Kim Morgan: Blood Portraits

7 September, 2021 – 15 July, 2022

Blood Portraits installation view, nine circular images, each 79.8 cm diameter, ink on vinyl bonded to aluminum, video accessed via QR code on text panel, 2021. Photo: Steve Farmer.

Kim Morgan, Grace, 2020. From the series Blood Portraits.

video still from Blood Portraits, 2020, 7 minutes and 30 seconds.

Installed above the elevators on the first floor 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…

Each individual blood “portrait” is derived from a sample donated by a human volunteer, with appropriate permissions for its use. Although diverse in age, ethnicity, gender, etc., their (self-identified) particulars are not detectable at this scale. All SEM images are black and white. All human blood is red.

The  Blood Portraits images present one half of a two-part project by interdisciplinary artist Kim Morgan. Part two is a video involving the same nine images, offering an increasingly layered experience of facts and fictions about blood and identity. The video’s section titles are single words that act as double-entendres, exemplified in the fourth round, “circulation,” which begins by describing the circulation of blood within the body, but fluidly transitions to reference the circulation of blood as a commodity, and the global trade in blood products. Likewise, the section titled “pathology” concerns itself not so much with blood-borne disease as with myth, misinformation, and prejudice about blood (a kind of sociopathology) that leads to the “stains” of deadly discriminatory practices.

In their strange beauty and ambiguity, both the fixed images and the video are intended to intrigue and provoke, working together to inspire wonder at the complexities of our material existence while questioning pervasive assumptions about the meaning and value of a person’s blood.

Blood Portraits is commissioned by Dalhousie Art Gallery with generous financial assistance from Arts Nova Scotia, Halifax Regional Municipality, and the Canada Council for the Arts.

Dalhousie University, Marion McCain Arts and Social Sciences Building, 6135 University Avenue, 1st Floor
Hours: 7:30 AM – 10:00 PM daily

There is a level entrance at the front of the building with automated doors (6135 University Avenue). Accessible parking spaces are located on LeMarchant Street. There are wide lobby spaces within the interior and an elevator to access multiple levels. Blood Portraits is located on the wall above the elevators on the first floor which can be reached by the elevator in the lobby. Accessible washrooms are also located on the first floor.

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