Art lecturer: Yale erred in banning Shvarts’ art

I am a teacher and a human being. Students may be surprised to learn that this is true of most Yale faculty. From this unavoidably compromised position, I too am a little troubled by what I’ve heard about Aliza Shvarts’ art. Unfortunately, the University has banned her work from the Senior Project Show, making a first-hand encounter with Shvarts’ work impossible. The University has decided not to allow the rest of us make up our own minds. I am considerably more troubled by their action than by hers.

The eminent philosopher and art critic Arthur Danto writes that since Marcel Duchamp displayed a urinal as art in 1917, “the era of taste has been succeeded by the era of meaning.” In other words, it is no longer part of art’s job description to be beautiful or entertaining or to exhibit good taste. Instead, art has an obligation to say (or to ask) something. By this criterion, Shvarts’ work not only affirms its status as art but also fits comfortably into the arc of Western aesthetic tradition over the past century.

Years ago, when I was a student, my senior art-history seminar studied the work of Chris Burden, who has had himself shot in the arm with a rifle and crucified — bolts driven through his hands — on the back of a Volkswagen Beetle. A student asked the obligatory question: “It’s interesting, but is it art?” The answer given by the professor, Joan Brigham, remains one of the most valuable lessons I have ever learned: “It might as well be art,” she said, “it’s not anything else.” This may sound flippant, but it points out a crucial distinction: Art isn’t politics or law or business or science. Art does not and should not dictate policy, legislation, profit, or fact. Although contemporary art aims for meaning, it doesn’t have any obligation to get it right. If there is still something essentially beautiful about art, it is that it is granted the freedom to engage problems without a responsibility to solve them.

Art is a “zone of free play” in which the ideas, concerns, joys and sorrows of a community can be engaged in safety and without practical ramifications. Art is a form of societal role-playing, a testing of conceptions of identity and ideology undertaken in a buffered space. In this sense, art tests societal mores as drug trials test medications: prior to or separate from their availability and use in the real, legislated, world. It is incumbent upon us, especially as members of a community of learners, to understand what art does and how it does it. It is our intellectual imperative to insure that art not be confused with politics, law, business, or science. Such confusion has ramifications: books have been burned, poets exiled, filmmakers blacklisted, painters jailed.

For art to speak to the interests of its time and place, it must first be allowed to speak. Disappointingly, Robert Storr, Dean of the School of Art, has issued a statement saying that an individual relinquishes the right to freedom of expression when that individual “evades full intellectual accountability for the strong response he or she may provoke.” What would constitute “full intellectual accountability”? Should Darwinians keep evolution to themselves because Christian fundamentalists are deeply offended? Should Flaubert have kept Madame Bovary under wraps? Would it have been preferable if 60 Minutes had passed on the Abu Ghraib story? This account of freedom of expression is, to all appearances, its opposite.

Notwithstanding the faulty premise of “full intellectual accountability,” Shvarts has acquitted herself admirably in a guest column in this paper last Friday, April 18th:

“It remains ambiguous whether there was ever a fertilized ovum or not … This ambivalence makes obvious how the act of identification or naming — the act of ascribing a word to something physical — is at its heart an ideological act, an act that literally has the power to construct bodies.”

Shvarts accepts the intellectual responsibility of art in general and of her own work in particular. She has posed questions that have no easy answers. She has posed them not in the field of politics or law or business or science — where the complexity of the questions would have to be subdued in order to be adjudicated — but in a work of art.

Peter Salovey, Dean of Yale College, has written that the Woodward Report, on the subject of “free expression, peaceful dissent, mutual respect and tolerance” at Yale, “affirms the special responsibility for a university community to uphold its members’ rights to ‘think the unthinkable, discuss the unmentionable, and challenge the unchallengeable,’ even in the face of words and acts that members find abhorrent.” For the University to ban Aliza Shvarts’ artwork, to deny the rest of us the opportunity to make up our own minds, is to abdicate this “special responsibility.”

The University should admit they have made a mistake and reinstate Shvarts’ artwork.

Seth Kim-Cohen is a lecturer in the History of Art Department.

Comments

  • Alumnus

    Isn't there a huge difference between ideas and action here? Impregnating yourself, purposefully miscarrying, and then smearing the blood all over isn't an idea or free speech. Its an action. The Woodward Report doesn't allow you to do any physical act you want.

