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.
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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.”