I often get asked if I use ‘real’ blood in my work. The project I have been working on for three-plus years is titled Blood on Silk, which looks at the biomedical uses of silk, and particularly its ability to assist in reading the properties of blood while that blood is still within the body. So it’s easy to see what drives the question.
I nearly always reply no, as real blood doesn’t look like real blood. Real blood oxidises and goes brown when exposed to air, bleach and a lot of other substances.
But of course real blood always looks like real blood. That is what blood actually does out of the body and in those conditions.
I was thinking a lot about this yesterday. One of the problems for me is that if real blood is to be incorporated into an artwork it must somehow be displaced from the environment or atmosphere of the viewer in order to remain red. The oxidising agents must be excluded. The viewer can be displaced through the blood being photographed or videoed, or if real blood is to be physically present it should be separated from the atmosphere by being kept in glass or plastic. There is always the option used by UK artist Marc Quinn in his work Self, a sculpture of his head made with his own frozen blood.
It’s clear to me that I’m primarily interested in the idea of blood that is not oxidised, blood that is oxygenated blood (i.e., red blood as it exists circulating within a body that is alive), not blood that cannot be used within a body. And that I’m interested in the experience of the blood in my work being real, not the material or object itself being real.