Untitled [Senior Thesis] (2008)


Untitled [Senior Thesis] is a project that explored questions of biological and epistemological reproduction. It consisted of performance, video, and sculptural installation components. The performance, which took place over the period of an academic year, entailed a precise bodily intervention:

From the 9th to the 15th day of my menstrual cycle, I used semen samples (collected from “fabricators”) to privately self-inseminate; on the 28th day of my cycle, I would ingest an herbal abortifacient, after which I would experience cramps and heavy bleeding.  This bleeding could have been either a normal period or a very early-stage self-induced miscarriage—the work was intentionally crafted so that not even I knew which.  As a result of these formal constraints, acts of biological reproduction were collapsed onto acts of reading (my own reading no more authoritative than that of any spectator).  I intended this piece to exist in its telling—a telling that was to take textual, visual, spatial, temporal, and performative forms, opening on to questions of material and discursive reproduction.  Yet because the video and final installation for this work were censored and deemed a “creative fiction” by the Yale University administration, the piece only exists as a narrative circulation, which has largely taken place online.  

The sculptural installation for this work was banned by Yale University, and I decided not to release any visual representation of the piece for the following decade.  The video documentation from this work has since become part of subsequent pieces.  See Posters (2017) and Player (2008/2018).

Writing by me:

“Figuration and Failure, Performance and Pedagogy: Reflections Three Years Later”. Women & Performance, a journal of feminist theory. Vol. 21, No. 1 (2011): 161-168. London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis.  Excerpted in Practice(Whitechapel Documents in Contemporary Art), ed. Marcus Boon and Gabriel Levine (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2018) [Figuration and Failure.pdf]

“Shvarts Explains [...]”. The Yale Daily News, April 18 2008. https://yaledailynews.com/blog/2008/04/18/shvarts-explains-her-repeated-self-induced-miscarriages/  [Yale Daily News.pdf]

Writing by others:

Laryb Abrar, “Abortion Art and its #MeToo Moments,” Musee Magazine, 25 July 2018: http://museemagazine.com/features/2018/7/24/abortion-art-and-its-metoo-moments

Lux Alptraum, "There is Life After Campus Infamy," The New York Times, 21 July 2018:


Sarah Fritchey, Angelique Szymanek, and Aliza Shvarts, Aliza Shvarts: Off Scene, design by Cayla Lockwood (New Haven, CT: Artspace, 2018). https://issuu.com/alizashvarts/docs/offscene_final_pages_cover_issuu  [Off Scene.pdf]

Coco Fusco, "Learning the Rules of the Game," Texte Zur Kunst, 109 (March 2018): 108-127.

Nikki Cesare Schotzko. Learning How to Fall: Art and Culture After September 11. (New York: Routledge 2015). [Schotzko_Learning How to Fall.pdf]

Ana Grahovac. “Aliza Shvarts’s Art of Aborting: Queer Conceptions and Reproductive Futurism.” Studies in the Maternal, 5(2), 1-19: http://www.mamsie.bbk.ac.uk/articles/abstract/10.16995/sim.17/

Jennifer Doyle. Hold it Against Me: Difficulty and Emotion in Contemporary Art. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2013). [Doyle_Hold it Against Me.pdf]

Lisa Hall Hagan. “A performance ethics of the ‘real’ body: the case of Aliza Shvarts and ‘Untitled [Senior Thesis], 2008.” Performing Ethos, 2:1 (2012). 

Rosemary Candelario. "Abortion Performance and Politics." CSW Update, UCLA Center for the Study of Women. 2012: http://escholarship.org/uc/item/7sv5h222

Joseph Roach, “Deep Play, Dark Play: Framing the Limit(less).“ The Rise of Performance Studies: Rethinking Richard Schechner’s Broad Spectrum. Ed. James Martin Harding and Cindy Rosenthal. (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2011): 275-283.

Wendy Steiner. The Real Real Thing: The Model in the Mirror of Art. (Chicago: Chicago University press, 2010).

Carrie Lambert-Beatty, “Make-Believe: Parafiction and Plausability”, October No. 129 (Summer 2009): 51-84. Cambridge, MA: MIT University Press. [Lambert-Beatty_Make-Believe.pdf]

Charlie Finch, “Mission Aborted” Artnet Magazine (May 2008): http://www.artnet.de/magazine/mission-aborted/.

Amanda Marcotte “A+ For Abortion Art”, Reproductive Health Reality Check (2008): http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2008/04/21/a-for-abortion-art.

Seth Kim-Cohen, “Art Lecturer: Yale erred in banning Shvarts’ art” Yale Daily News, April 23 2008: http://www.yaledailynews.com/news/2008/apr/23/art-lecturer-yale-erred-in-banning-shvarts-art/.