Apr 22 2008

She couldn’t just sign it “R. Mutt” and call it a day?

Like you never saw this coming:

Yale will put the kibosh on Aliza Shvarts’ blood-cube at the big Art Show unless the Diva Cup diva

submits a clear and unambiguous written statement that her installation is a work of fiction: that she did not try to inseminate herself and induce miscarriages, and that no human blood will be physically displayed.

Because Art is godly and dudely and should always be literally, unambiguously true, and literally, unambiguously devoid of the artist’s ladyparts (which two conditions are really one and the same); anything less shows a shocking disregard for human life, heterosexuality, the rules, the Lord, the exacting standards of misogyny uniformly and eternally endorsed by our august culture of domination, and those baronial Yale benefactors who happen to be anti-choice.

I don’t suppose the world will really miss another art student blood-cube, though.


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  1. Alex

    Well, the biggest disappointment is that it likely is a work of fiction. But let’s suppose it’s not. The quality of such work may yet be debatable, but the artist’s right to create it is not. It’s nice to see that megatheorcorporatism has infiltrated Truth and Beauty as well. Oh, patriarchy, is there any liberty you won’t crush?

  2. Lauren O

    What? Modern art has blood in it all the damn time! I can’t tell you how many paintings I’ve seen in museums whose listed materials included blood, not to mention stuff like this.

  3. Lieutenant Reverend B. Dagger Lee


  4. Lieutenant Reverend B. Dagger Lee

    What part of artifice do they not get?

  5. chingona

    I find myself much, much more disturbed about her getting the third degree about what she did or didn’t do with her uterus than her actual project. Given the current state of abortion availability and case law, I don’t know why I needed a reminder that our reproductive organs are public property, but the image of her being made to swear that she didn’t deliberately have her period after allowing male reproductive material to come in contact with her reproductive material makes it pretty clear where we all stand.

    I have to admit this project bothered me a lot at first, but the more I read the discussion about it and thought about it, the more I realized that initial discomfort is the product of social conditioning, not any inherent ethical problem with what she did. While the artistic merit is up for debate, the ethical considerations are not, because there are no ethical considerations. Whether she did or did not inseminate herself, whether any eggs ever were or were not fertilized, what she disposed of – if she had anything other than standard menstrual flow to dispose of – was so far away from a baby it wasn’t even an embryo yet, much less a fetus. And whatever it was or wasn’t, she was completely within her rights to do with it what she wanted. (As someone who uses an IUD, I’m her, just without the inclination to film my periods and write a statement about the ambiguity of it all, and I’d be a right hypocrite to say there was anything wrong with what she did.) Not being artsy-fartsily inclined, I don’t think I’ll miss the opportunity the see the actual blood cube, but the intellectual exercise has been worth it for me.

  6. Moo

    Thanks for making me laugh yet again, Twisty. The Patriarchy has been really getting me down recently, and I needed a lift.

  7. Krinn DNZ

    Oh wow – the Duchamp reference is making me laugh in a work-unseemly way. ?!

  8. Anastasia

    If the blood had come from a pricked finger or something…? oh, why am I even asking.

  9. Cassie

    Selfishly, I’m glad that Yale is acting like the predictable patriarch stooges they have always been. I mean, if they had actually stood up for her and her work, I might have had to respect them a little. And that would have been truly painful, because despising Yale is one of the bedrocks of my sanity (skulls & bones, eugenics, the whole “brutal classism is the core of our being” thing, without even the Princeton niceties and frills).

  10. ripley

    oh man. That is awesome. I am much more convinced now as to the goodness of her project. They want affidavits on exactly what biology makes impossible to prove! That darned reality, getting in the way of certainty!

    Chingona: “I find myself much, much more disturbed about her getting the third degree about what she did or didn’t do with her uterus than her actual project.”

    That WAS her actual project. Once you decipher her statement (the link to it is posted in a previous post), that’s pretty much what she’s saying.

  11. atheist woman

    Twisty Faster, that was the best long non-run on sentence in the history of English literature. Because I totally have my brain hooked up to a super-computer which has all that on record.

  12. Lara

    Wow, just….wow. Those Yale fuckwads are showing themselves for what they really are. As much as I am glad the truth is exposed, the unfortunate reality is that most Americans don’t want this woman to consider her reproductive organs (or sexual organs, they don’t exist only for reproduction for fuck’s sake) her own property instead of public property.
    And the more and more I read of the discussions, the more I am realizing how people literally anoint sperm and male fluids as sacred. As if because the sperm touched her bodily fluids it is suddenly public property and she can’t do anything she wants with herself.
    Disgusting. I hope those male fuckers at Yale hemorrage out of their asses tonight. Seriously.

  13. Lindsay

    WHAT is the damned big DEAL with letting her have her artistic SAY??!?!

    I’ll put money on the fact that if she were doing a glorification piece on the war in Iraq and the wisdom of the cock-eyed bigot leader of this nation, and bled for that piece of shit, that they would give her a “tsk-tsk”, a pat on the ass, and a “go play with your friends”.

