Archive for the ‘Yale University’ Category

The Irrelevance of Modern Art and Aliza Shvarts

Monday, April 21st, 2008

The world of art has long been so irrelevant that it regularly resorts to shock theater. Sadly, legitimate and talented artists toil in obscurity while juvenile hacks are elevated to national attention.

A famous example of such faux-art is “Piss Christ” by Catholic and photographer Andres Serrano. Serrano, who was the recipient of a grant by the U.S. National Endowment for the Humanities (also known as “the American taxpayer”), depicted a small plastic crucifix submerged in a glass of his urine. As planned, the “Piss Christ” image stirred much controversy.

Piss Christ

Serrano’s work confirmed one of the most reliable rules in the art world: if you lack talent and are desperate for immediate publicity, insult Catholicism.

Another artist utilizing shock sans substance is Karen Finley. The “performance artist” has “smeared herself with chocolate, painted with her own breast milk, [and] put Winnie the Pooh in S&M gear…”

(Which must have thrilled the suits at Disney.)

Karen Finley

In contrast to Serrano’s success at the public trough, Finley’s application for the National Endowment for the Arts was rejected. As is common among liberals who feel entitled to government funds, Finley threw a hissy fit and sued the government. Due to the free speech/1st Amendment ramifications involved, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, National Endowment for the Arts v. Finley, in 1998. By a razor-thin margin, Finley lost 8-1. Conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, in a concurring opinion, interpreted the relevant law plainly by declaring that “decency and respect are to be taken into account in evaluating applications.”

Little surprise that Finley sued considering that liberals accept no objective standard for decency (except that there is no objective standard).

Which brings us to the latest court jester in the art world: Aliza Shvarts. A Yale art student, Ms. Shvarts, whose last name could only have led to years of therapy, has stirred controversy with her most recent work.

A Yale University student’s senior art project, which she said documented her bleeding during repeated self-induced abortions, sparked a protest on campus, an outcry on the Internet and debates over morality, medicine, art and academia.

And — it was all faked. Senior Aliza Shvarts told Yale officials Thursday that she didn’t get pregnant and didn’t have abortions. [...]

Shvarts told classmates that she had herself artificially inseminated as often as possible for much of this past year, then took legal, herbal abortifacient drugs and filmed herself in her bathtub cramping and bleeding from the miscarriages. She said her work will include video, a sculpture incorporating her blood mixed with Vaseline wrapped in plastic, and a spoken piece describing what she had done.

[She] told the Yale Daily News that she wanted to provoke debate about the relationship between art and the human body but that the intention of the piece was not to scandalize anyone.

Indeed, who could possibly be scandalized by filming do-it-yourself abortions?


Aliza Shvarts

“Provoking debate” is the convenient shibboleth of those who are caught committing acts of gross idiocy. Apparently as long as society is forced to jabber about something, the underlying controversy, filming your faked abortions and expecting people to believe that it’s art, is somehow justified.

Shvarts’s art (“Shv_art”?) has created an outcry (and rightly so), but the project shouldn’t surprise anyone. Faked or not, Shvarts’s hideous brain child is the logical and natural result of decades of policies and laws which debase abortion to a common surgery with little or no moral ramification. In such an environment, a faked abortion is a mundane enough act to be worthy of filming and exposition. If you are offended, well, Shvarts merely intended to provoke debate.

As one of the premier and selective universities on the planet (charging around $45,000 USD a year), it would be reasonable to expect the art from any Yale student should reflect some maturity and talent. Apart from the her shameless dishonesty, Shvarts lacked taste, talent and judgment.

So she’d certainly fit in the art world.

~ Sisyphus, cross-posted at The Sisyphus Files.