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troublemag | November 30, 2022

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A Bloody Business

A Bloody Business

Blood: Attract & Repel
University of Melbourne

by Inga Walton
“And I see the red oil of life /
running from my wrists /
onto tomorrow’s headlines”

– Spike Milligan, CBE (1918-2002).1


As part of the Science Gallery International (SGI) network pioneered by Trinity College, Dublin, Science Gallery Melbourne is scheduled to open at the intersection of Swanston and Grattan Streets in 2020. Currently in pop-up mode at the University of Melbourne, the inaugural exhibition Blood: Attract & Repel (until 23 September, 2017), sprawls over two levels of the Frank Tate Building. Smelling salts are optional.

Developed under the creative direction of Dr. Ryan Jefferies, twenty-two diverse works, including specimens, medical objects, and interactive modules, explore various cultural beliefs, religious edicts, historical and political references, prejudices, superstitions, phobias and the transgressive potential of blood. Filling seven percent of our body, this vital and life-sustaining fluid has a similarly overwhelming capacity to fascinate, nauseate, provoke and disturb. Although the Old Testament declares, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood” (Leviticus 17:14), that doesn’t mean we’re necessarily comfortable with its manifestations. How visitors react to the smell of blood, produced by a single molecule, trans-4,5-epoxy-2(E)-Decenal, is the subject of Ollie Cotsaftis and Sarah McArthur’s installation Sentience (2017). Basse Stittgen addresses the issue of blood as a waste product of slaugterhouses that could be made into functional material with Blood Objects (2017). Blood can be used as a source for making a very hard biodegradable plastic by drying it to form a powder. It is then heat-pressed under ten tonnes of pressure at around 200°C and rendered sterile, but would people want to use such products? Nevertheless, you’ll be listening to it: a 7” record made of pig’s blood plays the recorded sound of a porcine heartbeat throughout the room.

Associate Professor John McGhee, Director of the 3D Visualisation Aesthetics Lab at the Faculty of Art & Design, University of New South Wales, has co-developed one of the more confronting works in the exhibition, Stroke: Occlusion and Flow (2017). Working with five colleagues, from his own Lab and at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, McGhee’s work immerses the user in actual clinical stroke data via a (rather queasy) virtual reality experience, using a headset and video game controller. Three of the most common types of stroke, including ischaemic strokes (caused by vessel occlusion), thromboembolism, and a haemorrhagic stroke (caused by aneurysm rupture) can be ‘experienced’ as the user follows along with the red blood cells from the aorta to the site of the stroke. McGhee was directly influenced by the film Fantastic Voyage (Richard Fleischer, 1966) in the creation of the visual imagery displayed on the headset. Any number of patrons might be directly influenced by McGhee’s endeavour to rethink their diets and recommit to their exercise regimes.

The redoubtable Hotham Street Ladies, the artistic collective comprising Cassandra Chilton, Molly O’Shaughnessy, Sarah Parkes, Caroline Price and Lyndal Walker, present the latest iteration of their homage to menstruation, You Beaut (rhyming slang for ute = uterus). Originally exhibited in the men’s toilets at the Margaret Lawrence Gallery (VCA), as part of the exhibition Backflip: Feminism and Humour (2013), they revisited the concept for a billboard project outside Bakehouse Studios on Punt Road in Richmond (2014). The new purpose-built installation of You Beaut (2017) continues this gynaecological narrative by focussing on some of the more troubling conditions associated with menstruation.


Hotham Street Ladies (Cassandra Chilton, Molly O’Shaughnessy, Sarah Parkes, Caroline Price & Lyndal Walker), ‘You Beaut’ (2017) detail, Royal icing (25+ kg), assorted lollies, buttercream (5 kg), food dyes (over 20), ceramic toilets, tile, tile adhesive, metal toilet roll holder, MDF, paint, 243 (h) x 224 (L) x 223 (d) cm. Installation image: Inga Walton.