  • And

    Thank you, Professor Kim-Cohen, for articulating the feeling that I felt but could not express. Your observations about the public role of artwork in our society confirm what I suspected and render the university's actions even more unbelievable. Thank you.

  • Anonymous

    trl. I disapprove of what you bleed, but I will defend to the death your right to bleed it.

  • Anonymous

    "'It might as well be art,' she said, 'it's not anything else.'"

    The "art" that was banned was something else: it was immoral, unethical, and dangerous (to her health and to ours-- who really wants blood hanging around like that?). Thus, it was no more artwork than a display of the remains of Holocaust victims would be.

  • Anonymous

    In the same vein, we should take the most ridiculous videos from youtube (including kids playing air-guitars to someone purposely falling off a cliff to music video parodies)and put THOSE on public display and call it art.

    Also, just because Schartz's piece is controversial doesn't mean it is art. Paris Hilton is controversial. No one puts HER on display and calls her art.

  • Class of 1987

    Sorry, but I disagree. Yale did the right thing. Read through the hundreds of comments if you haven't already. All the points you bring up have been addressed by many bystanders and the student in question did not "acquit" herself in her essay in the paper. It said nothing of substance but that she originally did what she told the university she did NOT do. How is lying an acquittal? Since you are in the art department and a faculty member, you probably have already seen the work or heard about it over the course of 9 months. Or haven't you? If not, that's part of the problem in my opinion. Faculty in the department should be aware of what's going on with their majors. And if she didn't do the things she said she did, why didn't she just sign the document and have her project exhibited?

  • Recent Alum

    Okay. Here is someone who did not bother reading the 500+ comments and reactions against the "art" before writing her column.

  • Dave-O

    Art should not be making up false analogies.

    "Should Darwinians keep evolution to themselves because Christian fundamentalists are deeply offended? Should Flaubert have kept Madame Bovary under wraps? Would it have been preferable if 60 Minutes had passed on the Abu Ghraib story?"

    No they shouldn't do any of these things. First keep in mind that Darwinians should be scientists and the staff of "60 Minutes" Journalists. That notwithstanding, what Darwinians should not do, is create a fake fossil and pass it off as the missing link. They presented the facts as they were and took the heat for it. "60 minutes" rightly reported the Abu Grahaib story, but CBS news wrongfully told a story based on false documents about President Bush's military record. When you start with "full accountability" even "offensive" material will be forgiven.

    I won't argue with the definition of art put forward here, even though I find it disagreeable. However, Artists should, as the Dean argues, take full accountability for their work. Ms. Shvarts seems willing to take accountability for the offensive topic of her project, and I agree has made at least a thought provoking message on the social purposes of Women's bodies. What she has not done, which is why her project is not on display, is take accountability for the performance aspect of her project and the damage that lack of accountability does to the University. If this is Performance art, there needs to be a "I got you, now think about what you have learned about the way you think about this subject." Otherwise it is a pointless endeavor. And if she received the university's approval, by telling them it would be performance art, and it is the real thing, the university has every right to remove it from the exhibition.

  • Anonymous

    This is a wonderfully thoughtful contribution to a debate that has too often taken the form of Comment #4, hyperbolic, moralizing, and exceptionally devoid of rigor.

    Unfortunately my main worry in this entire affair is that the brave lecturers who will either come to the defense of this student or criticize the administration's response will face retribution.

  • Anonymous

    While I have to compliment you on writing the most coherent op-ed printed so far defending the project, you make the same mistake that Chase did when referencing the Woodward Report. This isn't a controversial essay or a revisionist history, or even a blatantly offensive op-ed, the project was an action. Freedom of speech does not include freedom of action.

    As for your comparison to the person who crucified himself on a volkswagen, I think that is certainly appropriate. Anybody who shoots himself on the arm on purpose deserves to spend time under psychiatric observation, just as Shvarts does if her story is in fact true.

  • Anonymous

    And as long as art takes that stand, that it's allowed to do anything it wants without having to care about the consequences because it's "different," it will continue to be the outcast of modern society.

    Perhaps we're all better off that way, actually…

  • Anonymous

    I guess it's good we only have protests of "free speech" as opposed to the numerous protests from right wing fanatics that would be resulting if Salovey had not banned the "art" aka biohazardous trash. Good job Dean Salovey!

