Shvarts to present new piece at Tate Modern

Aliza Shvarts ’08 is presenting her latest work in London on Saturday — no, not that one.

The world has seen and heard little from Shvarts — whose original senior art project included videotapes of what she claimed were repeated induced miscarriages — since the Yale alumna quietly graduated in May. Now, she’s back: in an event sponsored by London’s Tate Modern museum.

Shvarts is among 10 artists scheduled to present works as part of a larger program examining what the gallery describes as “an unmissable opportunity to examine the relationship between culture and technology with a range of leading thinkers and practitioners.” Her piece is not the supposed documentation of self-insemination and repeated miscarriages that stirred controversy this spring, but rather a new work, about which few details are known.

Event curator and Yale art-history lecturer Seth Kim-Cohen said he invited Shvarts to present a piece at the event — which will consist mainly of film screenings and live presentations — after she became the subject of intense media scrutiny in late April.

“She seemed to be more affected by the media than most of us are in our whole lifetimes,” Kim-Cohen said in a telephone interview last week. “I thought she would have some reaction to how the media manipulates stories and truths.”

The two-hour event, “Grammaphones, Films, Typewriters,” is part of a two-day program at the Tate to discuss and examine the work of German media theorist Friedrich Kittler.

“The artists present works that engage the exigencies and allowances of media,” reads an explanation of the event found on the museum’s Web site. “Flirting with the inchoate, challenging the virtue at the root of both the virtual and the virtuoso, exploiting the transportability of the message while acknowledging its recalcitrance.”

A spokeswoman for the Tate Modern, the British national gallery of international modern art and one of four galleries that display works from the vast Tate Collection, did not provide details about Shvarts’ work. Spokeswoman Bomi Odufunade only confirmed the piece was not Shvarts’ controversial April project and emphasized that the Tate is not exhibiting Shvarts’ work in a broader sense.

“It’s not going to be in the Tate gallery,” Odufunade said. “Nothing is on display. It’s two seconds of one event and that is it.”

Shvarts herself did not return repeated telephone messages and has not spoken publicly since the controversy erupted in April.

Contacted last week, University officials — including Yale College Dean Peter Salovey — said they did not know about Shvarts’ impending participation in the Tate event.

Shvarts attracted national outrage in late April when she told the News that she had repeatedly inseminated herself and filmed repeated self-induced miscarriages as part of a video display for her senior art project. Subsequent investigations by the News and the University failed to determine whether Shvarts in fact impregnated herself, and Shvarts eventually submitted a different project as her senior thesis after the University refused to allow her purported abortion art to be displayed.

While most art faculty remained mum as the saga puttered along, Kim-Cohen criticized the University for its handing of the situation, calling for Yale officials to admit they made a mistake and allow her work to be displayed.

“I too am a little troubled by what I’ve heard about Aliza Shvarts’ art,” he wrote in an op-ed piece published in the News in April. “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.”

Shvarts graduated from the University last month, but she did not attend Commencement to receive her diploma alongside her Davenport College peers. Salovey said a rumor that the University had forbidden Shvarts from showing up at Commencement in return for being allowed to receive her degree was “absolutely not true” and that it was her decision not to attend the festivities.

Meanwhile, the mystery of whether Shvarts actually performed her claimed self-induced miscarriages continues. “We could never determine unambiguously what she did,” Salovey said.


  • Peabody Museum 1950's

    Svartz'z human body art has an ancestry :Ahab dousing newly forged harpoons in human blood from the crew of the Pequod to kill Moby Dick, circa 1841 ; Wolfsheim wearing human molar cufflinks in The Great Gatsby, circa 1928, ironically and grimly premonitory of the Holocaust by ten years; the Koran, transcribed with pens using the blood of Saddam Hussein while he was still in power circa 1990; even Yale's Peabody Museum offering a display in the 1950's which I saw with my own eyes: nine glass jars with a human fetus in each, one for each month of the nine month development.
    Schvartz has pushed the buttons of rather hypocritical society I'd say.

  • Anonymous

    headline is totally misleading, sirs.

  • je2010

    I've seen similar exhibits of fetuses, and the fetuses were all natural miscarriages.

