The San Antonio Current has run the best critique of the Shvarts affair I have yet to see.
Some artists and theorists would point out that defending the social value of transgressive art is begging the question. They would defend the autonomy of the artist regardless of social benefit. After all, to talk about the utility of a form of art is to place its importance beneath that of other social values — to say that art is a means to an end. This is precisely the kind of thinking that Shvarts critiques. Her uterus does not exist for the purpose of fulfilling anyone’s definition of social value, and neither does her art.
However, there’s another side to that coin, and to the extent that an artist places the creation of art above personal and social safety, the broader community is bound to question the validity of that work. At a certain point, transgressive artwork is not breaking down barriers but creating new ones with a single-minded focus on autonomy as the primary concern of the artist. Pro-choice activists are certainly correct in pointing out that Shvarts’s piece will create fresh problems for a movement that is trying to defend women’s rights while also ensuring that women are responsible in exercising those rights. But it sure would be nice if we could explore the meaning of the work before condemning it.
The morning after Ben Judson The San Antonio Current 7/2/08
Posted by Chris