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.