A bodily function that remains, to varying extents, a major social taboo throughout the world, the work also embraces the broader tradition of Abject Art. “I don’t think we ever deliberately set out to offend anyone, but it can be pretty funny that anyone’s offended over a bit of icing! [We use] icing to subvert the abject nature of the menstrual blood, rendering the grotesque ‘delicious’. In a lot of our work we do tend to push the boundaries of good taste and we are not afraid to broach topics that might be seen as a bit disgusting or distasteful. Our main goal is to amuse ourselves and each other, and to create work that we are proud of”, says Chilton. “Of course, any work that depicts menstruation is going to be seen as provocative or distasteful in some way, which is pretty ridiculous really. We do find it interesting that this work brings forth the discomfort with women’s bodies that we have as a society”.

Hotham Street Ladies pay tribute to Judy Chicago, often described as the foremost feminist artist in the world, and her work Menstruation Bathroom (1972), displayed as part of the larger Womanhouse project (1972), realised within a dilapidated Hollywood mansion. “The use of parody, humour and irony are key strategies in our work. To show both how far feminist issues have moved, but also how little has changed. Our work extends to referencing the puerile bathroom graffiti of genitalia, and recasting it as a didactic scientific diorama”, O’Shaughnessy comments. “We really wanted to draw out some of the more scientific aspects of the work, and use a number of uterine and ovarian conditions, and also diseases, to illustrate the diversity of uteri and menstrual experience. We have always found it interesting and funny that the classic ‘text book’ image of a uterus, as a neat package, isn’t really the true story”.

The artists did a lot of preparation before undertaking this work, including a meeting with Dr. Clare Hampson, a pathology lecturer at the University of Melbourne. “Clare provided us with some guidance on how different conditions present, and how they might affect the way a uterus looks. We were also lucky enough to have a tour of the University’s Harry Brookes Allen Museum of Anatomy and Pathology, which houses a huge collection of human tissue specimens and anatomical models; it provided us with a lot of inspiration”, Chilton recalls. “We also looked at a lot of anatomical texts, in particular Netter’s Illustrated Human Pathology2, and a wonderful book with 19th Century hand-tinted etchings, donated to the University’s Medical School [Special Collections, Baillieu Library].3 These works influenced our colour palette and style of illustration”.

An installation on this scale requires extensive coordination and planning, as the Hotham Street Ladies are an international group: Lyndal Walker is based in Berlin, Caroline Price is based in London. “We generally workshop ideas via email, and for this installation we even had skype meetings. Before installing we drafted up some designs – we even made 3D paper models of the toilet stalls – and worked out a colour palette”, explains O’Shaughnessy. “The installation itself took around a week to complete, including some long nights, and involved about 30kg of icing sugar. We used different kinds of icing and piping equipment to achieve different effects- I think we probably used at least twenty different nozzles. We always make the work together: we play music and talk. Enjoying making the work is very important to us, and a part of our ethos. Another compulsory condition of working with the Hotham Street Ladies is that we don’t clean up”.

Menstruation is still perceived as a ‘women’s issue’- one not to be discussed openly, or alluded to in anything other than hushed tones. Prevailing social mores, reinforced by advertising, regard it as a process that girls and women should adopt a furtive and secretive attitude towards. The infamous high school communal shower scene from Carrie (Brian De Palma, 1976) comes to mind. Conversely, the accusation that someone is ‘having their period’ has become a widely understood inference that someone is incompetent, temperamental, or otherwise being objectionable. The multi-billion dollar ‘hygiene industry’ reinforces feelings of embarrassment and shame with its pristine bleached white products, infamous blue liquid, and a vernacular that emphasises ‘discretion’, ‘freshness’, ‘protection’, ‘dryness’, ‘odour control’, and ‘safety’. Safe from what? As Elissa Stein and Susan Kim have observed,

