Main Gallery

Aliza Shvarts: Off Scene

Curator: Sarah Fritchey

May 11—June 30, 2018

Aliza Shvarts, Banner (Yale Daily News), 2018. Continuous digital screen grab on 13oz vinyl, 14.4″ × 1226.5″.

This solo exhibition of works by Aliza Shvarts spans the past ten years of the artist’s performance-based practice, ranging from censored materials from Untitled [Senior Thesis] to a new site-specific work. Shvarts first came to national attention in 2008 as a student at Yale University for her undergraduate work Untitled [Senior Thesis], which consisted of a yearlong performance of self-induced miscarriages. Declared a fiction by the university and banned from public exhibition, this unfinished work marks queer and feminist areas of inquiry that she continues to explore: how the body means and matters, how the subject consents and dissents.

Shvarts explores everyday acts of biological and social maintenance as well as visual and linguistic generation. She uses an expanded notion of performance, usually mediated by video, text, installation, and digital media, to frame the often imperceptible historical, legal, and social forces that circumscribe our real-life capacities to act. Her work asks what becomes possible when one’s speech is silenced, one’s acts interdicted, or one’s body deemed a “fiction.” What aesthetic potentials lie at the margins of legibility? What creative agencies, representational strategies, and critical collectivities gather off-scene?

The title of the exhibition references the artists’ investment in performance, one that shifts our attention from the center to the social, historical, and material surround. At once linguistic and bodily, “off scene” refers to the circulation of gossip, rumor, viral text, and other extra-canonical forms of knowing, as well as the body’s capacity to disrupt—that is, the capacity to be excessive, overly expressive or ob-scene.


Friday, May 18 at 5:30pm, Before the Opening Reception, Shvarts will host a roundtable discussion at Artspace with Robert Post (Sterling Professor of Law, Yale Law School) which will consider free speech, reproductive rights, and the aesthetic, legal, and ideological frameworks that choreograph the body’s capacity to produce meaning. This event is free and open to the public. (Location: Artspace, 50 Orange St, New Haven, CT)

Saturday, June 30 at 4pm, Shvarts will host a reading at Artspace by fiction writer Valerie Werder from Notable Fictions, a performative/durational digital editing project that critically examines terms of legibility and notability in a public sphere. Werder’s textual performance, which coincides with the duration of this exhibition, explores the relationships between the writing of fiction and the writing of history. This event is free and open to the public. (Location: Artspace, 50 Orange St, New Haven, CT)

Listen to curator Sarah Fritchey talk about Off Scene with Valarie Richardson on WPKN here.