Jueves 11 de Abril de 2002, Ip nš 12

Seeking Art-Loving Sperm
Por Kristen Philipkoski

In what may be the most elaborate personal ad ever, a New York artist is offering caviar to prospective suitors.

This is not just any caviar, it's made from Chrissy Conant's very own eggs. "Product of the Chrissy Conant ovaries," the label reads. "Ingredients: one egg, human tubal fluid. Caucasian." Calories are not noted.

Conant will display 13 of her reproductive eggs, each individually encased in a glass jar, as part of an art exhibition called Family at the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art in Ridgefield, Connecticut, in May.

Each egg will be encased in a tiny tube floating in silicone. The jars will be displayed in a deli-type case.

The Chrissy Caviar project is a way to address the emotional and physical pressures that the prospect of reproduction places on women in their late thirties. And to boot, she hopes it's a more effective platform for a personal ad than the Village Voice.

"Doing this in such a bizarre, attention-getting manner is my way of saying 'Is there anybody out there who might be interested?'" Conant said in a recent interview. "Consider me for consumption and consider my eggs, because I think they're pretty good."

Human caviar might seem, in a word, gross to some people, a fact of which Conant and the curator of the show are well aware.

"The work can feel very crass initially because it's so honest," said Jessica Hough, assistant curator of Family. "To an extent the image (on the label) of Chrissy reclining in this evening gown is like is she is trying to sell her body or sell herself. But it can alternately be seen as a calculated and clever marketing strategy."

The Family exhibition will include works by seasoned artists such as 91-year-old Louise Bourgeois, as well as newer artists like Jonathan Seliger, who created a sculpture of five pizza boxes titled "For a Family."

Strong reactions are exactly what Conant's looking for. Her biggest disappointment would be if someone were indifferent to her caviar.

"I would love to have a protest at the opening. Just in case, I'm arriving with two bodyguards," she said.

But her intention is not specifically to be gross, or shocking. Conant is single and she recently turned 39, provoking intense thought about her desire to start a family.

Creating the work has been a catharsis for Conant, but she also hopes the show will provoke people to consider the conflicts women at this age face if they want to have children.

"Sometimes women are hesitant to show that this is a concern for us," Conant said. "We don't want to appear desperate, but at the same time, it's OK to want to get married and have a family."

Some feminists may take issue with Conant's apparent attempt to sell herself -- literally.

"It's maybe a sign of the times, and a discouraging one at that, to find that some people are attracted to commodifying their body parts," said Judy Norsigian, executive director and co-founder of the Boston Women's Health Book Collective, and co-author of Our Bodies, Ourselves for the New Century.

Conant believes the courting process is inherently one that revolves around a sort of marketing and advertising.

"In a literal sense that's what fashion is all about, this is why we go shopping, why we wear make up -- we do commodify ourselves," Conant said. "It's not a bad thing."

She'll also make the exhibit available to collectors, who can purchase one of the jars, various limited addition prints derived from the project, and a limited edition of 1,000 floaty pens in which an egg drops from an ovary into a jar.

The Chrissy Caviar project took a level of commitment not required for many other art pieces. Conant had to inject herself with drugs that made her hyper-ovulate. She produced 13 eggs in one cycle rather than just one.

"I felt like I was walking around with a basket of eggs in my body that I had to protect," she said.

Doctors then "harvested" her eggs by guiding a needle through the vagina and into her follicles, removing the eggs by suction, under local anesthesia.

The doctors removed eight eggs from her right ovary and five from the left. She was relieved to hear from the doctors that she had "young" ovaries.

A 15-minute documentary showing Conant administering her injections as well as the harvesting process, called "Making Chrissy Caviar," will accompany the caviar display.

The Chrissy Caviar project may be avant-garde, but Conant is hoping for a decidedly old-fashioned outcome.

"Part of what I'm doing here is based on a personal reason to use my genes as a commodity," she said, "but in order to procreate in a traditional way with a husband and a family, in that order."

  29/03/2002. Wired Magazine.