…whenever menstruation is mentioned these days, it’s only because there’s an underlying sales pitch. Either that, or it’s the subject of a complaint or the punch line to a joke. Or all of the above. There’s no real discussion of the actual event itself- not just the physiology and hormones of menstruation, but its complex history, its place in society, the inescapable role it plays in every woman’s life, and its ramifications for our health, the environment, and our lives… The sad fact is that menstruation- the process, the images, the word itself- is as unspeakable and undercover as it ever was.4

Hotham Street Ladies have garnered a reputation for their subversive attitude to baking and cake decoration; historically one of the few ‘acceptable’ outlets for women’s creative expression. For two issues that are overwhelmingly stereotyped and gender-centric, You Beaut (2017) represents a perfect mergence of artists and theme. “Obviously, a lot of our work talks about feminism, and for us the adopting of some of those more traditionally female skills to talk about contemporary issues of gender is very deliberate. But it is also a way of honouring that work, and we have a great deal of respect for many of those skills”, O’Shaughnessy maintains. “The final installation depicted a lot of different uterine presentations, conditions and diseases. We included some rare congenital abnormalities such is the double uterus (both shown menstruating), and the uterus with a single ovary; polyps, tumours, fibroids, and cysts. One of the ovaries has a chocolate cyst – very Hotham Street Ladies!”, Chilton quips.


Jipil Jung, ‘Mum 0009’ (2016), digital print, 100 x 100 cm. Courtesy the artist.


South Korean artist Jipil Jung is delighted to have his work shown in Australia for the first time, although viewers may well be dismayed by the topic. For his twelve-panel series Mum (2016), Jung takes as his subject matter one of the most prolific and widely detested creatures in the natural world – the mosquito. As a vector of disease, this tiny insect with its distinctive and dreaded whine has a devastating impact in terms of the health of the global population, killing around 1 million people annually. Responsible for transmitting the scourges of Malaria, Filariasis, Dengue and Yellow fevers, Chikungunya virus (CHIKV), Zika and West Nile virus, Japanese encephalitis virus, and other Arboviruses (such as our own Ross River virus), the mosquito is often referred to as ‘the deadliest animal in the world’.

Developed as part of the Korea Foundation for the Advancement of Science and Creativity (KOFAC) artist program, Jung’s work focuses on the lifecycle of the female mosquito. Of the 3,500 known species of mosquito, it is only the females from just six percent of species who must ingest a ‘blood meal’ during the development of their eggs. The mosquitoes in this series fed on the artist’s own blood, killing both them and their eggs in the process of documentation. While governments and NGOs worldwide are occupied with strategies to combat mosquito numbers and mitigate the spread of the diseases they carry, Jung’s work ponders the ethics of such concerted attempts to eradicate the species.5

Polish artist Izabela Żółcińska’s varied practice encompasses sculpture, painting, site-specific installations, public art projects and interventions. “As an artist, I’m interested in sensory perception and extended corporeality, particularly the relation between the body and its ‘protection’, like a garment or architecture. I’m working in an interdisciplinary manner through research in such areas like cognitive science, technology, ‘corporeality’, anatomy, architecture and hydrology”, she remarks. “I introduced the idea of the capillary as the visual system [for my artwork] exhibited as The Capillary Phenomena/The Wall of Warmth (2010-11), Biophilia (2012), and The Bodies of Rivers/The Glomma (2014). My works are dedicated also to the phenomena of liquidity”.


Izabela Żółcińska, ‘Personal Protection Equipment’ (2015-16), hand embroidered silk micro porous film 65g/m2, 140 (h) X 70 (L) x 25 (d) cm, (acrylic transparent box: 170 x 80 x 40 cm). Photography: Urszula Tarasiewicz.


Personal Protection Equipment (2015-16) addresses issues of physical aversion, the stigma of disease, and the fear of infection. The work was inspired by television news coverage of the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, thought to have started in late May, 2014. Żółcińska was in contact (via skype) with Dr. Colin Brown (Infectious Diseases Adviser), and Natalie Mounter (isolation ward nurse) of King’s Sierra Leone Partnership at the Connaught Hospital, Freetown, who were at the forefront of the escalating crisis.6 The bulky protection suits worn by medical responders, and the extensive decontamination protocols in place in order to protect them, can be incredibly restrictive and arduous for the wearer to manage.

