One University police officer stood on the steps to Green Hall on Chapel Street on Tuesday morning. There were no crowds, no signs and no demonstrations.
In the mid-morning, the officer watched as television satellite trucks pulled up to the curb. Men with shoulder-mounted cameras stepped out and others with microphones grabbed passers-by for man-on-the-street interviews.
“Everybody’s been here,” the officer said when asked which news organizations had paid a visit to Green Hall.
Everybody, that is, except Aliza Shvarts ’08.
All day, the flow of traffic in and out of the space was low. Alone or accompanied by a few friends, students — as well as prospective students and other visitors — stood looking at pieces mounted on the white walls for a few minutes before wandering out.
Ironically, few wound their way down the two sets of stairs required to enter the portion of the exhibit space that students said would have played host to Shvarts’ piece.
Realistically, though, a small trickle is standard fare for an undergraduate art exhibition. Students setting up said friends of the artists tend to dominate gallery traffic.
In interviews with the gallery-goers, nearly all said they were aware of the controversy surrounding Shvarts’s project, but had come for other reasons.
Shvarts ignited a fire of controversy last week when reports of her final art project — which the senior claimed included video footage of and blood delivered during repeated self-induced miscarriages — dominated headlines in media outlets throughout the country. After the University declared the project a piece of performance art, a “creative fiction,” Shvarts defended her original statements in a column in Friday’s News.
Over the weekend and into Monday, the stalemate persisted. Yale College Dean Peter Salovey announced that the University would not display Shvarts’ project unless she agreed to a host of demands: renouncing her project was “a work of fiction,” admitting that she did not inseminate herself or induce miscarriages and promising that no human blood will appear in the project.
Shvarts — who last spoke to the News on Friday morning — kept mum. Repeated messages left on her phone went unreturned.
The stalemate will continue into today; as of Monday night, the University said it had not reached a resolution with Shvarts, and Yale spokeswoman Helaine Klasky said Tuesday night that it was still unclear whether Shvarts’s installation would eventually go on exhibit.
“No determination has been made,” Klasky wrote in an e-mail message.
But earlier Tuesday, at 10:00 a.m., the gallery playing host to senior art majors’ final projects opened, but not to the public. In an unusual move no doubt aimed at ensuring the gallery’s security, the doors of Green Hall were locked to anyone outside the University community, who could only gain entry with their coded ID cards.
By 1:00 p.m. a small band of media had gathered outside the School of Art for a hastily-convened press conference. Two camera crews and four photographers — one a freelancer for The New York Times — joined a handful of print reporters on the street waiting for some sort of official statement.
The conference began when Associate Director of Public Affairs Dorie Baker walked up the Chapel St. sidewalk to the gaggle of media. But Baker had no official statement from the University. Her first answer to a reporter’s question was a series of shrugs.
“I have no comment,” Baker said.
But Baker did let the group into the building. Inside, the press was met with an empty gallery and School of Art Director of Undergraduate Studies Henk van Assen, who promptly referred all questions to the Office of Public Affairs. In turn, Baker reiterated her no comment.
Inside the austere gallery, works of oil, print and photography hung from the walls. In one corner near the Chapel Street side of the gallery, a portfolio was laid out carefully as though the artist had walked away in the middle of arranging the pieces on the wall. Artists lingered, examining the placement of their work on the gallery wall and adjusting a piece here or there.
Evening would draw close before Shvarts made her first appearance at Green Hall — to attend a class. The pariah of the national controversy is, after all, still a student.