  • The Grad Student

    While I would love to tout the "keep your laws off my art" line with you, we’re overlooking the key difference between your examples and this situation. When your professor responded to inquiries as to the artistic legitimacy of Chris Burden’s work, she was trying to illustrate the importance of, context. If we’re going to relate the idea of context back to Aliza’s situation, it’s important to note that none of the artists/thinkers you mentioned (Chris Budren, Marcel Duchamp, Darwin, or Flaubert) produced their works while attending undergrad and it’s only Budren’s work that a university today should be concerned about. The “university” has both a social and legal responsibility to uphold the welfare of its students, and within that framework Yale, thankfully, wishes to “allow its member’s to think the unthinkable, discuss the unmentionable, and challenge the unchallengeable.” But, yes, even though Yale’s wishes may lead some to do the unimaginable, Yale has to keep in mind that there is indeed a hierarchy within its express commitments to the students at the top of which is their safety.

    If Aliza did indeed commit these miscarriages, and the project was university sanctioned, we definitely have a problem. The issue is, the danger she exposed herself to could have been quite serious and at no point was their any supervision, medical or otherwise. Had this project taken place free from the auspices of the university, or in other words, had Aliza embarked upon this project not as a student but as a professional, there would be no dilemma (or rather, no unintended dilemma). But the reality is quite the contrary, and persuades me to agree with your objection to the university’s notion of “full intellectually accountability”. But instead of deeming it “faulty”, I believe it’s simply misdirected - it is indeed Yale University that failed to exhibit full intellectual accountability.

    For the record, I feel Aliza’s project is truly thought provoking, but unfortunately, now we will have to wait for all the circumstantial questions raised by Yale’s faux pas to subsist before we can ponder her work appropriately. Yale did a disservice to Aliza by failing to ensure her safety, failing to suggest the appropriate arena for this particular work, and failing to take responsibility for their allowing the project to arrive at this point in the first place. It almost serves Yale right to have its real issues muddled by misappropriated discourse on free speech (at the very least it brings us closer to the intended purpose of the project). While Art, in a Platonian sense may be a zone of “free play”, most things are not quite so simple - the social and legal frameworks of the “university” are certainly not.

  • Myself

    You are comparing self mutilation art to murdering. Even Those for abortion do not see anything right by her actions. The university is right by banning her art, though it is wrong of them to make her say somthing that might not be true. The university needs to admit it is wrong by their actions to force her to say somthing that might not hold no truth, but still ban her from displaying such a horrifiying thing. Her "Artwork" is the same as sombody going out and murdering tons of people just and call it artwork. If this is the case then I suppose that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is Art, and so are all these murders commited by serial killers.

  • Columbian

    It might be art in the mind of some beholder, but is it worthy of academic credit? That is the real question.

    One does not need a Yale degree to display bodily fluids to the public. I can see more art as produced by homeless men and women in the NYC subway system. That doesn't entitle them to earning academic credit at an Ivy League university.

  • Alum

    Artistic freedom is not the issue. So long as Shvarts doesn't violate the law, she is free to engage in whatever passes as art these days. She isn't entitled to have her stunts sanctioned by Yale, though. That misguided advisors may have provided that sanction doesn't mean more senior officials shouldn't disassociate the University from it when they learn of it.

  • Anonymous

    Could somebody clarify: it seems that the author's teacher's example "it might as well be art, it's not anything else" is, in fact highly misleading. After all, wasn't Schvarts making a series of political statements? If it is something else, then, isn't it not art?

  • Hieronymus

    Scathing Schoolmarm has a different opinion:
    http://www.margaretsoltan.com/?p=3855

  • Old Blue '73

    Seth,

    If someone took Duchamp's urinal and placed a cup of urine or a clump of feces and wanted the university to display it, would the university be faulty for refusing to display it?

    If an undergrad succeeded in convincing a project advisor to engage in self-mutilation a la Chris Burden, and the college dean found out about it before the resultant work was displayed, would the dean be out of bounds to prohibit the display and discipline the advisor?

    To me the answer to those two questions is a resounding "no". I find it difficult to understand how any reasonable person could say yes.

  • Mike C

    Another person who is EXTRAORDINARILY IMPRESSED with his own brilliance! What a SURPRISE!

    I suppose that you could justify anything as art and I suppose that you would support Yale giving a venue to almost anybody doing almost anything, as long as they labeled it "art."

    This was barbaric, indecent, depraved, and immoral. It was not art, and it should not have been displayed.