“There is a hidden contradiction and many different opinions about working in these suits. In talking with Colin and Natalie, I got the impression that currently using such forms of protection equipment is far from perfect. It can be a significant challenge to face: there are problems with over-heating, bodily functions, the complicated procedure of putting on, and particularly taking off, the suit, and the lack of personal interaction with the sick person”, Żółcińska contends. “They agreed that this element of working within the confines of the protection equipment, when you can express yourself only by visual contact (through a visor), is very difficult for them. Already there are a lot of barriers, like differences in culture and the fact that they are working in places where they can’t necessarily use all of their skills. It makes reality, if it is possible in such circumstances, even more difficult”.

Via the internet, Żółcińska acquired one of the biohazard suits commonly used during such contamination outbreaks. “This suit has a wider meaning for me; it is a work about our fragility, vulnerability, and sometimes self-destructive actions. I’m also interested in the phenomenon of haemophobia in our culture, as our bodies can be so easily destroyed by powerful forces such as Ebola. I did all the embroidery by myself, a network of embroidered silk ‘vessels’. It was important for me to do this personally, as I treated this not like a decoration, but more a pattern of suffering”, she admits. “I was working on it for close to one year, in the beginning very seldom, as I was looking for the concept and preparing the suit. I had to take all the surface film and ‘plastic’ layers off it, then I started to work on the transparent underlying layer, as though it was like something ‘internal’. Then I started to make the embroidery, slowly, day by day. Finally, during the last four months I was working every day on the suit. In the beginning it was size XXL, but now, after the whole process, it is much smaller!”

In conjunction with Blood: Attract & Repel, Żółcińska has since had the opportunity to discuss her work with Professor Sharon Lewin, (inaugural Director), and Dr. Julian Druce (Head of the Virus Identification Laboratory) at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, Melbourne. “Talking with them has enhanced the meaning of the work for me, and my understanding of this potentially hazardous field. This is the first time my work has been shown in Australia, and it is very exotic for me and significant because Personal Protection Equipment will show firstly in Melbourne, and then in London, where I will conduct a workshop”, Żółcińska relates. “It is travelling almost globally, and shows that the problems the work touches on are of concern to all of us”. The suit is displayed suspended inside an Acrylic box to ‘protect’ the viewer from the object. It comes with a bottle of hand sanitiser – just to be sure.


Dan Elborne, ‘One Drop of Blood’ (2013), handmade glazed porcelain cells (dimensions variable), timber, ply wood and acrylic paint, LED strip light, (H) 220 x (L) 239 x (elevation) 33 cm. Installation image: Inga Walton.


Dan Elborne’s work One Drop of Blood (2013) originally included some 21,243 handmade glazed porcelain cell-like objects that represent white blood cells. When Elborne’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, the artist looked for a way to process this traumatic event within his practice. The cells mimic a high-ranging white blood cell count, one that is depleted by illness and powerful cancer drugs. “One of the common side effects of chemotherapy is wildly fluctuating and an often dangerously low white blood cell count. When I first heard that Mum’s white blood cell count had plummeted, I was scared. I didn’t understand what was happening and got reading on what this meant for her and how it could be treated”, Elborne remembers. “It was that reading and research which was the catalyst for the project, and especially influenced its aesthetic and interactive elements. I found that making them was meditative. Repetitive action and ‘making multiples’ is a pretty big part of my art practice because I find it to be a kind of meditation”. 

