Call Shvarts’ project ‘abhorrent,’ but don’t silence it

I have a simple question for all those who decry Aliza Shvarts’ upcoming exhibit as a mockery of art (or something to that effect): What is art? I’m not asking for a dictionary definition or anything absolute necessarily. Rather, I’m suggesting that for someone to be absolutely confident and definitively certain that this is not art because it is obscene, provocative, disturbing and, quite frankly, shocking, obliges that one to provide a standard by which to deem this not art and thus to say, to some meaningful extent, what art is.

Secondly, for those so confident that any rationalizing of this art is wrong, what standard are you using? Obviously, many people are having visceral reactions to this piece. Clearly, it touches a chord with many people, but I hardly see any reason why that justifies silencing it. If anyone is against Shvarts rationally explaining (or at least attempting to) her artwork, then I question what reasonable grounds that one has to oppose it. Put simply, if you would implore reason to condemn Shvarts, you must allow her to make a case in her defense and then you must give comprehensive reasons as to why her art is (1) objectionable and (2) should not have been approved or should be silenced (points 1 and 2 are two separate and distinct arguments).

Do I find her work disturbing? Yes. Why? Because I think it a flagrant disregard for aesthetics and common decency, but I don’t buy the arguments that this constitutes murder.

Life does not start at conception — there is no brain, heart, nervous system, consciousness, etc. at that point; what constitutes “life” is nonetheless debatable. Neither do I see how this warrants a reversal or limitation of abortion rights. Furthermore, I see no reason to assume appropriate procedure wasn’t followed in approving this project, nor do I see why the University ought to have opposed it any point, let alone now.

Quite frankly, a lot of people are just spouting emotional sentiments and then demanding that everyone subscribe to these same sentiments and reach the same (irrational) conclusions (two distinct elements of the fallacy).

Unfortunately for these polemicists, the reasoning doesn’t fly. Your emotions, no matter how widely shared, do not justify your attempt to control the actions of any others, and if you think they do, consider how well that reasoning could be used against any number of us in response to any unconventional or potentially obscene taste any one of us might have.

Again, I concede that this artwork is not trivial, but that some people disagree or are appalled seems to be a terribly useless and counterproductive means by which to judge the expediency or power (or right to exist) of art.

Also, the argument that the University approving something as a project/club/activity/etc. amounts to an endorsement, tacitly or otherwise, is demonstrably absurd. Clearly, the University sponsors many contradictory projects (e.g. Choose Life at Yale and Reproductive Rights Action League of Yale College) the existence of which cannot possibly imply any coherent University stance on such issues.

Also, it’s time for the ad hominem and other logically fallacious attacks (including aggravating invocations of Godwin’s Law) to stop (particularly those made anonymously); they contribute nothing meaningful to the discourse and serve merely as a means to avoid rigorous defense of one’s position and to reinforce the self-righteous pretensions to moral indignation worthy of such media trash as Fox News.

It is unfortunate that so many contributors to this dialogue are excessively incendiary and cruel in their opposition to Shvarts and her art (the latter is reasonable, the former not so much), but I nonetheless agree that the dialog promoted by this art supports its existence and approval.

That said, I nonetheless find it abhorrent, but that’s just my aesthetics (not morality), which warrant no right to unfairly attack or attempt to silence Shvarts or any other similarly distasteful artist for offending my sensibilities.

Anthony LeCounte is a freshman in Timothy Dwight College.

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