01 August 2023

Blood Is Blood

Gay Blood Acrylic Paint

In 2018, artist Stuart Semple created screen printing ink with trace elements of blood donated by gay men, which he used to print Blood Is Blood t-shirts with the slogan “THIS SHIRT IS PRINTED WITH THE BLOOD OF GAY MEN.” Last year, Semple began selling tins of the screen print ink itself, along with bottles of pen ink and acrylic paint, and canisters of spray paint, all containing traces of blood.

Bloody Art

Numerous artists have used blood as a medium recently, including Kristian von Hornsleth, Tameka Norris, Vincent Castiglia, Elito Circa, Ryan Almighty, Julia Fox, Axel, Ruby Martinez, Vinicius Quesada, and Maxime Taccardi. Andrei Molodkin uses blood to create sculptures and portraits satirising political figures. Pamela Schilderman (Ecology Now) used her blood and other bodily fluids to raise awareness of ecological damage. John O’Shea (Black Market Pudding) made black puddings from blood extracted from live pigs.

Products containing blood have also been commercially released, albeit in limited quantities. Tony Hawk sold Liquid Death skateboards decorated with paint containing his blood, and Nil Nas X sold Satan Shoes, modified Nike trainers containing a drop of his blood. Five albums have been released on blood-filled vinyl: Shout at the Devil (by Mötley Crüe), Maniacult (by Aborted), the Carrion soundtrack (by Cris Velasco), The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends (by The Flaming Lips) and the Friday the 13th soundtrack (by Harry Manfredini, rereleased by Waxwork Records). Gamnad737’s album Lets Kill [sic] was released on a blood-splattered CD.

Breaking Taboos

The most powerful artistic uses of blood have been attempts to destigmatise the blood of gay men. Semple’s ink and paint project was a protest against the ban on sexually active gay men donating blood in America. R.J. Arkhipov (Visceral) wrote poetry in blood to highlight the UK’s equally discriminatory blood donation restrictions. The magazines Audio Kultur (‘audio culture’) and Vangardist printed issues with blood donated by HIV+ men. Jordan Eagles has created installations (Blood Mirror and Blood Equality) from blood donated by gay men.

Menstrual blood has been tabooed for centuries. Artists including Ingrid Berthon-Moine, Portia Munson, Jen Lewis (Beauty in Blood), Christen Clifford (I Want Your Blood), and Sarah Levy have painted with their menstrual blood to challenge the taboo and normalise menstruation. In Levy’s case, she painted a menstrual blood portrait of Donald Trump, in reference to his sexist comment that journalist Megyn Kelly had “blood coming out of her—wherever”.

Thai Art and Politics

Several Thai artists have painted with blood. Pornprasert Yamazaki has shown his blood paintings at three exhibitions: Suicide Mind, Currency Crisis, and Swallow. Darisa Karnpoj (Vein/Vain) painted portraits in blood diluted with water. Kosit Juntaratip (Allergic Realities) used his blood to reproduce iconic news photographs. Manit Sriwanichpoom (Died on 6th October) soaked autopsy photographs in blood to commemorate the victims of state violence.

Blood has also been used by political protesters in Thailand. Protesters from Thalu Wang sprayed the Pheu Thai headquarters with pig’s blood after the party withdrew from Move Forward’s anti-military coalition. Thalufah splashed pig’s blood onto a sign at the Sino-Thai Engineering and Construction headquarters, in protest at the policies of health minister Anutin Charnvirakul. United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship protesters painted pro-democracy banners in blood and wrapped them around the Democracy Monument.