Viewers are invited to take portions of the work away with them in exchange for a donation to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, so the number of ‘cells’ has gradually lessened over the span of three previous exhibitions. “When I first made the work, I thought it would only be exhibited once and all the cells would be taken from that first showing. It turns out that generally, viewers are careful and only take very small amounts of work with them. This means that the work has had a much longer and exciting lifespan than I anticipated. I really appreciate that it keeps getting picked up [for exhibition] and shown”, Elborne comments. These massed, tactile white objects have a particular solemnity that manages to convey the anxiety and fear associated with the body in extreme distress. “Mum, in particular, was a big fan of the project. It has been overwhelmingly well received, and I’ve thankfully gotten a lot of positive feedback from people who are directly and indirectly affected by cancer. Accessibility is a really important aspect to how I create work. The simplicity of the project, both aesthetically and conceptually, is my attempt to make the project as accessible as possible”. 

Elborne hasn’t done an ‘official’ count of the components for some time, but anticipates that the installation could well continue for some years. With his Mother in remission, the project acts as a way of reaching out to the wider community of survivors and their loved ones. “It’s ultimately calming for me and the production of the work was always a kind of therapy for the whole experience. During my Mum’s chemo treatment, one thing that rings loudly as a memory is Mum saying that she saw her fight with cancer as an opportunity to help others. I guess the project, and particularly its interactive element, is my way of assisting her in doing that”, he believes.


Bai Yiluo, ‘Recycling’ (2008), fibreglass, magazines & waste paper, tricycle cart, aluminium cans, plastic bottles, wood, rope, cloth, 320 x 250 x 200 cm. (Collection, White Rabbit Gallery, Chippendale, NSW). Photography: David Roche.


Chinese artist Bai Yiluo’s Recycling (2008) dominates the upper gallery space. An enormous, anatomically correct, fibreglass human heart is tied onto the back of a san lun che, a popular multi-purpose tricycle often used for carrying recycled paper, cardboard and firewood in China. The artist’s immediate concept was to offer a commentary on relationships and love, a prevalent concern throughout conservative Chinese society. Bai’s work acknowledges the cynicism of organised match-making, and the role family expectations play in the interplay of relationships. He removes the heart from the sleeve and relocates it to the cart of a recycling vendor; suggesting that, emotionally, love is the great leveller – it doesn’t take much to end up being tossed in the gutter. A more sinister narrative for this work is that of China’s brisk trade in human organs for transplant. Accusations are rife as to where these body parts come from: prisoners on death row, political prisoners, Falun Gong practitioners, and other innocent people. Essentially, these are ‘live’ organ donors, being killed-on-demand to satisfy the organ transplant industry, rumoured to be worth some US$1 billion annually.7

The Norwegian artist Cecilia Jonsson’s remarkable installation Haem (2016) presents a more elaborate story of recycling. Her projects are developed as a means to investigate the physical and ideological properties of the raw materials that are fundamental to human existence. Central to Jonsson’s practice is the process by which she uncovers the poetic connections between sciences, environmental politics, technology, materials and aesthetics. Haem was chosen as one of three winners of the Dutch Bio Art & Design Awards (BAD) for 2016, and received an Honourary Mention (Hybrid Art) at the Prix Ars Electronica (2017).

For this project, Jonsson collaborated with Dr. Rodrigo Leite de Oliveira of The Netherlands Cancer Institute/Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Hospital, and received the cooperation of the Department of Gynaecology and Obstetrics at OLVG West Hospital, Amsterdam. Haem (from haemoglobin) pays tribute to the largely hidden power of the placenta, the fetomaternal ‘transitional’ organ that is the source of all human life, and the fundamental connection between the mother and the developing child(ren). Jonsson was intrigued by the role that iron plays in our lives, not only in our blood and at a cellular level, but also in archaeological terms, as an element of change and advancement for civilisation. What links the two? Ideas about survival, direction, choice, collective responsibility, and individual agency.

