Official: No human blood in studio

As Aliza Shvarts ’08 remains silent about her controversial senior art project, a Yale official said that a scientific test found no traces of human blood in the Davenport College senior’s art studio, although there was no way to determine whether the project in its entirety had been examined.

The disclosure came after The New Haven Register reported Wednesday — citing an unnamed source — that Shvarts’ art project itself had been tested and came up negative for human blood. The official said that report was inaccurate.

In her studio last week, Aliza Shvarts ’08 holds a tape she claims shows her bleeding into a cup for her senior art project.
In her studio last week, Aliza Shvarts ’08 holds a tape she claims shows her bleeding into a cup for her senior art project.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official is not authorized to speak publicly about the test.

Reached by telephone Wednesday, Shvarts declined to comment.

The finding raises questions about whether Shvarts actually inseminated herself and induced miscarriages for her senior project, which was originally scheduled to go on display Tuesday. Shvarts had repeatedly asserted to the News that the art installation contains blood gathered from her supposed miscarriages over the last nine months — a claim the test results contradict.

In a tour of her studio last Thursday, Shvarts’ showed two News reporters video footage that she claimed would be included in the final piece. The footage showed Shvarts sitting in a shower stall for hours before moaning and bleeding into a cup. The blood, Shvarts said, was later collected and frozen.

Meanwhile, the dean of the Yale School of Art, Robert Storr, released a second statement in which he expressed frustration over Shvarts’ project and asked the public not to overlook the work of the 20 other students who have exhibits on display.

Storr said no faculty members or students within the School of Art have seen Shvarts’ purported project, “the very nature of which remains in doubt,” he said.

“Among the many regrettable consequences of the furor that this hypothetical project has engendered is the way in which it has overshadowed attention to the fully realized works by that student’s contemporaries,” Storr said in the statement. “I would like therefore to draw attention to the fact that the exhibition of their senior projects has opened as scheduled in the galleries of the School of Art. At such time as the phantom work so excessively debated becomes known to us and its substance and genesis is clarified beyond any doubt it may join the work already on view.”

But as the art show opens today for its third day of public viewing, the Davenport College senior’s installation will continue to be conspicuously absent. The University has maintained that Shvarts’ project is nothing more than a “creative fiction” and has refused to allow it to be exhibited until she makes a public statement asserting as much.

The stalemate had not been resolved by Wednesday evening, and Yale spokeswoman Helaine Klasky said by phone that it was still unclear whether Shvarts’ art project would eventually be put up for display.

“Nothing has been determined yet,” she said.

The Shvarts controversy burst onto the national stage last Thursday after the News published an article about her purported project. Yale released a statement later that day asserting that Shvarts had admitted to senior officials last week that she never impregnated herself and did not induce any miscarriages.

But later that day, Shvarts called that statement “ultimately inaccurate” and denied her project was a hoax. Klasky subsequently said Shvarts’ denial was “part of her performance” and that the student had promised she would deny having admitted her project was not real if the University said that publicly.

On Sunday night, Yale College Dean Peter Salovey said Shvarts’ project would not be installed for public viewing at the Undergraduate Art Senior Project Show when it opened Tuesday morning unless she offered a written statement confessing that her project was, as Salovey called it, “a work of fiction” and that she had not tried to inseminate herself or induce miscarriages.

She would also need to promise that her project did not include any human blood, Salovey said.

Monday came and went without any resolution, and a horde of media that had gathered outside Green Hall was left disappointed Tuesday morning when the art show opened with Shvarts’ display nowhere to be found.

Had it been installed, her project would have been hard to miss. While showing plans of the exhibit to News reporters last week, Shvarts said she planned to construct a four-foot-wide cube made from plastic piping that would be wrapped in hundreds of feet of plastic sheeting and suspended from the ceiling of the gallery. Between the layers of the plastic sheeting, she said, would be coatings of Vaseline mixed with the blood she had collected over the previous nine months.

Projected onto the sides of the sheeting, she said, would be videos showing her purported miscarriages.

Real blood or not, Shvarts’ project was one that Yale officials said should not have been allowed to be undertaken in the first place. Over the weekend, the University announced that unspecified disciplinary action had been taken against two unnamed faculty members who had knowledge of Shvarts’ project.

Shvarts’ senior project adviser, School of Art lecturer Pia Lindman, has not returned repeated requests for comment over the last week, and faculty in the School of Art have referred all comment to the Office of Public Affairs.

Shvarts said last week that Lindman and Art Director of Undergraduate Studies Henk van Assen, as well as Davenport College Dean Craig Harwood, had known about and supported her project.

Lindman is believed to be one of the professors who was disciplined, but a University official said Wednesday that contrary to what was suggested in the News earlier this week, van Assen was not one of the two individuals against whom the University took, in Salovey’s words, “appropriate action.”


  • Alum '02

    I'm confused. I keep typing in "" and I keep somehow getting to The Onion.

  • Anonymous

    On one hand, I feel a little sorry for Aliza if she told her advisors from the beginning that she wasn't really going to inseminate and abort for her project. On the other hand, she doesn't want to present her work unless we believe she did.

    Aren't you getting a little old to expect us to pretend to believe you?

  • Hieronymus

    Oy--so much for "investigative journalism." Can't you folks ferret out any facts? And why not do the "human interest" (a.k.a., tabloid) angle and seek comments from her parents? A whole host of journalistic ideas springs to mind.

  • Anonymous

    great: another day, another non-story. what difference does it make if no blood was found in her studio? did it ever cross anybody's mind that many art majors never even use their studio space?

