The University will not allow Aliza Shvarts ’08 to display her controversial senior art project at its scheduled opening Tuesday unless she confesses in writing that the exhibition is a work of fiction, Yale officials said Sunday.
The University, meanwhile, acknowledged that it has disciplined two faculty members for their role in allowing Shvarts to proceed with a project that she claimed included nine months of repeated artificial inseminations followed by self-induced miscarriages.
As news of Shvarts’ project swept across the Web last week and attracted the ire of students and private citizens alike, Shvarts and the University engaged in a match of he-said/she-said: Shvarts stood by her project as she described it earlier last week in a news release, while the University — claiming Shvarts had privately denied actually committing the acts in question — dismissed it as a hoax that amounted to nothing more than “performance art.”. . .
Two days later, [Yale College Dean Peter] Salovey and [School of Art Dean Robert] Storr announced that an investigation had found “serious errors in judgement” on the part of two unnamed individuals — ostensibly her thesis adviser, School of Art lecturer Pia Lindman, and School of Art Director of Undergraduate Studies Henk van Assen — who had been involved in her project before it incited mass condemnation across campus and across the country and that “appropriate action” had been taken against them. . .
In interviews last week, Shvarts said that Lindman and van Assen had both supported her project before it became the object of public dismay. The Davenport College senior defended her project as “University-sanctioned” because it had received their approval.
“I started out with the University on board with what I was doing, and because of the media frenzy they’ve been trying to dissociate with me,” she said at the time. “Ultimately, I want to get back to a point where they renew their support, because ultimately this was something they supported.”. . .
In his statement Sunday night, Salovey called on Shvarts to produce a written confession admitting that her project did not actually include the graphic acts that she had first described. He added that Shvarts will not be allowed to install her project unless she admits she did not try to inseminate herself and induce miscarriages and promises that no human blood will be displayed in her exhibit. . .
But if the art opening does not continue, the University is likely to face criticism that it has restricted freedom of expression.
In his statement, Storr emphasized that the University “has a profound commitment to freedom of expression” and that he, personally, supports the legality of abortion.
“That said, Yale does not encourage or condone projects that would involve unknown health risks to the student,” Storr said. “Nor does it believe that open discourse and inquiry can exist in an educational and creative community when an individual exercises these rights but evades full intellectual accountability for the strong response he or she may provoke.”
Of course, no mention of the health risks to the baby.
Read it all. And read the comments as well. One example of the Yale student perspective:
aliza = galileo
salovey = grand inquisitioner
And this comment compares writing a novel to having an abortion:
It's very easy to make a commitment to freedom of artistic expression when the art doesn't offend, provoke, or challenge. But while hanging non-controversial projects in the gallery may show the university's ability to instruct in aesthetic and technique, it is not a test of Yale's commitment to freedom of artistic expression. That test only comes when they have the choice between supporting a controversial artist, or bowing to the voices of the crowd. I am disappointed that the administration appears to be saying "We will support the rights of our artists to express themselves, unless..."
Shvarts's piece follows a long tradition of provocative art that causes many to react with disgust. The Tragedy of Medea causes people to react with disgust. The plays of Chris Durang cause people to react with disgust. The novels of Thomas Hardy cause people to react with disgust. Disgust, offense, and revulsion are not sufficient reasons to stifle artistic expression and I would have expected better from Yale than to join a mob in the doing of its work.
It's enough to have me send my child to community college - I think he'd get a better education and hopefully meet more thoughtful people.
I did, however, like this comment:
Here's my submission of performance art. It's titled "He tried".
In act one, I attend grade school, study hard, get good grades, attend a state college, get more good grades,and get a degree.
In act two, I get a job at which I am particularly well suited. I go to this job every day, pay my taxes, and obey the law. I get married and after seeing my wife suffering several miscarriages and a stillborn baby, we have a beautiful daughter - the normal way. We raise her to love others and be thankful for her great gifts.
In act three, I finish my working days, see my daughter become a well-adjusted, non-whining woman. I finally fall into declining health and die. On my tombstone are two words: He tried.
This is my performance art... and it is strong.
Now, that is a grateful heart.
H/t to the Volokh Conspiracy.