Yesterday Mel posted about this, and updated with this. I debated about whether to enter the conversation or not. I vacillated between not wanting to give any more attention to something so offensive (on SO MANY levels) and my desire to add some of my ideas to the conversation, to give another perspective to consider. I guess, in this case, I am going to err on the side of saying something. I just feel like I need to speak up because to remain silent feels irresponsible.
Firstly, some of what I was thinking about responsible academic supervision and academia in general has already been addressed very eloquently by Mel. I don't feel like I need to say anything more about this... Just read Mel's 2nd post.
The second issue I wanted to address as to do with the purpose of art. Mel already made some wonderful statements about an artist's responsibility to consider the intent of a piece and the prediction of possible reactions to the piece by others (again, see Mel's second entry on the subject). However, I feel the need to add some comments:
"The goal in creating the art exhibition, Shvarts said, was to spark conversation and debate on the relationship between art and the human body."
I can't help but wonder about the elephant in the room. This project, in my opinion, did not make a statement about the human body. The most obvious statement made by this piece has to do with the meaning of life. I don't mean just the meaning of a new human life, but also the meaning/purpose of motherhood and reproduction as well. I find the piece insulting and disrespectful on so many levels. First and foremost, in my humble opinion, Shvarts completely dismisses the value of a human life in it's very beginning and most vulnerable state. (I know that many people outright disagree with me on this point, or at least feel ambivalent about this. However, I am Catholic and this is my blog and I feel very strongly about this.) Not only does Shvarts completely dismiss even the possibility that life begins at the moment of conception, but her actions blatantly ridicule that life and those who value that life.
On the flip side, I also think that her piece shows a complete disregard for the genuine anguish that people who have experienced miscarriage and infertility have experienced. Shvarts has trivialized the experience of miscarriage. And, she has also trivialized the anguish that many women who choose to have an abortion have gone through. Her piece has not even taken into consideration the very real and lasting emotions that go along with the REAL EXPERIENCE of miscarriage and abortion. I realize that she is young and naive and has probably never experienced these things first hand. (Although, I do think there is a slim possibility that she has experienced either m/c or abortion and this piece is an attempt to minimize the importance of the experience in her life. However, that seems to warrant another different discussion.) I do think, though, that even if a person has never experienced a particular type of suffering, a responsible artist would, at the very least, attempt to do some research and try to empathize with those who have experienced that suffering. If that can't happen, then I would hope that basic common sense and common courtesy would tell her that her project idea was disrespectful and irresponsible and that she should come up with another way to bring about discussion on "the relationship between art and the human body." Off the top of my head I can think of several different ways to spur that discussion... A discussion that she has completely failed at spurring, I might add.
I do take comfort in the fact that both pro-life and pro-choice groups have been upset by this project and have made statements against it. I'm encouraged to know that it is possible for pro-lifers and pro-choicers can come together (at least for certain topics). Maybe there is hope for our nation to come together in some way on life issues.
OK. I think that is all the energy I care to devote to this topic.