During gestation, iron itself plays an essential role by transferring oxygen from the mother to the foetus across the placenta – a remarkable site of biological ‘interface’. The rich and complex network of placental blood vessels is sometimes referred to as the ‘labyrinth’, due to its resemblance to a maze when observed under the microscope. De Oliveira remarks that the placenta has “a structure similar to a cauliflower”, and that, “there are not many organs that appear and disappear during the life of an organism”. Commonly known as the ‘afterbirth’ this organ, which typically weighs approximately 500 grams, is then expelled. It is usually discarded as biological waste, although many cultures pay reverence to the placenta and conduct rituals around its disposal. More recently in western culture the practice of Placentophagy (eating the placenta) has become fashionable; presumably placenta selfies will be next.

Jonsson had a different concept in mind: reclaim this precious maternal resource from becoming medical ‘waste’, and re-forge the iron to form a ‘bio-ore’. Using sixty-nine donated postpartum human placentae, Jonsson engaged blacksmith Thijs Van der Manakker, trained in traditional iron reduction techniques, to smelt them. The metallurgical process of recovering the iron protein requires a temperature of 1300ºC, in a reducing environment, which means that all the biological properties of the placentae are destroyed in the forging process. The result was a fine needle that was then magnetised and used for a compass. A short film by Signe Tørå Karsrud and Sergio Cuervo Gonzalez, with a sound composition by Marcello Sodano, documents this fascinating process. Jonsson commemorates the placentae acquired for the project, by birth date and weight, in vinyl letters mounted on the wall.


Cecilia Jonsson, ‘Haem’ (2016) detail, Van Tetterode Glass Studio, Amsterdam, Marc Barreda (glass blower), hand blown Murrine glass bowl, 18 (h) x 35 (diam.) cm. Thijs Van der Manakker (blacksmith) compass needle (3.5 x 0.5 cm), glass, wood (housing) 12 x 5 cm. Installation image: Inga Walton.


The idea of the placenta as a labyrinth is expressed by the vessel the compass rests in. “For the bowl, I was working together with the glass artist Marc Barreda who is trained in the Murrine glass technique. The bowl’s ‘cell like’ pattern, in transparent and red stained glass, takes its inspiration from microscopic cross-section images that were made of the labyrinth region of the placentas”, Jonsson notes. “The histological photographic work was done at the laboratories of the Netherlands Cancer Institute, studying the structure of placental tissue with optical and electronic microscopy. I laid out the glass pattern as a mosaic and it was then crafted into a bowl by Marc and his assistant”. The compass, a tool for guidance and navigation throughout life, rests in the centre of a labyrinth, where classically one gets lost. However, in the context of gestation and birth, the placental labyrinth is the site where mother and child establish their first connection.

As well as creating a lasting tribute to this common, but little appreciated biological process, Jonsson’s work expresses a paradox. “The labyrinth is a test of our capacity to find our way out, to understand where we are and where we need/want to go. At the same time, the placenta’s labyrinth is a source of life on which we depend for survival as a foetus”, she muses. “So, turning this symbolic challenge to our orientation (the labyrinth) into a device for finding our way around (the compass), translates [as] an operation of building our own autonomy from the resources provided by our mother- rather than relying or depending on her for guidance in life”.

The Harry Brookes Allen Museum of Anatomy and Pathology is Australia’s largest teaching collection of human specimens, including dissected anatomy and pathology specimens, moulages, death masks and historical teaching models. It was named after Sir Harry (1854-1926), the distinguished pathologist, who was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Medicine in 1886. A specimen from the Museum, Normal Twin Placenta (c.1950), complements Jonsson’s work by allowing the viewer to closely examine the body’s only ‘disposable’ organ. For a majority of monozygotic (identical) twins, a single placenta is shared throughout development. By contrast, fraternal (non-identical) twins always have separate placentas.