  • sodak

    at least I had a tiny amount of respect for her when it was thought to be real- now, bad project, bad dragging ones school through hell.

  • sodak

    so was their blood in the project or not? not the studio- the project that noone has seen. what does no blood in the studio prove???

  • Mr. E

    Dear YDN,
    Please stop reporting on this issue and publishing editorials about it. It makes the daily look bad. There are many other things happening on campus for you to write about.
    Thank you.

  • Mitch

    Ok, has anyone considered that this is all part of the artists' exhibit? Performance artist…remember? Good job there young lady!

  • The Grad Student

    Let this be a letter to Robert Storr.

    Dear Robert,

    The hostility by which you meet Aliza and her, “unacceptable project” is understood to be demonstrative of your pathological inability to take responsibility for a fiasco that incidentally took place at your school and under your leadership.

    With regards to your last statement, I’m sorry to inform you that the art project is quite "realized" (kudos on the WSJ article, Aliza), but if you wanted Aliza's work to mesh better with the other 20 students, you may have done a better job managing the proposal/oversight process from the beginning.

    Regardless, remember that Aliza is still a student at your school and while you’re lucky that no one is “taking the appropriate action” against you yet, you might as well act with some decency and character while the coast is clear.

    Oh, and Robert, be my guest and forward this to the rest of the administration who’s complicit in this mess.

    With sincere pleasure,

    The Grad Student

  • Curious

    It'd be sort of funny if it turned out that she didn't actually do anything except collect some footage of herself having her period. I'm no artist, but some of the work art students do seems quite labor-intensive. So she was able to do far less actual work and get a lot more attention than the other art students.

  • gidge

    Yes, ironically, the hours and hours of work put into the art show by every student other than Schvarts will be overlooked. I'm sorry that every art student must suffer for the pretentious and completely self satisfying nature of one student who believes that she alone is deserving of any attention. pathetic. She'll probably end up blaming the school or society or other students in her "final thoughts" of her project which I'm sure we'll all have to be subjected to, whether we like it or not. sigh.

  • Douglas Monroe

    I get it, I get it. The purpose of this excerise is to (1) create a work of art that (2) destabilizes normative assumptions about bodily forms and bodily functions. That being the case, my view is that the “artist” has failed on both counts. The problem, and all art students should know this, is that there is no established set of aesthetic criteria to place a work of “performance art” into social perspective. Is it art, or is it self-indulgent garbage? Given that there seems to be little agreement about what “this” actually “is”, as evidenced by the op-eds and the blogs, it’s difficult to move on to a meaningful debate about its merits, or lack thereof. Put another way, it fails to provoke the kind of debate the “artist” claims she was aiming to incite.

    Another problem: the concept itself is so repugnant that it alienates its would-be audience. I imagine the “work” will attract far less in the way of intellectual curiosity, and far more in the way of morbid fascination e.g. the types of people who incessantly download and view the “two girls, one cup” video from YouTube.

    Moreover, debate about the authenticity of the acts e.g. is it a miscarriage, or just menstruation, precludes self-relfection about our “normative” assumptions as individuals, and as a culture about the human body, its forms and functions.

    Ulitmately, the only issue this “work” calls into question is the mental health status of the person who created it.

  • realist

    I'm personally disgusted by this "artist"'s entire project. Has anyone given real consideration to the possibility she's mentally ill?

    If she really were willing to impregnate herself repeatedly for the purpose of then aborting the fetus, wouldn't that make her a sociopath?

    Personally, I think the whole thing is a hoax. But to even come up with an idea like this, girl is crazy. Not an "artist."

  • Sarah

    Praise God!!! I thank you for getting this story out! The world needs to know what kind of retched people there are all around us! MURDER as an art project!!! I pray for this world and ask that you ALL do the same. This is not only a horrible thing by my standards but by the worlds standards as well. I pray that this girl see her wrongdoings and ask for forgiveness.

  • Mary

    I agree with Sarah that wretched is a good word to describe this entire mess. I, for one, am really tired of the way the word "art" is used to make anything presented by the "artist" as untouchable in some way. Not subject to any real criticism by anyone,least of all by those of us who are considered less than educated if we are disgusted by what the "artist" has done. And you want to know why so many of them are starving artists? What's the point of this vile project? Is there a message,a question, anything that will give the viewer pause?
    The only thing that gives me pause is to wonder how this girl managed to stay in what is supposed to be a school of "higher" learning. Is she a relative of Howard Stern? He uses the first ammendment like a club to excuse every kind of base language the same way it would appear this girl is using the word "art" to excuse herself. Neither one of them is worth all this press. Get it right, Yale. Don't hold yourself above the community you live in. This is an opportunity for you to take a stand for what is good and right. We're watching.

  • South Dakota

    "All induced abortions, whether surgically or chemically induced, terminate an entire, unique, living human being, a human being separated from his or her mother, as a matter of scientific and biological fact," says the text to be voted upon in South Dakota on November 4.

    Thanks for the push, Aliza!

  • mapplethorpian

    Two words: "Piss Christ"

  • curioushomosapien

    I for one am have contradictory thoughts about this so-called "art project". For one, I think that pro-life and pro-choice activist should not interfere for the projects purpose was not to support abortaficient herbs and the right a women has to make a choice. On the other hand I am appalled that someone would display thier body in such a way that it were to depict a horror movie in which she is the main phycopath character experimenting with her body with no obvious sense of respect for her immunity as a human.