"If you prick us, do we not bleed?", exclaims Shylock in his spine-tingling monologue. His words reverberate through history and are echoed by the participants of 'Odyssey', an art project which challenges human hierarchies in the most visceral sense... through blood. Here is what you need to know...
What do Kate Moss, Jude Law and Sir Paul McCartney all have in common?
They've all donated their precious blood to 'Odyssey', a monumental art installation comprising two identical glass cubes, each filled with a tonne of human blood donated by 5,000 volunteers!
Errr, why would they do that?
Because Marc Quinn, the artist and creator of 'Odyssey', wishes to highlight the essential bonds which bind us together as human beings... And what better physical representation of this than blood!?
Bit morbid, no?
Not at all! Blood is one of the most natural things in the world and something which we can all identify with. Quinn has used blood in many previous sculptures, however this is the first time he will use other people's blood, and on such a massive scale.
So, why two cubes?
One cube is filled with the blood of refugees (all donated btw). The other is filled with the blood of non-refugees. Whilst the contents of the cubes are biologically identical, one contains the blood of human beings with significantly fewer rights and opportunities than the other. By juxtaposing these two cubes, Quinn draws attention to this hierarchy and questions its legitimacy.
“It’s really about how we value human beings. I wanted to put famous people alongside some of the least valued people in the world, and put them on equal platforms and give them equal voice.”
- Marc Quinn, in an interview with The Guardian
And how will he do that?
Because no one will know which cube is which! Even Quinn himself will be in the dark, leaving everybody to question not only whose blood is where, but hopefully, why this should matter.
But it doesn't matter.
Well, it shouldn't matter, but it definitely does. That's why huge public works like Quinn's are so important. Art can help bring us all together, to reflect on our commonality, and to feel close to one another. This is extremely important, particularly in our prevailing climate of fear, in which refugees are unfairly demonized and 'othered'. Hopefully, 'Odyssey' will make more of us question this dynamic and come to feel more of an affinity with refugees.
So, where are these blood cubes being exhibited?
Actually, the cubes will be on tour, hence the name, 'Odyssey'. The journey will start in 2019 in front the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, on Fifth Avenue, New York. From there, it will travel around the globe, stopping off at major cities to exhibit not only the cubes, but the stories of every single participant.
"Under the skin we are all the same"
- Odyssey participant
I thought it was just the cubes?
Oh no. It's far more than just the cubes. In public spaces, using screens and outdoor media, each hosting city will be virtually populated by films of Odyssey donors telling their stories. With their unique and human stories integrated into the fabric of each city, these individuals will become temporary citizens for the duration of the exhibition.
Won't that be a bit tricky, what with all the blood?
Nope. The cubes will be displayed in bespoke refrigeration units and housed in a a pavilion designed by the renowned architect Norman Foster and the Norman Foster Foundation.
It actually sounds really cool. I wish I could get involved...
YOU CAN! Simply go to BloodCube.org to register as a blood donor, or to donate money. Half of all the funds raised will go directly to the International Rescue Committee, while the other half will be divided amongst other refugee charities chosen by Quinn's charity, Human Love. In total, 'Odyssey' is estimated to raise $30 million in funds for refugee charities.
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