Istanbul and Back Again


News:  August/September 2011

The interplay between the roles of observer, observed, the outsider and the everyday were explored by Fiona Davies in a recent month long residency at Caravansarai in Istanbul, Orhan Pamuk expressed these tensions in his memoir, Istanbul, Memories and the City . He describes how when his cousin opened the window,  ‘ … it was usually to spit on the roof of a car struggling up to the tope of the alley, or throw a nail or a firecracker he had skilfully attached to a string. Even today, whenever I am at a high window that looks out onto the street, I can’t help wondering how it would feel to spit down on passersby’.


The Blood on Silk project pairs the seemingly unrelated, In this residency Davies investigates the overlay of trade; the older silk trading routes with the newer routes for bio-products including blood. The work she produced during the residency includes meditative, almost abstracted video works. Shot from the rooftop terrace of the residency down six floors to the street where hardware shops are opening up in the morning. The choreography of the street is slowly revealed as each prepares to trade.



Background information on the Blood on Silk project can be found in an earlier post at


Caravansarai information at


Fiona has now resumed her artist residency at Culture at Work in Sydneyto develop these works among others.


Blood On Silk

Blood on Silk is a collaborative project between the late Dr Peter Domachuk, Dr Lee Anne Hall and Fiona Davies. This collaboration arose from an accidental intersection while Fiona was developing an installation in the foyer of the School of Physics at the University of Sydney Australia in September – October 2010. That work was titled Memorial / Double Pump Laplace II, and was the second in a series of three, site specific installations, loosely based on narratives of the dying and death of Fiona’s father, in 2001. During the four and a half months her father spent in intensive care the daily routine taking of blood samples became part of the pattern of the day.

The late Dr. Peter Domachuk’s research project adds new layers through the study of silk implantable microchips to allow real time measurement of the properties of blood while that blood is still circulating within the body. These silk microchips are refined, transparent and dissolvable therefore disposable, a biophotonic chip. Dr. Lee-Anne Hall a creative writer and museum studies expert also added layers of interpretation to the collaboration.

The groups thinking on the issues to address includes

– the materiality of silk as a  ‘natural’ protein fibre, ‘green’, ‘sustainable’, produced by an insect as the cocoon of the silkworm, triangular cross section,  non allergenic

–  the cultural history of silk . ‘silk routes’ pathways of commercial, cultural and technological exchange  Early industrial espionage (Byzantine period)  associated with stealing the technological  information about how to make methods of making silk yarn form the cocoons, Islamic teachings against the wearing of silk by men

 – The materiality of the refined silk / fibrion It’s characteristics – transparent, castable or mouldable, conformable to flat or patterned surfaces, cast or spin coat; water content and method of drying drives dissolvability and disposability.

 – The mechanism of reading blood characteristics in the array; patterning and organisation

 – The concepts of liveness of internal feedback , reading the body in real time; the possibility of self monitoring; instead of the sample being removed from the body to be read, it remains part of the body. The testing process is internalised rather than an external process.

– The medical ethics debate and the cost of health care.

– The relationship between humans and other animals. There are reports of an animal rights movement that disapproves of the death of silkworms in the process of obtaining silk.  It is possible to get silk from what is called pierced cocoons, ones that the moth has left naturally. Prior to commercial use the testing of implantable chips in animals/humans?

– Human rights through other uses of implantable chips; issues of surveillance or monitoring.