Blood on Silk: Trade – work made in Istanbul



Blood on Silk: Trade is  a multi-screen video work.  Each of the three projections will show a different iteration of a set of actions performed by roughly the same group of participants at approximately the same time on three different days.  The work was shot in the hardware retail district of Beyoglu inIstanbul.

The work is meditative, almost abstracted, shot from a single position down six floors to the street  below where three hardware shops are opening up for the morning’s  trade. The choreography of the street is revealed as each shop prepares their public face to trade.  That given moment of the day is entered into, observed and felt. Co-incidences of repeated actions are observed and noted.

The ambiguity of the relationship between the viewer and the participants is expressed by Orhan Pamuk in his memoir Istanbul, Memories and the City where he describes how, when his cousin (described as his aunt’s naughty son) opened the widow “… it was usually to spit on the roof of a car struggling up to the top of the alley, or throw a nail or firecracker he had skilfully attached to a string. Even today when I am at a high window that looks out onto a street I can’t help wondering how it would feel to spit down on passers-by.”

This work is part of a larger project with the overall title of Blood on Silk. It is a cross-disciplinary collaborative project of ideas between a physicist, Dr Peter Domachuk, School of Physics University of Sydney a writer, cultural theory and museum studies expert Dr Lee- Ann Hall, UTS and myself, a visual artist. 

Its foundation is a research project being undertaken by Peter to develop an implantable silk microchip.  This would provide a platform within the human bloodstream allowing the properties of blood cells to be determined or measured while those cells are still within the body – a biophotonic chip. During the years following the death of my father in 2001 I have worked with ideas of medicalised death and particularly the almost domesticated rituals in an intensive care ward involved in taking daily samples of blood.  

On this foundation we are developing a conceptual framework of debate expressed through writing and visual art projects. This framework is broad ranging and scans from the material, culture and economics of silk and of blood through to issues of surveillance and associated concerns about human rights.  

Istanbulis one of the many sites in the world where routes of trade intersect. Of interest here is that the historic silk route intersects with one of the new globalised routes for the trade in bio-products including blood and medical tourism.  Also traded throughIstanbulare both legal and illegally obtained body parts and the associated blood products. In this work the instant of trade is an instance of vulnerability, of surveillance, of a pairing of the seemingly unrelated.

The three projections and the associated sound tracks of ambient noise would be located to allow incomplete viewing of all three videos from any one site and would encourage the viewer to move within the work to reveal other actions and other sounds.


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