    In the 1950s, abortion wasn't even legal yet.

  • Ken McKenna

    Ahab and Wolfsheim are fictional, never "doused" or "wore" anything and were presented as deplorable, unhinged characters. Saddam Hussein was a homicidal lunatic, constantly and broadly condemned, eventually removed from power and executed by his own people. This is the man whose interactions with civilized society are supposed to demonstrate a "rather hypocritical society?" Sheesh. And a 1950's Peabody Museum biology display of fetuses almost certainly not aborted demonstrates exactly nothing about a creepy Yale undergraduate who claims to have deliberately created and destroyed several of her own young.

    If there is hypocrisy here, it's that of the Tate - if any part of its decision to display Shvarts' work is supported by the fuss surrounding her talentless senior project. That kind of hypocrisy is sadly pretty common among art institutions of many stripes.

  • Peabody Museum Goer l950's

    What has legal or illegal abortion got to do with human body art at the Peabody Museum? Broken record.

  • Silli-2010

    Can Aliza Shvarts not become a public figure? Please? At least not until she is famous.

    Hopefully the YDN can call it a day now, and feel no further need to follow her every footsteps, all the while sprinkling every observation with a recollection back to end of her senior year.

    Really, this is tabloid journalism at this point.

    Look! Oprah's wearing a new gown!

  • Alum

    File under "Not newsworthy."

  • Hieronymus

    A presentation by "leading thinkers and practitioners?"

    Mein G-tt: leading thinker? Practitioner?


    So, Shvartz gets what she has craved--always craved: attention (and I am feeding her too).

    One point: does anyone else find anything…odd about the first post… What are the odds that so soon after the update someone (and 70+ no less!) so morbidly PRO Shvarts would have happened to check the YDN (I, admittedly, happen to check it as part of my morning ritual web surf). Just something…odd.

  • Hieronymus

    Oh, one more thing: "Contacted last week, University officials — including Yale College Dean Peter Salovey — said they did not know about Shvarts' impending participation in the Tate event."

    Dear YDN: And why the freak WOULD they?! She's a G-R-A-D-U-A-T-E (ostensibly), so…why would Yale be monitoring her activities?

    Another DUH moment for YDN.

  • Oprah Winfrey

    No doubt the Tate and Kim-Cohen would have arranged for a far larger role in this upcoming "unmissable opportunity" if Shvarts' senior project had consisted of her late term, self-fertilized, aborted fetus pickled in formaldahyde - in the style of the Peabody Museum and Tate favorite Damien Hirst. Or at least she had CLAIMED that's what it was. Maybe she'll do that at the Tate. Talk about an "unmissable opportunity!" The world and the British taxpayers who pay for the Tate's shenanigans can only sit with baited breath until the unmissable holy day! Buty who pays for Kim-Cohen?

  • Peabody etc.

    Of course Ahab and Wolfsheim are fictional. As far as I can tell, so is Shvarts's art.

    I was a child at my mother's hand when I was both horrified and fascinated by the Peabody display: sorry to disappoint the "ageist" 70 commentator. I suppose Picasso, Nevelsson and Bourgeois in their 90's would have registered on that blogger's irrelevant scale.

    As for commenting "so soon"--I receive the YDN automated e-dition. I have no control over when it arrives on my computer. Sorry to disappoint again, my dear Watson---my dear Hieronymous.

    Yes. Saddam Hussein was a homicidal maniac. So too Ahab. And perhaps Shvarts's art is a mirror to a society which worships statistics and is blind to one: 36 million medically terminated pregnancies since Roe.

    Any fool knows that abortion is used as a form of Moday-morning birth control by a society which long ago sold its soul to the gods of hedonism and materialism. At least be that introspectively honest about it.

    And sin of sins: Ms Schvarts the artist "wants attention". The only artist I know who didn't want attention was Emily Dickinson----and her introversion was as "morbid" as one blogger asserts my interest in this topic to be.

  • Dan

    "We could never determine unambiguously what she did," Salovey said.

    I don't remember such nuance and indecision on Salovey's part 2 months ago when he seemed absolutely certain of everything he was saying.