Three works explore issues of Aboriginal identity and disenfranchisement, tied to historical ideas of racial hierarchy, class distinctions, and their subordinate position in society. Gurrk (2017) is the word for ‘blood’ in the Woi wurrung language of the Wurundjeri people. This digital work, by Dr. Nicholas Thieberger and Associate Professor Rachel Nordlinger, uses an interactive version of the Tindale Map (1974) to invite viewers to explore the array of Aboriginal languages through this one word, ‘blood’. Originally produced by anthropologist Norman B. Tindale, AO (1900-93), the map shows the distribution of Aboriginal tribal groupings throughout Australia, and challenged the orthodoxy of the time that maintained Aboriginal peoples were nomadic, and had no connection to a specific region. Thieberger and Nordlinger are part of the Research Unit for Indigenous Language (RUIL) at the University of Melbourne, a organisation that works with Indigenous communities across Australia to expand and strengthen research into Indigenous languages, and supports efforts by communities to maintain their linguistic and cultural heritage.


Judy Watson, ‘a preponderance of aboriginal blood’ (2005), 16 etchings with chine collé on magnani incisioni cotton rag paper (300gsm), (ed. 1/5) 42 x 30.5 cm, printed by Suzanne Danaher & Tricia Hatcher, (Collection, Baillieu Library Rare Books, University of Melbourne). Courtesy the artist and grahame galleries + editions, Brisbane. Photography: Carl Warner.


Judy Watson, a Waanyi artist from North West Queensland, explores issues of colonial displacement and the marginalisation of Aboriginal peoples in her practice. Her father’s family have Scottish and English ancestry, “I fit somewhere in between, I am Indigenous and non-Indigenous. I embody the notion of two cultural frameworks occupying the same cultural space”, she asserts. Watson’s suite of sixteen etchings, a preponderance of aboriginal blood (2005) is an artist’s book commissioned by the State Library of Queensland to celebrate the Queensland Centenary of Women’s Suffrage and Forty Years of Aboriginal Suffrage. Watson initially didn’t want to participate in the project until she heard a lecture at the University of Queensland by activist Loris Williams (1949-2005) on the circumstances of Aboriginal people and their right to vote in Queensland.

Williams, of Birra Gubba and Mulinjali heritage, was the first Aboriginal person from Queensland to gain professional archival qualifications, and worked in the Community and Personal Histories Section of the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy (DATSIP). “When I heard Loris use the term ‘a preponderance of aboriginal blood’ … I knew what I was going to make the work about. I dedicated this artist’s book to Loris and I’m sorry she never got to see it completed”, Watson reveals. Watson worked with Williams and Margaret Reid at the Queensland State Archives using historical documents gifted by Indigenous families. “The families were happy for the public to know about this history, to inform them of these events and how they affected Indigenous people in Australia. Loris sent me material from her lecture, and Margaret sent me copies of some of the original documents in the archives. It is this material, that is so potent and so oppressive, that is the work. Its heaviness dictates an era of constriction and control for all Aboriginal people caught within its web. My dedication goes not only to Loris and Margaret, but to all those writers, artists, researchers, educators, and librarians who have helped to reveal the whitewash of our history”.

Copies of the original documents have been overlaid with images of blood pools and splatters. The printing process is chine collé in which thin paper, in this case photocopies onto banana fibre paper, are backed with an acid free glue, a rice paste. They are placed face down onto etching plates, and rubbed with a dark red ink. A dampened sheet of white cotton rag paper is placed over the top and then fed through the printing press, reminiscent of an old clothes mangle, compressing the paper into the surface of the plate so that it can pull the ink out. The pressure adheres the sticky glue on the back of the thin sheet of paper so that it becomes a part of the heavier white paper, collaging them together. “Because this material from the archives already has a latent power, I didn’t want to change this very much. Its leakage onto the printed page is enough. My background is as a printmaker, so it was a natural progression to work with this medium for the artist’s book”, Watson reasons. “When I see the sort of material I researched for this project I am outraged that my own family, especially my wonderful Aboriginal Grandmother, Grace Isaacson, were subjected to this sort of treatment and classification by the white authorities in this country. I view this material with a deep, personal hurt for my family and for all Aboriginal people”.


