 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.'”

The Post goes on to explain what the point of Shvarts’ exhibition was. According to a senior art major at Yale,

“It’s supposed to challenge the mythology of the body. Are we only supposed to do what our bodies were ‘naturally’ meant to do, which is to procreate? I think she was definitely trying to spark conversation. In that respect, she’s accomplished her goal.”

Actually, that’s a relevant philosophical question, and to some extent the “natural function” of the body underlies a Christian view of sexual and reproductive ethics (see Romans 1:26-27). But the art exhibit is so loathsome (even if it is a hoax) that it distracts from what might have been an important discussion. If the goal was to provoke conversation about the purpose of the body, I think she fell way short.

23 Responses to Abortion as Art

  1. MatthewS April 18, 2008 at 7:38 am #

    I saw that article. I believe it quoted her as saying she didn’t want to be sensational, she was just trying to start a conversation, or something like that. Yeah, right. I hope it is a hoax, but either way, Yuck!

  2. JB April 18, 2008 at 8:37 am #

    If you have the skills to artificially inseminate yourself then you are in the wrong field honey.

  3. Joshua April 18, 2008 at 9:03 am #

    Seriously, if you have those skills…you need to switch majors. Besides if she was really doing that, so could potentially harm her ability to have children for real, later in life. I doubt she was actually doing that.

  4. Matt Svoboda April 18, 2008 at 9:07 am #

    What some people will do and say for attention. It is funny how she picked the most controversial topic to show the relationship between ‘art and the human body.’

  5. Paul April 18, 2008 at 10:13 am #

    Sorry to be the one to say this, but…

    I told you so.

    Anyone want to tell me that we should still look at art subjectively?

    When you take the standards out of the arts, whether they be painting, visual, performance or music, this is the end result. Someone debasing her body and performing abortions on herself(or pretending to do so) in the name of art.

    Yes, there will always be people that will push (or break through) the boundaries of good taste, but that doesn’t mean that there has to be an audience for it. The problem is, because there’s no standards placed on art of any sort, this kind of thing doesn’t just happen, it becomes news and blog worthy.

    Congratulations, all you folks that don’t support the arts, your chickens are coming home to roost.

  6. Michael Metts April 18, 2008 at 11:04 am #

    I think Ravi Zacharias had a discussion on something similar to this recently.

  7. Paul April 18, 2008 at 11:12 am #

    I heart Ravi Zaccharias.

  8. Denny Burk April 18, 2008 at 11:24 am #

    Dear All,

    I’ve slightly expanded the original post. See above.

    Thanks,
    Denny

  9. Paul April 18, 2008 at 11:26 am #

    well, post #5 still stands.

    And Denny, as an amateur musician yourself, I am somewhat shocked that you’ve never addressed the issues that I’ve brought up about culture and the arts.

    Have a wonderful day y’all,

    Paul

  10. Quixote April 18, 2008 at 12:35 pm #

    Her parents must be so proud.

  11. Matt Svoboda April 18, 2008 at 4:51 pm #

    I don’t think her parents loved her in the first place… She is clearly craving attention that she never got.

    (that was a joke-at least the first part)

  12. mike April 19, 2008 at 9:10 am #

    Didn’t the Nazi’s use human skin for blankets and lampshades? I think the idea of art and the human body has already been explored…

  13. Matt Svoboda April 19, 2008 at 9:27 am #

    Mike,

    Well said.

    To all,

    This is of utmost importance: today is my birthday. I am finally 20! Are you singing yet?

    Matt

  14. Joe April 19, 2008 at 10:19 am #

    Mike,
    A very thoughtful comment…Thanks

  15. Debbie Mosley April 20, 2008 at 1:57 pm #

    The Nazi’s used skin for soap. This is what I heard from a Holocsst survivor,

  16. Paul April 20, 2008 at 11:04 pm #

    It’s funny. This is one conversation that should have everything to do with being good stewards of the arts to ensure that our children…

    (a) know better than to think that this is good, or even art, and

    (b) won’t have to witness “art” like this because of the standards which should be adhered to in the art world, and which largely are in the rest of the world because the rest of the world, by far and wide, has a much better appreciation of the arts.

    A very telling and relevant comment on this came from a friend of mine who sends out a weekly blast to all of his musician friends. I’ll include the relevant portion…

    “Which brings me, roundabout, to my sermon of the week: The quality of audiences. Andy’s was packed with tourists Tuesday, the majority of them foreigners, and although they were noisy, they were also respectful and appreciative. And that’s usually how I can tell an audience of Europeans, South Americans or Asians from an American audience. Americans persist in treating live music as nothing more than a version of music video, a version which annoyingly requires them to occasionally shut up and applaud. I know, every once in a while you get lucky, but you know what I’m talking about. The Europeans (from Spain, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, France and Italy) applauded at the appropriate places and bought cds, and many of those who did not nevertheless took the time to tell us how much they appreciated our music…

    I like to think that American audiences don’t mean to be rude; they were just raised that way. The American culture really does not place high value on creativity, I’m afraid, and a lot of these attitudes are buried deep in our national origins. Not only in our Puritanical roots, but the very concept of democracy, in a way, teaches us that all of us are equal, so why should I shut up and treat you like you’re a big whoop? As part and parcel of early America’s refutation of all things European we threw the baby out with the bathwater and developed a national character that is not only independent-minded and rebellious but anti-intellectual as well.

