In Wednesday's issue, the Yale Daily News featured the grisly details of a senior art project by Aliza Shvarts, a Yale art student who, over the course of nine months, artificially inseminated herself multiple times while also trying to induce miscarriages.
The story quickly spread across the Internet and was picked up by Drudge Report, which temporarily felled the Yale Daily News website. Its proliferation across the Web caused an unsurprising amount of shock and disgust, summed up well by the IvyGate blog: "I think I saw this, once. In a horrible, horrible nightmare."
The problem? It's a hoax. Or wait. Maybe it's not.
Confusion reigned after the Yale public relations office posted a notice on its site that said, "She stated to three senior Yale University officials today, including two deans, that she did not impregnate herself and that she did not induce any miscarriages. The entire project is an art piece, a creative fiction designed to draw attention to the ambiguity surrounding form and function of a woman's body."
Shvarts, however, disputes the school's claim, saying she has no idea whether she was ever impregnated and whether she ever actually miscarried. "No one can say with 100-percent certainty that anything in the piece did or did not happen. The nature of the piece is that it did not consist of certainties."
Shortly after that statement, the school responded, saying that the art student had motivation to make that statement. "Her denial is part of her performance," wrote the school's spokeswoman. "We are disappointed that she would deliberately lie to the press in the name of art."
Back to Shvarts: "I'm not going to absolve [the university] by saying it was some sort of hoax when it wasn't. I started out with the University on board with what I was doing, and because of the media frenzy they've been trying to dissociate with me."
So what's the truth? No one knows, so I guess that's the point. But one thing's certain—people are up in arms about the whole thing. Plus, it surely made a visit from their Ivy League brethren all the more timely: The Harvard Task Force on the Arts came to New Haven Monday to study the school's dedication to the arts. "Yale has for a long time had a very deep and serious engagement with the arts," said a task force member. "It is a model for how a university can take arts-making seriously."