This Artist Is Making Work Out of the Literal Blood of LGBTQ People

Credit to Author: Claire Voon| Date: Fri, 18 Jan 2019 18:03:46 +0000

Jordan Eagles remembers trying to donate blood in his early 20s and being told he couldn’t. The 41-year-old artist, who is gay, was turned away due to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) policy, not to accept blood donations from men who’d had sex with another man “even one time” since 1977. The lifetime ban was implemented in 1985, an early response to the AIDS epidemic, but it lasted for more than three decades before being tweaked to be slightly more inclusive in 2015.

“I was pissed,” Eagles recalls. “I reached over the table and grabbed my paperwork. I thought, ‘You’re not filing me as some reject in some cabinet. Hell no.’ That feeling of anger stuck with me. It was always that ‘even once’ that was a punch to my gut.”

At the time, Eagles was experimenting with using animal blood from slaughterhouses in his art. He’d preserve the blood in plexiglass and UV resin to create glistening, mesmerizing sculptures. But his fury about the FDA’s discriminatory policy endured, and in 2013, Eagles decided to channel his emotions into art challenging the ban.

One result is Blood Mirror, a seven-foot-tall block of UV resin filled with human blood donated, under medical supervision, by 59 gay, bisexual, and transgender men. The sculpture, created in two phases between 2014 and 2016, is currently installed at the Museum of the City of New York as part of the exhibition Germ City: Microbes and the Metropolis.

Then there’s Jesus, Christie’s, which Eagles created last year and is on view at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in New York through February 10. Eagles embedded a catalogue from the auction house’s sale of Salvator Mundi, the most expensive painting ever sold, with medical vials containing the blood of an HIV+ undetectable long-term survivor and activist, conflating the values of the art market with those of our healthcare system.

Both mark Eagles’ first forays into using human blood in his art. But unlike dripping works by Hermann Nitsch or Ron Athey that provoke visceral reactions, Eagles’s are imbued with a quiet, spiritual quality despite the outrage that drives them. (Fittingly, Blood Mirror debuted in 2015 at Trinity Church on Wall Street in New York City, where it stood like a contemporary reliquary in a historic vestibule.)

New work by Jordan Eagles, based off a 1994 HULK comic called

New work by Jordan Eagles, based off a 1994 HULK comic called “In the Shadow of AIDS,” and paired with blood from an HIV+ undetectable donor and a donor on PrEP. Courtesy the artist.

Given its source material, one question Jesus, Christie’s brings to mind is how Eagles considers his own artwork as commodity. As a collaborative protest piece made of many people’s biological matter, Blood Mirror seems like an odd sculpture to place on the market. But Eagles says that although it is for sale (and all donors have signed release forms), he plans to donate all potential proceeds to a yet-to-be-decided charity.

“My hope is that one day, someone extraordinarily wealthy will buy it and donate it to a museum that can care for the work and use it to raise dialogue,” he says. In an age when revolutionary leaps in science still confront persistent prejudices, it’s a conversation that will likely continue.

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This article originally appeared on VICE US.