Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Disambiguation page

Hopefully you're not too focused on Aliza Shvarts. The Yale art student who claims to have repeatedly artificially inseminated herself and induced miscarriage and is using the resultant blood / products of conception in an art installation.*

via Andrew Sullivan, I see this quote:

It creates an ambiguity that isolates the locus of ontology to an act of readership. An intentional ambiguity pervades both the act and the objects I produced in relation to it. The performance exists only as I chose to represent it. For me, the most poignant aspect of this representation — the part most meaningful in terms of its political agenda (and, incidentally, the aspect that has not been discussed thus far) — is the impossibility of accurately identifying the resulting blood. Because the miscarriages coincide with the expected date of menstruation (the 28th day of my cycle), it remains ambiguous whether the there was ever a fertilized ovum or not. The reality of the pregnancy, both for myself and for the audience, is a matter of reading.

First, I can think of several ways of accurately identifying the resulting blood, including whether or not there was a fertilized ovum, and whether Shvarts used 'abortifacient herbs.' Shvarts obviously isn't up on her PCR or mass spec.*** Furthermore, the ambiguity on my part exists because something has been artificially concealed from me, but it is not ambiguous to Shvarts. Therefore it is inappropriate to say "it remains ambiguous." IT is not ambiguous. IT is determined. Apparently, Shvarts did not determine whether she had conceived prior to inducing abortion, so that fact is ambiguous. But the cat and mouse over whether this is a prank, a Sokol affair against science, that's definitive.

*: Not related to the point of this post, but my opinion is:
1. Yuck
2. Moral revulsion, possibly tied to my aesthetic revulsion - if an human conceptus has one iota of rights derived from being human then it deserves not to be created for the sole purpose of being aborted for art.
3. Scientific skepticism - what is the success rate for DIY artificial insemination? What is the success rate for 'abortifacient herbs'? What are said herbs?
4. Puzzlement - Why use DIY artificial insemination instead of ordinary sex? Various explanations have been offered, usually based on the romantic preferences of Shvarts or her 'fabricators'** I speculate there is some sort of feminist message a la "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a needle-less syringe." But considering the 'message' which as far as my untrained mind can discern is about the arbitrary control of society over the body of its female members, I would think cruising for roofies would be more meaningful, though perhaps less reliable.
5. Side note that this is exactly what pro-choicers don't need.

**: WTF?

***: Polymerase chain reaction to genotype the blood. Conceptus-containing blood would include 'DNA fingerprints' that are not present in the... artist. Mass spec would identify foreign compounds in the blood. If it were me, I'd spring for sequencing the albumin gene, on the probability that it's actually chicken or cow blood.

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