    Would you support a public suicide, if labeled "ART"? Would you support a public assisted-suicide, if it was labeled "ART"?

    What wouldn't you support?

  • Marc

    Art? Irrelevant. Biohazard rules come first: http://www.yale.edu/oehs/bioreqV.htm

  • Tus

    I am disappointed at how narrow-minded some people's responses are to this. I'm particularly appalled at responses like those of poster #5 or poster #14. I may not find Shvarts' project to be particularly well conceived, but there's a clear difference between Paris Hilton or serial killers and Shvarts' project.

    Modern art, whether we like it or not, has become about ideas more than aesthetics. As Prof. Kim-Cohen appropriately quoted Duchamp: "the era of taste has been succeeded by the era of meaning." Of course anybody can piss on a blanket and call it art, but what makes it art is the context in which it's displayed and what the artist is trying to convey. Shvarts was clearly trying to say something, and her project was carefully conceived, not thrown together haphazardly, so she at least deserves credit as an artist … whether she's a good one or not is up to you.

    I have some big problems with the tenets of modern art, but that doesn't mean I should dismiss it offhand as trash or equate it to "Paris Hilton." That's just ignorant.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you, Grad Student, for pointing out the discrepancy in both Chase's and Prof Kim-Cohen's op-eds so far.

    The University's actions, although admittedly heavy-handed, were fair. Dean Salovey has a responsibility to care for the welfare and physical (as well as emotional) health of Yale undergrads, and as such the authorities are permitted to refuse to display an exhibit that involved Shvarts' acts of self-mutilation. Prof Kim-Cohen's argument involving Chris Burden also did not take into account the fact that Burden quit the UCLA faculty in 2005 (30 years after his controversial art pieces) because a student tried to emulate his work with a loaded gun on the campus. Prof Burden cited leniency on the part of the UCLA faculty, saying that by not disciplining the student, UCLA had created a "hostile and violent work environment". Ironic, given that Burden had allowed a friend to shoot him in the arm some 30 years before this resignation.

    "In the telephone interview, Mr. Burden said he made a distinction between his own gallery work and a performance in class: "The university is a group of people who agree to be civilized. If the student wanted to rent a studio and play Russian roulette and call it art, then art history will decide.""
    - NYTimes, 2/5/2005
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/05/arts/05shoo.html?_r=1&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&oref=slogin

    All this to say that if Shvarts had done her "project" in an independent studio, on her own funds, then it would be purely a case of freedom of expression and repression of "art". Then Seth Kim-Cohen's opinion would suffice.

    However, in a campus community, especially in a place like Yale which encourages community and for reciprocal example-setting, Shvarts' act of physical harm should not be condoned by the authorities - it is their responsibility to encourage an environment where students will not feel that they can hurt themselves and be rewarded for it by a grade or credit.

    This is also a case of ownership. Green Hall is NOT a public space. The last I checked, Green Hall belonged to the University, and the Art Department has the right to choose which works to display, just as a gallery owner has the right to dismiss art projects which he does not want to be associated with the reputation of his gallery space.

    This is not a discussion about "art", this is a discussion about "art in a university space". Unfortunately, this is not always the same thing.

  • Old Blue '73

    Edits to #19:

    "…took Duchamp's urinal and placed a cup of urine or a clump of feces IN IT…"

    "…convincing a project advisor to APPROVE THE STUDENT'S engagING in self-mutilation. . ."

    Sorry, I can't proofread for crap.

  • Fetus Descending a Staircase

    "Carefully conceived"?

    I was disappointed that the artist's own explanation of her work demonstrated not careful conception (I'm sure you didn't intend the pun), but theoretical claptrap. Maybe that's part of the performance, too. Maybe that's why I prefer Winslow Homer to Jeff Koons.

  • alum

    I can't believe this looney douchebag gets a salary from my esteemed alma mater.

  • marc

    well-said!

  • krasicki

    "'It might as well be art,' she said, 'it's not anything else.'"

    Art is not the world's garbage can nor its village idiot. No, it doesn't have to be art and it isn't.

    It can be a misguided attempt at making art that's not worthy of doing or showing. It can be the work of an imbalanced undergraduate who needs counseling instead of idolization as some kind of oracle.