    (A footnote to this argument is, do you know why Americans drive on the right side of the road? It’s because the English drive on the left. And the footnote to that is, why do the English drive on the left? It’s a throwback to the days of chivalry; men rode their horses on the left side of the road so that their sword-handling arm, the right, would be handy to fend off an attack from an approaching brigand.)”

    And that’s just it. What should be an alarming report about just how far our culture has slid turns into a conversation that dodges that very topic and instead throws around rumors about how bad the nazis were.

    America’s chickens really ARE coming home to roost. Make no mistake about it, friends.

  17. Quixote April 21, 2008 at 8:27 am #

    Paul,

    Would you even for a moment consider that your consuming passion for the arts has made you biased in some small way?

    Your statement was this: “This is one conversation that should have everything to do with being good stewards of the arts to ensure that our children (a) know better than to think that this is good.”

    I’m not going to defend my own education or experience in the arts, because it doesn’t matter. What matters is this: arts don’t change a man’s heart, or a child’s. Only Christ does that. So IMO we ought to be good stewards of God’s Word so that our children will know how and what to think is “good”…whether it be in the arts or in politics or in education or in relationships or in commerce, etc.

  18. Ferg April 21, 2008 at 1:11 pm #

    quixote – i know what you mean, however you could say that men don’t change hearts, which is absolutely true. does that mean that we shouldn’t bother evangelising WELL. on the same point, art can point to Jesus, and good art can be better at pointing people to Jesus. Musically educated people can listen to someone like michael w. smith and pray to the good Lord that the bad music would stop. however, the same people could listen to Sufjan Stevens and be drawn into his music and hear profound truths about Jesus.
    the difference between bad and good art.

  19. Quixote April 22, 2008 at 11:32 am #

    Ferg:

    What?

    (Can you rephrase, so I understand your point better and can respond? PS: Best wishes on your wedding and marriage. Did you know that the average couple spends over 300 hours preparing for the wedding and about 3 preparing for the marriage?!?)

  20. Paul April 22, 2008 at 2:35 pm #

    Quixote,

    in reference to #17:

    1) nice post.

    2) what you’re saying has nothing to do with the price of tea in china.

    you’re confusing good (as in quality) with good (as in moral fiber). It’s an important distinction to make. Especially in a discussion like this.

    What I was getting at is simply this: when the standards of quality are thrown out the window in the name of subjectiveness or individuality, then shock value becomes the only way to grab someone’s attention. That is most certainly the case here, and it will continue to be the case as long as people continue to be willfully ignorant of the arts and therefore, the culture around them.

    When shock value is all that’s left, then depraivity isn’t too far away. I’d rather that the shock value types get ignored because my kids know the difference between quality and shock value. Most in the American Christian Universe could care less, because it’s more fun to burn Marilyn Manson records than it is to take your kids to the art museum or the symphony.

    Now, as to this…

    “So IMO we ought to be good stewards of God’s Word so that our children will know how and what to think is “good”…”

    Why can’t we (and why shouldn’t we) be both? If our children can know what’s good (in terms of moral fiber) and what’s good (in terms of quality), then they will be well equipped to go out into the world and proclaim God’s word without ignorance. What a novel idea…

  21. Quixote April 22, 2008 at 6:43 pm #

    Paul,

    To answer your question…I guess because there’s an absolute authority to tell us what’s good (in terms of moral fiber) and yet no absolute authority for teaching kids what’s good (in terms of quality) as it relates to the arts. But apparently King David played one mean harp. :o)

    As hard as you want to fight for “objective standards” there really aren’t such a thing. In fact, your standards are only yours because you’ve embraced them and agreed to adhere to them. YOU made them objective, which only serves to make them subjective.

  22. Paul April 22, 2008 at 11:58 pm #

    Quixote,

    I’ll only address the second half of this, and it’s written like someone that has no clue what they’re talking about.

    in orchestras, there is a level of competence that is necessary in order to be considered for employment…AN OBJECTIVE STANDARD. The same can be claimed for jazz groups of any import, studio musicians, etc, etc, etc.

    This yammering on about subjective standards is the exact kind of laissez-faire stance on culture that allows “art” like what’s being discussed here to have a voice. All because you don’t believe in standards unless they don’t take any effort on your part.

  23. Ferg April 23, 2008 at 12:42 pm #

    Quixote,
    you’re What question is well founded. i worded my post pretty shockingly.
    It was in a sense a lay mans terms of what Paul wrote in his post no. 22. well, it wasn’t really, but i’ll let post no. 22 do the talking for me!

    thanks for the marriage wishes. much appreciated. i can’t wait. only 9 more days to go! good words about the preparation too, i could see how easily it is to get consumed by how much there is to do and forgetting to spend time with each other and with Jesus. we’re trying hard to do that and we’re feeling in a really good place.

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