    I would fight tooth and fucking NAIL for my right to express myself artistically AND for my amendment rights, which I think are being violated here, AND for the right to do what I want with my body. I had the thought that she should take them to court, but who knows what the hell would come from that, and I don’t know what the university laws are regarding this kind of thing, but I would hope the constitution would override them.

    Right Wing-nuts piss me off, but come on. The limiting of freedom of artistic expression should NOT be something we are prepared to tolerate.

  14. Sylvanite

    I’m actually a bit gratified to hear that artists are still offending people’s sensibilities n an attempt, however vain, to get them to question the status quo.

    Dare I even ask whether any art has been crafted solely of semen? If so, I wonder how it was received.

  15. Sylvanite

    I sure am a crappy one-handed typist!

  16. laffriotgrrl

    Honest to goodness, the most offensive thing about this whole shenanigan may be how ignorant people are about basic human biology. The commentary on Shvarts (and sometimes her project) is full of such an eyepopping amount of misinformation! It’s a wonder people ever get pregnant at all, they seem to know so little about how things work.

  17. saltyC

    Wow, I was about to drive 296 miles to go see it today, til I discovered the reception was Friday. Now I guess I won’t go after all.

    How very sad.

  18. the Omphaloskeptic

    Signing it Rrose Sélavy would be amusingly ironic. At least, to feminist nerds, it would.

  19. PhysioProf

    The ingenious thing is that her actions placed Peter Salovey, dean of Yale College, into a position where he felt he had no choice but to “repudiate and denounce” the possibility that she actually did what she originally said she did.

    Salovey, and all the other Yale tools of the patriarchy, have thus been shanghaied into participating in her performance art work. Brilliant!

  20. Lieutenant Reverend B. Dagger Lee

    Rrose Sélavy/Peter Salovey–coinky-dink? I think not!

  21. bazu

    this whole thing saddens me on so many levels. first, basic ignorance- people don’t really seem to know a lot about menstruation, “herbal abortions”, miscarriages, and the statistical impossibility of impregnating yourself through artificial insemination and successfully giving yourself abortions 9 times in 9 months.

    what’s even worse is that this makes even pro-choice people show their true colors- abortion is ok, only if you and your monagamous husband feel really really really bad and repentant afterwards.

  22. Kathleen


    “but the image of her being made to swear that she didn’t deliberately have her period after allowing male reproductive material to come in contact with her reproductive material makes it pretty clear where we all stand”

    Right ON.

    btw, can this decision by Yale even stand? I mean isn’t it sort of violate-y of free speech or something? Or is it that it’s their private art museum so they get to say what goes in it?

  23. pixee

    In reference to Sylvanite’s question asking whether there was art crafted solely of semen, well, it appears that there is.


    This guy apparently paints with his spunk. IBTP

  24. Elaine Vigneault

    “I don’t suppose the world will really miss another art student blood-cube, though.”

    Hahaha! Perfect reaction!

  25. LA Confidential Pantload

    I found it interesting that, even after it was learned that she was not actually exterminating zygote-Americans, a variety of wingnut bloggers still called for her expulsion from Yale. Not only can’t you DO it, you can’t even SAY it.

  26. ate

    bazu: Exactly! Pro-choicers chant about having the right to abortions but still want you to feel guilty about it! It’s like their reading a script rather than thinking about what they are saying and what it means.

    I’m curious as to whose blood Yale is expecting to be on show, if not a humans. Oh wait: women aren’t human! We’ve found the loophole!

  27. Lara

    Too bad the ACLU will be too busy defending pornographers and Nazis to defend Shvartz’s right to free speech :/
    Art with semen??…..blech, just, yuck. I can deal with menstrual blood any day. But semen? Out of the question.

  28. goblinbee

    Krinn DNZ — Duchamp reference?

  29. slashy

    I am astounded that anyone having anything to do with art would require a guarantee that no human blood was present in a piece of art- isn’t human blood an incredibly common artistic material? It’s obvious why it would be- blood gets people riled up, blood has thousands of intense cultural and personal meanings, and blood is generally pretty easy to get your hands on, as long as you’re not too squeamish.

    My friend makes art using her own breast milk, the production of which she induces using mechanical stimulation and an array of herbal teas (no actual pregnancy or babies involved). One imagines the Yale art overlords would be as outraged by her perversion of the true purpose of her mammaries as they are at Schvarts’s recalcitrant uterus.

  30. KathyR

    So, if she says it was all a story, vows not to have tampered with any embryos, and uses the blood of tiny adorable kittens, it will be OK?

  31. Twisty

    I don’t think Yale is compelled by the Constitution to exhibit the blood-cube.

  32. alan

    Basically: We’ll only put it up if it has no point.

    What happened to the days where you could point guns at aircraft taking off and mutilate yourself in front of spectators? Come on, now.

    Lara – Matmos should sign and submit an affidavit for John Hopkins (where Drew is assistant professor) swearing that “Semen Song for James Bidgood” didnt actually include semen.

    goblinbee – “R.Mutt” is what Duchamp signed his Urinal with.