    Nothing about this piece is thought-provoking. Even Shvarts fails to articulate any reason for this thing's existence as the manufactured alibis drift from "some sort of discourse" to free speech to women's issues to academic freedom - performance art (oh - where does it begin or end??? ), blah, blah, blah. The explanations are as tortured as they are lame.

    If she can't articulate it, she deserves an "F" and the piece is not being shown for that very reason. Fact of the matter is, Shvarts misrepresented this piece repeatedly.

    Her disregard for the storage of her bio-waste in the gallery makes showing such a piece profoundly dubious. Will the blood be exposed to rodents, insects, mosquitoes? What might the effect be if this bio-waste infects someone? Oh, wait… maybe this is part of the performance too?

    Yale has every right to get an explanation of what the hell their students are talking about. In what other course could you get away with such nonsense. "My graduate work? Oh. Maybe its all a dream…"

    This has nothing to do with modern art and everything to do with unsatisfactory undergraduate art study and the faculty's ethical responsibility toward the student body.

    - Frank Krasicki
    http://arttube.blogspot.com

  • Anonymous

    Oh, wow, where to start!
    Well, I'll excuse the emotionally troubled first paragraph and move to the statements of fact.
    Let's start with the second paragraph, regarding Duchamp:
    "In other words, it is no longer part of art’s job description to be beautiful or entertaining or to exhibit good taste. Instead, art has an obligation to say (or to ask) something."
    First of all, suggesting that before Duchamp art's job description was "to be beautiful or entertaining or to exhibit good taste" displays a colossal ignorance of art in the 19th, 18th, or all the way back to it's beginnings. Art has ALWAYS been representational of something else, from the caves of Lascaux to Caravaggio to David to Turner, it has always befuddled and stirred strong passions. The "self conscious" art Danto refers to was that of a particular era and country- L'Academie Francaise des Beaux-Arts. This paragraph is typical of the myopia and parochialism of 20th century art, which is so self referential and self conscious that it can't just stand there, it has to start blabbering away. For the record, Duchamp's point was not that his art had meaning, but that the context in which it was seen gave it its particular meaning. Thus, a urinal in a museum can now be appreciated as art. He was poking fun at the Academie: since it's in a museum, it must be art! He was also funny, a quality his more earnest followers for the last century so obviously lack.
    Third paragraph:
    "one of the most valuable lessons I have ever learned: “It might as well be art,” she said, “it’s not anything else.”
    Sez who!? I can think of plenty of things it is. The grandiose gestures of a narcissistic masochist. Or a serious call for psychiatric help. Calling it Art for lack of ideas of what to call it is a stupendous lack of imagination, especially coming from the professor of a creative discipline.
    As for the last sentence: "something essentially beautiful about art, it is that it is granted the freedom to engage problems without a responsibility to solve them." There is something infantile about this. I can make a mess, but don't ask me to pick it up. Fine, but when the time comes to clean up, don't be surprised if you're not included.
    Fourth paragraph: The author refers to a "free zone of play", "prior to or separate from their availability and use in the real, legislated, world" Well, OK, but when play comes into conflict with the "real and legislated world", play has to answer to such laws. In this case, specifically, University regulations concerning body fluids, the University's responsibility to student safety, etc.
    "It is our intellectual imperative to insure that art not be confused with politics, law, business, or science."
    Well, somebody should have told Ms Schvarts, as she unequivocally asserts that her art is impregnated not with babies, but with all sorts of political, law, and science ramifications. There are negative legal implications to the University if her account is true. The University has every right to question the student and resolve the ambiguity that she seems to cherish over truth.
    Fifth paragraph:
    "What would constitute “full intellectual accountability”?
    Let me spell it out for you: telling the truth. Did you do what you said you did? By the way, they asked her, she admitted she lied. Since the raison d'etre of the University is the search for truth through the free interchange of ideas, perpetrating a lie is antithetical to the core of the University's existence. The only artistry this woman has shown is in evasive statements such as "It remains ambiguous whether there was ever a fertilized ovum or not" and "piece exists only in its telling. This telling can take textual, visual, spatial, temporal and performative forms — copies of copies of which there is no original." Get it? There is no original.
    Penultimate paragraph:
    " She has posed them…in a work of art" False, she posed them in a press release to the whole world. Her political rantings took precedence over the Art itself. The claim would be believable if she had submitted it as the rest of the students did, to the art department.
    As to the last paragraph others have addressed the Woodward report. Suffice it to say Ms Schvartz could have one upped the University and signed an affidavit verifying the truth of her statements and she would have been solid and unassailable legally or academically. But she didn't. But all the member's rights to blah blah blah… do not include the expectation that the University will back up a pack of lies broadcast to the world because some student labels the lies as art, or expect the University to go along with violating biohazard code violations because "That's not menstrual blood, you silly philistine, that's ART"
    If there is indeed one special responsibility of the University, it's to educate every single student that "Saying it's so doesn't make it so", for there lies the road to the devaluation of truth, power politics- might makes right, ignorance, etc. Discuss the unmentionable? Yes. Lie? No.

