Gallery

Kim Morgan: Blood Portraits

by Kim Morgan & Susan Gibson Garvey
with support from Dalhousie Art Gallery

Intended to intrigue, provoke wonder, and prompt questions about the meaning, use, and value of a person’s blood, Blood Portraits is a two-part installation that features nine large photographic discs of magnified blood samples and a compelling video that layers the images, with sound and text.

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Installed above the elevators in the lobby of the Marion McCain Building (housing Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences), nine large discs present images of an essential bodily material: human blood. Magnified up to 12,000 times through the use of scanning electron microscopy (SEM) they capture a frozen instant in the life of nine individuals’ blood. We observe in detail the forms and structures of red and white blood cells, platelets and antibodies involved in the processes of delivering oxygen and fending off disease.

The high-resolution images reveal a depth and richness of surface, complex cellular structures, and compositions that are morphologically reminiscent of other natural phenomena at different scales: a cascade of antigens like a surge of marine biota; white blood cells resembling coral or spiny sea urchins; red corpuscles like asteroids adrift in the depths of space…

But these are not imaginary images. Each named image represents an individual blood “portrait” derived from a sample donated by a human volunteer, with appropriate permissions for their use. They are diverse in age, race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation, yet each volunteer’s (self-identified) particulars are not detectable here. All SEM images are black and white. All human blood is red.
The printed portraits represent one half of this two-part project by interdisciplinary artist Kim Morgan. Part Two is a video, accessible through a QR code on the text panel by the work. The video is structured around the same nine images, which circulate nine times, accompanied by the persistent sound of a beating heart, as if in a musical roundelay or nine-stanza poem, while a voice track offers an increasingly layered gloss of facts and fictions about blood and identity.

This installation was commissioned by Dalhousie Art Gallery as an offsite project well before the advent of Covid19 in Canada. However, the same kind of scanning technology (SEM) used in this artwork has also provided those striking images of the coronavirus in everyday media (images often artificially enhanced with colour, although electron microscopy only “sees” in monochrome). The pandemic has underscored the fragility of the body and made us acutely aware of the role of medical science in understanding threats to human health, as well as of the social disparities that the virus spread reveals.

In Morgan’s installation, the strange beauty and ambiguity of the fixed images combine with the video’s visceral layering to offer an experience intended to intrigue, provoke wonder, and prompt questions about the meaning, use, and value of a person's blood.

** Dry Event, those under the influence are welcome on the condition of respect for the artwork, staff and volunteers, COVID rules, and fellow patrons.

Saturday, October 16th
6:00 PM until 11:59 PM
Add to Calendar 10/16/2021 6:00 PM 10/16/2021 11:59 PM America/Halifax Kim Morgan: Blood Portraits

Intended to intrigue, provoke wonder, and prompt questions about the meaning, use, and value of a person’s blood, Blood Portraits is a two-part installation that features nine large photographic discs of magnified blood samples and a compelling video that layers the images, with sound and text.

6135 University Ave
Installation

Location

Marion McCain Arts and Social Sciences Building (FASS Building)

6135 University Ave