  33. mearl

    But wait…you can sell your eggs to rich couples, or take their zygotes and allow them to use your body to house their baby…how come those things aren’t off limits? Oh, that’s right, because there’s money involved. If Shvarts had, for instance, been a “sex worker,” and allowed some well-paying dude to impregnate her and then force her to miscarry over and over in great pain for his sexual pleasure, she would be exercising her right to sexual freedom, no? Let’s ask the sexyfeminists.

  34. goblinbee

    alan — thanks!

    Twisty — brilliant!

  35. socraticsilence

    “I don’t think Yale is compelled by the Constitution to exhibit the blood-cube.”

    Yeah I was kind of wondering where the ACLU comment was going, I mean regardless of who it defends the ACLU is pretty much Agenda blind, I mean the defende d Limbaugh a dude who wuold be happy to see them against the wall. After that I just ahve a hard time taking anoyne who criticizes the ACLU for being too left/right seriously, they’re a pretty much non-partisan they just seem to be on our side since the Rethugs hate freedom so damn much.

  36. socraticsilence

    Art with semen??…..blech, just, yuck. I can deal with menstrual blood any day. But semen? Out of the question.

    Ha to each their own I guess.

    I think or at least from what I’ve heard Yale needs her to say it was fiction because otherwise (given that the project was signed off on by faculty) you would the Unversity endorsing possibly physically harmful art (inducing miscarriage repeatedly carries health risks which is one of the reasons that a lot of people were so skeptical when this first came out).

  37. OM

    A bit OT, but the abortion exception for rape victims is one of the most telling ones to me. Somehow, even though we are supposedly killing an innocent baby by aborting, it’s ok to do so if the sex was non-consensual, and might force a dude to support another man’s issue. Never let innocent children (again, supposedly) get in the way of male domination and privilege.

  38. TinaH

    You’re all a bunch of pushy broads who think you own your own uteri or something!


    Dratted patriarchy.

  39. rowan

    So she can’t display “art” without Yale making her sign a statement that it’s not “real.”

    I’m so confused.

  40. Lara

    The ACLU is not “agenda-blind” at all it will support the “free speech” of whatever doods or corporations have lots of money to give them. That being Rush Limbaugh, pornographers, and Nazis. They are First-Amendment absolutists, especially when it comes to making money and looking popular.
    Anyway, sorry if that response is a little off-topic, folks.

  41. Sylvanite

    Ugh, thanks pixee. I’d say I was sorry I asked, but apparently, people are praying for the semen-artist’s soul. That’s something worth knowing, I guess – that if you create art with your very own body secretions, people will make sure to intervene on your behalf with the angry sky fairy. Everyone knows that god hates art anyway (graven images, and all that).

  42. kate

    Sylvanite: “Dare I even ask whether any art has been crafted solely of semen? If so, I wonder how it was received.”

    Well, let me give something I saw once, on a small scale. In my activist days I was on a funding board that often entertained the rich, often trust-fund baby funders to interact with us lowly trench people — you know the ones in the field.

    Anyway, one young man, who was an artist brought pictures of his work. While I don’t doubt his skill, I’d say his efforts were rather self directed which was typical of that crowd (while explaining their great desire to understand us ground people).

    One work he proudly displayed was a very fine, expensive antique grand piano that he made into an art piece by carefully removing the ivories one by one and painting or affixing and then sealing the mini-art with shellac.

    One such key he pointed out, which looked plain white, “This one has my lover’s semen on it.”

    No one batted an eye, some made approving, “Oh…” sounds.

    Us dirty activists called him “weird” that night over drinks, some questioned the point of such “art” which wasn’t really explained.

    In retrospect, no one really questioned that he would treasure his lover’s semen and encase it as opposed to his wife’s (yes he was married as well and they all lived together) menstrual blood, the placenta of his baby boy or maybe her vaginal fluid obtained during orgasm.

  43. Rachael

    Perhaps you’ve never had a miscarriage, and therefore cannot really see why a lot of infertility bloggers were so offended by this.

  44. Melitique

    Where can we find more RADICAL, patriarchy bashing Feminist ART and Artists? You know.. those who question the very core of our perception about patriarchy (I mean radical… not superficial feminist art…. real in your face).
    I remember 10 years ago, finding a feminist art complilation book from the 70-80’s (yep when things were pretty damned radical) and loved it, but i forgot the name of the book…..

    there was one with a huge weapon like dick (all vein-y) displayed like a proud statue and she had covered it with a condom somethign about aids and rape…. anyway… it was very fucked up and amazing.


  45. rootlesscosmo

    Melitique: check this site


    The Guerrilla Girls have been doing feminist art/art feminism for quite a while.

  1. In which I quote a lot of text to make a minor point « …still spitting…

    […] of this incident or whether it’s likely to be a hoax. You can see Majikthise, Amanda, or Twisty (twice!), or your favorite feminist blogger of choice. Or just meditate on the obvious: people […]

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