  • Someone's Mom

    The public schools in my area do not have art in elementary schools. Art appreciation is a volunteer group of mothers who once per month bring a print to class and help the students learn about the artist, the style and provide the tools to allow the students to create in similar medium.
    It has always angered me that art was eliminated from the curriculum until I read the comments by this art professor. Good heavens, if the art professor at Yale thinks this is art, I am now very glad indeed that there is no art teacher at my daughter's school.
    This reminds me of the Emperor's new clothes. Someone needs to tell the art department that this is not art - maybe an elementary school student, well, no considering the content maybe not.

  • y07

    Excellent article.

  • BAdams

    Seth,

    I get your point but there is a difference about an "artist" drilling himself with bolts for display and purposely create a human life for the sole purpose of destruction and presentation. It is a slippery slope, right. Why not, then, display serial presentation of 6th month old fetuses carried only for the purpose of placement on a coat rack. There have to be limits to art, don't you think?

  • carii

    This man is a lecturer? This is art? Someone get serious, or a life.

  • Anonymous

    can we fire this navel gazer lecturer, too? wake up. math and science make the world go round. the rest of you are just dead weight.

  • Anonymous

    Chris Burden resigned his faculty appointment to protest UCLA's decision not to expel a student whose performance piece was playing Russian roulette in a class with a realistic pistol then leaving the room and setting off a firecracker outside it. Accused of hypocrisy, Burden maintained, “there are rules of speech and decorum” in a University.

  • Art on Art

    My first thought on hearing this:
    "'It might as well be art,' she said, 'it's not anything else.'"

    If there is no category in which to place something, perhaps we need to create a new category.

    Science and religion both inhabited the realm of philosophy at one point in time. It soon became necessary to separate the two and create the new category of "science." This is long overdue in the art realm. We need a new category for the political rantings of psychotics.

  • Gabrielle

    I have been reading this story for a week, this is the first time I have compelled to post a comment.

    I find this column almost as appalling as Shvart's "project" mostly because it was written by someone on the Art faculty!

    I have worked as an artist all of my live (going on 50) I have painted, been a professional dancer, sculptor. Now I am a freelance artist designer. Because I didn't have my parents support to be an artist, I had to pay my own way through school, and work very, very hard to have a career in art.

    This insane idea that anything and everything can be art because it can't be anything else is a slap in the face to anyone who has worked so hard to achieve artistic excellence! And that someone in the Art Faculty is supporting it is nauseating and explains how this kind of situation was allowed to go on.

    I studied Duchamp in Art School, he had a vast body of work, not just the one piece. He was pushing the edge sure, but people now are just pushing to be pushing, with no message in their work other than "look at how out there I can be"

    This whole story has disturbed me for a week, this column has now gotten me incensed. I think the poster above said it perfectly so I will leave now by quoting their thoughts-
    "The "art" that was banned was something else: it was immoral, unethical, and dangerous (to her health and to ours-- who really wants blood hanging around like that?). Thus, it was no more artwork than a display of the remains of Holocaust victims would be."

  • ming lee

    I heartily applaud the University's brave decision to uphold true standards and ban such a monstrosity.

    Obviously this author is one of the reasons the art department produced such a mixed up young person.

    She certainly needs reconditioning from being bombarded by such cultish 'group think'.

    My only regret is that the school paper does not focus on some of the other artists that perhaps truly did do wonderful thought provoking work that didn't involve anything disgusting and degrading. That would be a refreshing change. Ari Shvarts is so yesterday,

    ming

  • Another mom

    While her work is appaulling, I don't think the University should ban it. That is what she wants as the point was never to display anything but to provoke a reaction. I believe she is a lying and find it shameful that faculty - sorry, humans- in the art department mentored her and taught her this constituted art.

