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I stood in pitch darkness. I couldn’t see it or smell it but I knew that a metre away stood a mannequin composed of compacted dried blood. Every thirty seconds a luminous drip splashed down, briefly highlighting the contours of the face, shoulders, and breasts in an eerie glow. Lumitrace by Beatrice Haines was one of twenty-five works in ‘Blood’, the new exhibition at the Science Gallery, Dublin. The mannequin was cast from Haine’s niece, who suffers from a rare blood disease, and the luminol dripping down is used frequently at violent crime scenes.
Unusually for the Science Gallery, ‘Blood’ is an adult only exhibit that explores the taboo, life-saving, repulsive, and sinister aspects of that which flows within us. The open call for contributions yielded a wide range of responses from artists, activists, and scientists, who created exhibits evoking strong emotions within the viewer and revealing how provocative such a basic, omnipresent substance can be.
YBA (young British artists) artist superstar Marc Quinn exhibited a sculpture of a vulnerable, sleeping baby in his signature human blood style. The Irish Blood Transfusion Service is testing blood types and explaining what happens following donation.
Video booths showing the bloody mess of life-saving procedures in St. James’ Hospital are certainly not for the faint-hearted either, as the exhibition slogan warns.
The medical kit used for the first ever blood transfusion performed in Dublin is on display from the Royal College of Physicians Ireland.
Unfortunately, the jukebox that analyses pulse rates to determine what music played during your teen years was stuck on Bobby Day (or perhaps I should visit my doctor?).
For the more adventurous art connoisseur, a video and photographic instillation show artist Marion Laval-Jeantet injected with horse blood and fitted with prosthetic horse legs in order to be at one with the horse she took walking during a performance art piece.
Next to Laval-Jeantet’s piece is an animal-friendly blood sausage where the blood had been taken from a living pig. The animal-human blood connection was completed with embalmed mosquitoes to represent the deadly exchange between insect and human, which causes malaria and a range of other diseases.
A nod to pop-culture’s obsession with blood took the form of a copy of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and a Twilight book, complete with a stake through its centre. If you have made it this far through the article you are not faint-hearted but nobody could fail to be chilled by the exhibition on Nazi promotion of the blood-thirsty Brothers’ Grimm fairy tales that explored the darkest depths of what blood can symbolise and the power of blood in one of humanity’s most shameful moments.
This exhibition sees the Science Gallery return to what they do best – conceptually and visually interesting exhibits reminding us that the world we live in and scientific world are not separate spheres.