According to a statement released by the University today, Aliza Shvarts ’08 was never impregnated. She never miscarried. The sweeping outrage on blogs across the country was apparently for naught.
The supposed senior art project of the Davenport College senior was a “creative fiction,” a Yale official said Thursday afternoon as students on campus and bloggers across the country expressed colossal outrage over what Shvarts described as a documentation of a nine-month process during which she claimed to have artificially inseminated herself “as often as possible” while periodically taking “abortifacient drugs” to induce 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,” Yale spokeswoman Helaine Klasky said in a written statement e-mailed to the News this afternoon.
But Shvarts stood by her project, calling the University’s statement “ultimately inaccurate.”
Klasky said Shvarts informed three senior Yale officials today — including two deans — that she neither impregnated herself nor induced any miscarriages. Rather, the entire episode, including a press release describing the exhibition, was “performance art,” Klasky said.
“She is an artist and has the right to express herself through performance art,” Klasky said. “Had these acts been real, they would have violated basic ethical standards and raised serious mental and physical health concerns.”
But 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.”
This afternoon, Shvarts showed the News footage from tapes she plans to play at the exhibit. The tapes depict Shvarts — sometimes naked, sometimes clothed — alone in a shower stall bleeding into a cup.
Pia Lindman, Shvarts’s thesis adviser, and Davenport College Dean Craig Harwood could not be reached for comment Thursday. Art Director of Undergraduate Studies Henk van Assen deferred comment to the Yale Office of Public Affairs.
Yale’s statement comes after a day of widespread outrage all across the country following an article in today’s edition of the News in which Shvarts described her supposed exhibition, which she said would include the video recordings well as a preserved collection of the blood from the process, which she said she is storing in a freezer.
In an interview Wednesday, Shvarts said the goal of her exhibition was to spark conversation and debate about the relationship between art and the human body. She said her endeavor was not conceived with any “shock value” in mind.
“I hope it inspires some sort of discourse,” Shvarts said. “Sure, some people will be upset with the message and will not agree with it, but it’s not the intention of the piece to scandalize anyone.”
Shvarts said her project would take the form of a large cube suspended from the ceiling of a room in the gallery of Green Hall. Shvarts said she would wrap hundreds of feet of plastic sheeting around the cube, with blood from her self-induced miscarriages lining the sheeting.
Recorded videos of her experiencing her miscarriages would be projected onto the four sides of the cube, Shvarts said, and similar videos would also be displayed on the walls of the room.
Many students on campus expressed outrage when told of the concept, saying it trivialized abortion and transgressed any reasonable moral boundary. On Thursday, the general public seemed to agree; by early evening Thursday, news outlets from The Washington Post to London’s Daily Telegraph had reported the story, and the blogosphere was ablaze in horrified debate over the supposed exhibition.
The project — at least the way Shvarts presented it in her press release and her interview — was immediately condemned Thursday by national groups on both sides of the abortion debate.
“It’s clearly depraved. I think the poor woman has got some major mental problems,” the president of the National Right to Life Committee, Wanda Franz, was quoted as saying on the Web site of FOX News. “She’s a serial killer. This is just a horrible thought.”
The abortion-rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America also condemned the exhibition in a written statement e-mailed to the News on Thursday.
“This ‘project’ is offensive and insensitive to the women who have suffered the heartbreak of miscarriage,” said Ted Miller, a spokesman for the organization.