    "'It might as well be art,' she said, 'it's not anything else.'" This is by far the stupidest cmment I have ever read form a Yale professor. Maybe this statement is a work of art?

    If someone found a fossilized human turd at an archealogical site would they say it was an indication of artistic expression in that society? Maybe they would if they went to Yale!

  • Jonathan Zachariou

    Dear Seth Kim-Cohen,

    You are another example of the intellectually cocooned who think that everything is a debatable subject and an opportunity for learning. We have learned once more that the institutions of highest education in the land are occasionally drunk with intellectual arrogance and forget common sense. I applaud the administration for banning the "art work" even if the incentive is to avoid a public relations disaster or even legal complications. What is unfortunate is that there is always someone like you who is more enlightened than all the rest of the ignorant world and will champion the cause of free art or intellectual stimulation completely missing the point that what this student attempted to do was to put human embryonic remains on public display with video footage of her abortive attempts as background and call it creative, question asking, art! In our new western world of moral relativity, we are so desensitized as to what is right and wrong that the only thing keeping this "art" from being displayed is that it might be a bio-hazard!

  • lisa

    so much to say, but i'll just reiterate what the wise souls have already said… "immoral".

    it is not art.

    simple as that.

  • k

    Funny you mentioned Burden. Chris Burden resigned from his teaching position in CA when a student who brought a supposedly real gun to class was NOT punished by that school's administration. Interesting, yes, for someone who had himself shot for art's sake. Why did he take that action when he, himself, had done something similar as an art piece? Because Burden's piece was done at a private gallery, not at a university. You see, the university cannot and will not sanction disruptive or danger ous behavior. You can do what you want on your own time and in your own space. While at school, you are on university property. If you mention Burden, do your research.

  • rankola

    <<If there is still something essentially beautiful about art, it is that it is granted the freedom to engage problems without a responsibility to solve them.>>

    What convenient intellectual hooey--i guess that's why being an artist is synonymous with slacker if the whole premise of creating form and developing contextual meaning and not being responsible for it. If that's the case, then heckfire, everyone could call their own lives "performance art" and not be responsible for paying mortgages, working, bathing, etc.

    In all seriousness, the potential act of displaying biohazard in a public spectacle such as an art exhibition creates liability for the University. Let's, for example put syringes out, we don't know if they've been used, what was in them, or how they were obtained. There could be evidence of fluids in them, say some remnants, that may have a red hue. Then perhaps have an fishbowl out containing red viscous fluid, that could perhaps be blood, and slap a + sign on it. Could that mean all the blood samples were HIV + blood, or could it be blood rendered from a a donor with HVB or HVC (hepatitis virus B or C)? What if an HIV + artist wanted to display his or her blood products? Would MOMA accept it? What would the potential for a prank sabotage be? What would the potential for exposure be for the institution should any damage occur to the piece whereupon the products were suddenly exposed?

    What you have here is a potential blood product--if it really is blood product. Regardless, it was not censorship, it can be viewed as safety, and Yale was CYA-ing itself. Why else would they want a signed statement from Schvats pertaining to the products in the exhibit? I work with blood products on a daily basis, the potential for needle stick is very real. I would not want to go to an art exhibit that displays someone's biological contents just so the originator of the body of work could get their intellectual ya-ya's off.

    Really, that's all Schavits and Lindman are doing. They created the spectacle and the ensuing controversy is the actual art piece--all starting with the Schavits' statement. They created the situation, and are observing the performance of all that are participating: The administrators, alumni, classmates, the general public, the media outlets. It's all just a media stunt, whereupon a they a statement on the critique of the spectacle create will probably be released at a later date, just resparking the whole think.

    Hopefully, we'll all be a little wiser and tune it out.

  • Aaron

    Shame on a university that would revoke a student's right to free expression. Isn't the point of going to school to learn equally about the world and yourself? It's my opinion that, within the boundaries of not causing any physical harm to anyone who has not given consent, we should be allowed and encouraged to go beyond the "acceptable" norm. If the university were to allow this exhibit to stand, it would not be condoning anything except our free will as people. It is the university's opinion that this art is inappropriate, but who defines what opinion is the correct one. In the end, the school is not doing any damage to the reputation of Ms. Shvarts: Instead, Yale has branded a scarlet letter onto its own chest. Students can pay countless amounts of money to be sealed in a neat little box of appropriateness, a crafty machine pumping out picture-perfect programed lemmings.