Friday, May 9, 2008


Do not read this if you are of a markedly sensitive nature.

Most of what I play at here is just silly. Satire and absurdity and indignation. I don't deal in depth with evil. Yeah, outrage about islamist bombers, but that's pretty standard fare. Then there's Aliza Shvarts, an art major in her senior year at Yale, who planned as her contribution to a student art fair to "repeatedly artificially inseminate herself, then induce miscarriages, which she would record on video. She would build a four-foot-wide plastic cube and wrap it in layers of plastic. Between the layers would be Vaseline mixed with blood from the miscarriages. She would hang the cube at an exhibition and project video of the miscarriages onto four of its sides."

That actually seems sort of hard to follow. Would her numerous abortuses each be on display, perhaps in different states of incipient but not manifest humanity? And what's the vaseline for? -- some sort of oblique reference to vaginal dryness or the artificial nature of intercourse in the Post-neopost-postmodern Era? And a cube, why a cube? Hardly womblike. Better, I should think, some free-flowing organic shape, no? But no, that would be so derivative, so obvious, no? No, the cube is a playful pun, on pube, get it? See? And also on the mathematical concept of cube, suggesting the threefold oppression by "men" of women, as sexual objects, mother objects, and housewife objects. And violence objects. Of course. The cube then would be part of the artistic conception, tee hee, as it were. Wombs make a woman into a mere machine -- a sort of incubator. Yeah, that's good.

"For the past year," said Ms. Shvarts to the Yale Daily News, "I performed repeated self-induced miscarriages.… Using a needleless syringe, I would inject the sperm near my cervix within 30 minutes of its collection, so as to insure the possibility of fertilization. On the 28th day of my cycle, I would ingest an abortifacient, after which I would experience cramps and heavy bleeding. ... Because the miscarriages coincide with the expected date of menstruation (the 28th day of my cycle), it remains ambiguous whether the there was ever a fertilized ovum or not. The reality of the pregnancy, both for myself and for the audience, is a matter of reading."

"This piece," asseverates Ms. Shvarts by way of exegesis, "is meant to call into question the relationship between form and function as they converge on the body.... It creates an ambiguity that isolates the locus of ontology to an act of readership."

Ah. That explains it. We will overlook her imprecise diction; she is, after all, an art student, not an English major. Form does not converge on the body -- neither does function. If her meaning is that form and function converge, the preposition would be "within", not "on". But we mustn't stifle the creativity of our young people by foolishly imposing the rigors of such linguistic artifacts. Her vision is so much grander ... grander than gender -- that's good. You should quote me on that. Grander than gender. That's what I'm going to call this one. Grander Than Gender, by Jack H, famous internet blogger artiste extraordinaire.

For some reason the panjandrums of Yale forbad the inclusion of her piece. Pieces. A health hazard. Using unpublished and perhaps nonexistent evidence, they asserted that she had faked the miscarriages and presumably the medical waste, and stated the installation would not be included in the exhibition without a written disclaimer that no human was involved in the production of the mixed media. Shvarts stood strong, bolstering the integrity of her case by producing video of her bleeding vaginally into a cup. (This author feels that the Shvarts choice of a cup is flawed, as too closely evoking the receptive nature of the form. Better would have been a glass, illustrative of the fragility of the female condition in oppressive male-dominated Western society.)

As for the two faculty members who approved this artwork, Yale officials have announced unspecified "appropriate action". One cannot say the action is "against" them, since that would over-extend the facts in evidence. Perhaps congratulations were felt to be in order? Courage should be recognized, after all, even when the outcome is muted by reactionary birthist bigots? It would be that same sort of backwards thinking that deflated plans in 2003 to have two students complete coarse project requirements by enjoying intercourse in front of the class. So much for academic freedom. Hix nix prix sex kix.

Enumerated among Shvarts's "conceptual goals" was "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." Her aim was to demonstrate that "it is a myth that ovaries and a uterus are 'meant' to birth a child." You go girl. That's why I like sodomy.

Yep. Ambiguity. That's what I like. It makes me feel so artistic. I mean, didn't Sartre write about nausea? It's the meaning of life, practically.


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