Sunday, April 20, 2008

Hoaxes, Performance Art, and Crazy Liberals

A news article was recently making the rounds on the Internet. The news article concerned a senior undergraduate at Yale University who majored in art and who apparently has a penchant for causing a scene. You see, my friend Jacob forwarded the article from the Yale Daily News to myself and to a few other college friends with the following disclaimer: "I'm really embarrassed that she is one of my peeps, and possibly a distant relation to [ Matt ]."

By that, Jacob meant that this woman was Jewish, and that her last name was an iteration of my last name, [ last name deleted for Google purposes ]. I read the following article with disgust. The headline: "For Senior, Abortion a Medium for Art, Political Discourse." The article went on to discuss a girl whose senior art project was "a documentation of a nine-month process during which she artificially inseminated herself 'as often as possible' while periodically taking abortifacient drugs to induce miscarriages. Her exhibition will feature video recordings of these of forced miscarriages as well as preserved collections of the blood from the process."

Of course, I was absolutely disgusted and mortified that anyone would do this. I remembered from my undergraduate days that there are some fairly crazy, wacky liberals out there, but this absolutely took the cake. My friend Ryan fired back a reply: "I don't know what to say. That may well be one of the worst things I've ever heard. I think she's a vile human being, unfit for -- and undeserving of -- that title."

I responded as well: "I almost cried when I read that article. I cannot believe such a person exists -- and I hesitate to even dignify her with classification as a person."

I forwarded the article around to other friends, and the expression of disgust was universal. Liberal or conservative, nobody could believe that she would do this, or that Yale University would allow a public exhibition of the project, as the newspaper article stated.

The Drudge Report picked up the student newspaper article, and from there it spread like wildfire. The Washington Post, CNN, the London Times, every major news outlet throughout the world picked it up. And so the shock and outrage spread internationally.

But something didn't quite sit right with me. After my initial emotion fueled sadness and shock and anger, my rational side kicked in, and I sent the following e-mail to my friends:
I was thinking, and I cannot imagine this is real. This has to be a hoax. I cannot believe even Yale would okay a public installation of her blood and videos of her miscarriages. And I find it very hard to believe that she could successfully pull off these miscarriages (come on, let's call them what they are, abortion) multiple times with herbs, without either being unable to abort the child, or without causing major damage to herself.

"The to pull off a hoax, all she really had to do was trick the Yale student paper. From there all the other media would pick it up and it would take off with very little additional verification. She'd simply get some cohorts to corroborate it via e-mail, and Yale would be silent for a while as they tried to figure out what the truth was. If you look at the original Yale article, they weren't even able to talk to her adviser.

"She will probably justify the whole thing as performance art, or ' hoax art in cyberspace' or something.

"Then again I could just be rationalizing all this because I don't want to believe anyone is that evil."
Well, my friends, it appears my Bullshit Detector is functioning properly. Yale University later released a statement:
"Ms. Shvarts is engaged in performance art. Her art project includes visual representations, a press release and other narrative materials. She stated to three senior Yale University officials today, including two deans, that she did not impregnate herself and that she did not induce any miscarriages. the entire project is an art piece, a creative fiction designed to draw attention to the ambiguities surrounding form and function of a woman's body. She is an artist and has the right to express herself through performance art. Had these acts been a real, they would have violated basic ethical standards and raised serious mental and physical health concerns."
I am glad that I was right. It brings some level of satisfaction and even some vindication among friends who claimed that as much as they wished it were a hoax, they feared it was real. It also makes me feel relieved that such a horrible, heinous person does not exist in reality.

That said, Ms. Shvarts is still a vile human being. Not quite as vile as she was, but anyone who would purposely try to mislead the world about such a sensitive and delicate matter, and be so cavalier about the whole thing, all in the name of "her art," deserves only marginally more respect than one who would purposely and repeatedly impregnate and abort.

Moreover, I am dismayed that the Yale University office of public affairs is so quick to defend this woman, under the flimsy rationale that "she is an artist" and she has "the right to express herself through performance art." Calling oneself an artist does not give a free pass to act as irresponsibly and insensitively as one desires, all in the name of art. It does not free one from the bounds of civility and decency that characterize a healthy society.

I am all for artistic expression, but pulling a massive hoax and calling it "performance art" meant to "draw attention" to the function of a woman's body is disgusting, and reminds me why I joined the conservative student newspaper while at college. Academia is a crazy place, and they believe some messed up things inside those ivory towers. I am glad to no longer be a part of that, but dismayed that the insanity continues.


Kal said...

I've got to disagree with you, about the girl in question being vile and that she should have been censored by Yale. Her project caused discussion and brought about awareness on the national (and probably global) level. That, my friend, is art.

jenny said...

i first read about this over at warren ellis' blog and thought, "gee, this is going to get some people totally bent out of shape."

somehow, matt, i didn't really expect you to be one of them. although your reaction completely validates her concept.

Matt said...

Trying to get a rise out of people by acting like a savage isn't a valid concept.

Di said...

Did you copy this post from II? CHEATER??