The Yale “abortion art” scandal has gotten a lot of press, and well it should. Aliza Shvarts’s senior art project — in which she (allegedly) artificially inseminated herself, took herbal abortificants, and displays the “results” of her self-induced miscarriages — is disturbing on several levels. The project is being hailed by some as “provocative,” intended solely to stimulate discourse, rather than purely shock. It’s hard to imagine, though, that Shvarts did not anticipate the shock such a work would induce.
The Yale Daily News notes the ideological drive behind such a project by quoting her:
“I believe strongly that art should be a medium for politics and ideologies, not just a commodity… I think that I’m creating a project that lives up to the standard of what art is supposed to be…”
Of course, this isn’t the first time art has been hijacked by ideology. But even Piss Christ, the controversial piece by American photographer Andres Serrano in which he submerged a crucifix in urine, didn’t go this far. Whereas Serrano’s work employed an object (albeit, one deemed sacred by many), this art student used living things — perhaps even the most sacred of all living things — as “a medium for politics and ideologies.”
Sure, the nature of abortion is hotly debated in our culture. But if, as some assert, a fetus is just a “blob of tissue” or a soulless parasite, then why not use it as a prop in an art project? However, the strength (or shock value) of Shvarts’s piece, is precisely in this ambiguity. We just don’t know when a human being gets his or her soul. This is what makes her “ideological art” so volatile.
Not only does this project reveal the ripening of liberal philosophies so prevalent in American universities (see Brett McCracken’s Abortion as Art? (Critical Theories Gone Berserk) ), but it’s also a watermark for societal tolerance and indifference. Had Ms. Shvarts blended animals — say squirrels, cats or hamsters — and displayed their liquefied remains for her upcoming senior project, animal rights groups and the PC patrol would be in an uproar. But in our culture, unborn human beings are, apparently, fair game.
Not only does this hideous act, floated under the guise of art and protected by its academic adherents, force us to re-consider the boundaries of art, it demands we re-think the mystery and value of the human soul.
Are we nothing more than pigment on a canvas?
According to the YDN article, art major Juan Castillo said that he was intrigued by “the creativity and beauty of [Aliza Shvarts’s] senior project.” I’m sorry, but when our art majors can intentionally abort fetuses and call them a thing of “creativity and beauty,” I can’t help but think that the end is near.