and then there’s just too much.

abortifacient drugs and the artists that love them.


As I promise elsewhere, the (potential) value of this blog is that I harness the goodness that resides within my social network and bring it to you.  Part of that goodness rests in the person of Jonathan Neufeld, my colleague, tennis partner, pool partner, co-conspirator, and now, collaborator.  He’s also my host during this visit to Nashville.  After a nice dinner hosted by the Center for the Americas, and celebrating our successful event with Gabriela Lena Frank, Jonathan and I got to talking about this Yalie and her artie.  If you followed my links, you know that Jonathan’s a Philosopher of Aesthetics & Law.   So together we make a pretty all-star interpretive team, if I do say so myself.

I’d be hard pressed to detail step-by-step the hour long conversation we shared about this artwork (maybe Jonathan will bother to do so, and he’d be better at producing such a narrative, anyway, as I’m a bit of a twit), but we arrived at the conclusion that it is a better (richer, more interesting) work than it first appears, due in part to the fact that the “reveal” of the work as a “fake” (Yale is now claiming that she did not artificially inseminate herself, nor did she ingest abortifacient drugs) is part of the work itself.  That it, it must always have been the “intention” or “potential” of the work to be described/unveiled as a false representation of reality.

Thus, the work potentially addresses issues of sincerity or authenticity both as they apply to women’s bodies (e.g., they are “really for” reproduction) (as the author’s description (it is about womens’ bodies, their form and function) suggests) and as they apply to the work of art/artist (e.g., they should not intentionally misrepresent experiences taken to be personal, when included in the work).  Formally, this is far more interesting than my initial reaction to the work, which had the artist “intending” for us to equate her repeated and intentional miscarriages with those repeated and intentional abortions that fuel critiques of a woman’s “right to choose.”

I also find the school’s critique of the work-that-wasn’t interesting.  They claim:

“Had these acts been real, they would have violated basic ethical standards and raised serious mental and physical health concerns.”

So…what if the artist had chosen in a Morgan Spurlock moment, to eat fried foods from the Yale cafeteria, and then employ the services of the student health center (all of which would be documented on film, and portrayed in a gallery installation, later)?  Would that also have “violated basic ethical standards?”  Why or why not?


1 Comment

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One response to “and then there’s just too much.

  1. Jonathan Neufeld

    I’m glad to have you as a co-conspirator, etc. and my pool playing has clearly suffered from your absence.

    About the Yale work–the “reveal” came out as part of the work itself as we talked about whether it would be a better or a worse work if it were real. Consider the two ends of the spectrum: on one end, she actually performed the acts she claimed to have performed. On the other end, it’s simply (ha) performance art and nobody suspects its real. In between, we have a work that claims to be real but is revealed not to be. It calls so much attention to what is at stake in its being real or its being fake; attention to who has control over this and over the way in which this matters (Yale told us the truth, softened the blow, expressed concern for the health of their students); and so on. If it were real, or if it were merely performed, these issues wouldn’t come up in the same way, if at all.

    Our talk makes it seem like the work is significantly better than I (we) originally thought–well, at least insofar as we can judge this without seeing the thing.

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