Blood Mirror, an art installation using donated blood, challenges the ban on blood donations from gay men while blood banks are in defecit.
Artist Jordan Eagles has created a new work in the genre of bio-art, ‘Blood Mirror,’ using blood donated from nine queer men of different backgrounds, different ages and different occupations. The work calls attention to the United States Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) policy banning men who have sex with men (MSM) from donating blood.
The policy has been in effect since 1983, a response to the HIV/AIDS crisis that was decimating the LGBT community. Since 1983, there have been advances in screening for HIV, better treatment and better safety standards for blood donation, all of which are grounds for some LGBT groups to call the ban outdated and offensive.
Last year, the FDA announced that it might consider accepting blood donations from MSM, if they remained celibate for a year prior to donating. “What actually felt like a step in the right direction, sat with a while, it actually felt like this was even worse,” Eagles said. “Here we are in 2015, we have all this medicine and science at our disposal, and this is the best that they could do?”
In a video promoting ‘Blood Mirror,’ a statistic from the Williams Institute, UCLA, provokes the audience with the knowledge that “If the FDA lifted the ban, it could save 1 million lives annually.” This comes as astonishing news considering that American blood banks operate in a perpetual deficit, particularly in the aftermath of large tragedies and natural disasters.
Kelsey Louie, one of the donors and the CEO of Gay Men’s Health Crisis, described the project as “both a science issue as well as an equality issue. We have the technology to identify HIV within a blood supply within nine days. One of the drivers of HIV is stigma—it’s dangerous to public health.”
Captain Anthony Woods, a former platoon leader who was discharged under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ said, ‘The idea that I can shed my blood on a battlefield and yet, at the same time, cannot donate blood really doesn’t make sense to me.’
The artwork is a large rectangular cube, almost like a domino, made from clear plastic, standing in the centre of a room. Light reflects through clear the clear sides of the structure, while a large slab of light cuts across the floor from the central panel, which has been painted with the donated blood. What looks from a distance like an evenly pained board of rusty metal is, in fact, a splotch-patterned rose darkness, in which the viewer can see themselves reflected—the blood mirror of the title. The work functions as an eerie reminder that abstract ideas—such as a blanket blood ban—often have flesh and bone consequences.
‘Blood Mirror’ will be at American University Museum at The Katzen Arts Center, Washington D.C. from 12 September to 18 October.