Once upon a time, long ago and far away, there were twenty-three units of blood
2018, ribbon, canvas and paint. Two panels each 96.4 x 176.5 (h) cm Photo Alex Gooding
In this work twenty-three squat square crosses are arranged in a grid of six by four, with one missing. The dimensions of the cross and its alignment mimic those of the red cross symbol that identifies the emblem associated with the supply of blood and blood products within Australia.
However, here, the red cross has been decolourised. This is a chemical process used to remove unwanted staining material in the preparation of microscope slides or to remove coloured impurities from water such as dye waste. Decolourising the red cross shifts the focus to the more formal aspects of the symbol without the often-overriding associations of the colour red.
The reflectivity of both the satin weave of the ribbon and the modified sateen weave of the work amplifies the movements of the viewer appearing to alter the colour of the ribbons and thus its relationship with the viewer.
A tension remains, as it is the red colour of blood that signifies its usefulness to the body. The depth and shade of red shows the amount of haemoglobin per litre and/or the percentage of oxygenated haemoglobin in the blood. So, the process of decolourising strips away this signifier of purpose and effectiveness.
A decolourised cross sits within a filing cabinet drawer. The aluminium gilded cross is layered onto cracked and distorted white paint left to set in the base of the drawer. This is one of twenty three large individual silver cross work that make up this large installation.
Decolourising is a chemical process used to remove unwanted staining material involved in the preparation of microscope slides or to remove coloured impurities from a material, often a liquid such as water. It is both a process and an end result or materiality. Decolourising the red cross mark shifts the focus to the more formal aspects of the symbol without the often-overriding associations of the colour red. Previously I have used gilding with aluminium foil onto plastic and metal surfaces to achieve the decolourised process.
However, there is a tension as it is the red colour of blood that signifies its usefulness to the body. The depth and shade of red shows the amount of haemoglobin per litre and/or the percentage of oxygenated haemoglobin in the blood. So, the process of decolourising strips away this signifier of purpose and effectiveness.
In the run up to the Colour Run project at Braemar Gallery in Springwood NSW. I’m having a look at all of the series of works over the years looking at twenty three units of blood. This series is decolourised crosses representing each of the units of blood. They are gilded (badly) aluminium onto rusted steel and other found metal objects. It is harder than you expect to gild onto a rusted surface. The size of this work is 80 x 30 x 90(h) cm.
This work Blood on Silk: Bleeding Out [The Book] comes in two parts. One is a twenty three page book of blood stains meant to be handled and held on the lap of the reader, within the space of the body. The other element is a card labelled Instructional Manual. One the reverse side is a snakes and ladders type game where twenty three units of blood are used to halt a bleeding out. This work is now in the collection of the library at York University UK.
In two weeks an exhibition called Colour Run will open at the Braemar Gallery in Springwood. The exhibition is curated by Beata Geyer and one of my works Once upon a time , long ago and far away there were twenty three units of blood has been selected. In the run up I’ve been thinking of the other times I’ve focused on the narrative of Twenty three units of blood.
This work, was one of the first of these works I made, Memorial/ One shift Nov 30, 2000 was exhibited in St Marks Anglican Church,Aberdeen NSW in 2006 as part of Memorial/Double Pump Laplace I
Recently I presented at the 2018 Annual Association for Art History conference in London as part of a day long panel on Aural Affects and Effects: Explicit and Implicit sounds and rhythms in contemporary visual media put together by Olga Nikolaeva, Christine Sjöberg and Johnny Wingstedt.
Not only did several aspects of my research fall into place more clearly for me after my presentation (initially disrupted by the fire alarm!) and the follow up questions but also the other presentations in the thread provoked valuable insights that will also feed into the ongoing development of my thinking.
I have been working with the idea of sonnifying the predominantly wave form data visualisation of a bedside medical monitor display for nearly two years and have tested some of my early ideas out at two previous conferences. To confirm the value of my current position and at the same time expose aspects for future exploration was so reassuring.
Then to finish the conference there was an amazing and blunt keynote by Griselda Pollock.
A short video, four minutes in length, documenting some of the first games played of Racing Patience ICU. The artist Fiona Davies plays against the performance artist Tom Isaacs and the curator Lizzy Marshall.
In the card game Racing Patience ICU there are two players. One draws a central card that describes the patient’s stats when entering ICU. Starting at the same time, one player represents the ICU team trying to bring the patient back into the normal or survivable ranges for blood pressure, heart rate, blood oxygenation and rate of respiration. The other player sometimes called Death, attempts to take the patient out of those survivable ranges. Each player attempts to track the four parameters, keeping a rough tally in their head of the changes in the patient stats as each card is added to one of the four stacks. The players turn over their cards in groups of three, being able to play the top card only.
It is not a social or fair game. It is extremely competitive and can be rough and physical as each player tries to get their card onto the stacks in the centre. Importantly there is no concept of taking turns. It requires an ability to focus on many things which are changing, all at the same time.
At the end of five minutes an alarm sounds. The game is over. On a count-back the winner is decided. The winner is who determined whether the patient during that particular five minutes was in or out of the survivable range for the four vital signs. Who knows what happened in the next five minutes and if the ethics of particular interventions that drove the often widely swinging changes of the parameters were ever able to be considered.