Judy Watson, ‘blood’ (2012), 10 glass vials, 10 glass bottles, paper, string, donated blood, 228 (L) x 31 (h) x 31 (w) installed. Courtesy the artist and Milani Gallery, Woolloongabba. Installation image: Inga Walton.


Another work by Watson, blood (2012), depicts ten glass vials and ten glass bottles categorised according to the profession of the donor: conservator, writer, artist, registrar, gallerist, archivist etc. Watson gave each donor and the doctor an artwork; an exchange of fluids for creative expression. The project aims to remind viewers of the type of classification based on perceived blood quantum, or percentage of their racial status, that was applied to Aboriginal people in Australia’s recent past. These ‘specimens’, so neatly tied up and labelled, also speak to the wider issue of Aboriginal artefacts and body parts held in international museum collections as ‘ethnographic’ displays. These are significant items that their respective elders and communities want repatriated and returned to country and family where this is possible. “It also relates to the categorisation of Aboriginal people which led to separation of children from parents, and a lack of agency within each person’s life”, Watson agrees.

Science Gallery Melbourne, Frank Tate Building, University of Melbourne, Gate 6- Swanston Street, Parkville, Victoria, 3052: | Some of the artists will participate in the exhibition Blood: Life Uncut (12 October-1 November, 2017) at Science Gallery London: | Judy Watson is represented by: Milani Gallery, Woolloongabba (QLD): , grahame galleries + editions, Paddington (QLD): , Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne (Vic): | Dan Elborne’s solo exhibition, Remnants (until 16 September, 2017) is at Alexandra Lawson Gallery, Toowoomba (QLD): | Hotham Street Ladies: | Izabela Żółcińska: | Cecilia Jonsson: | Jipil Jung: | Dan Elborne:

S. Maw, London (manufacturer), Solomon Maw (1805-61), surgical instrument maker, ‘Scarificator’ (c.1830), metal, 6.8 x 6.4 x 4.8 cm. Part of a Blood Letting Cupping Set (c.1830), consisting of five cupping glasses with four padding covers in chamois, spirit bottle and lamp in a wooden box. (Collection, Medical History Museum, University of Melbourne). Photography: Gavan Mitchell.

1 Spike Milligan, “Hope” (1971), Hidden Words: Collected Poems, Michael Joseph, London, 1993, p.52. | 2 L. Maximilian Buja & Gerhard R.F. Krueger, Netter’s Illustrated Human Pathology, Elsevier Health Sciences, London, 2014. Dr. Frank Henry Netter (1906-91) was a surgeon and renowned medical illustrator. He produced nearly 4,000 illustrations in his career, and his landmark Atlas of Human Anatomy (1989) continues to be a staple of medical education. | 3 A.B. [Augustus Bozzi] Granville, Graphic Illustrations of Abortion and the Diseases of Menstruation: Consisting of twelve plates from drawings engraved on stone, and coloured by Mr. J. Perry, and two copperplates from the Philosophical transactions, coloured by the same artist. The whole representing forty-five specimens of aborted ova and adventitious productions of the uterus, with preliminary observations, explanations of the figures, and remarks, anatomical physiological, J. Churchill, London, 1834. | 4 Elissa Stein & Susan Kim, Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation, St. Martin’s Griffin, New York, 2009, p.2. | 5 see, Claire Bates, “Would it be wrong to eradicate mosquitoes?”, BBC News Magazine, 28 January, 2016. [online] | 6 see, Colin Brown, Paul Arkell & Sakib Rokadiya, “Ebola virus disease: the ‘Black Swan’ in West Africa”, Tropical Doctor, Vol. 45/No. 1, January, 2015, p.2-5 & Colin Brown, Catherine Houlihan, Marta Lado, Natalie Mounter & Daniel Youkee, “What Do We Know About Controlling Ebola Virus Disease Outbreaks?”, Retrovirology: Research and Treatment, Volume 8, 2017, p.1-12 | 7 see the documentary, Human Harvest: China’s Organ Trafficking (Leon Lee, 2014).