Refugees are called upon by circumstances beyond their control to give up many things in life: their native land, the comfort and familiarity of home, whatever possessions they can’t carry with them into an uncertain future, power, and status as citizens, and oftentimes the people who comprise their community, from most beloved to casual acquaintances. One imagines that this creates strong potential for a broader loss of humanity in the struggle to survive. Apparently, this is not enough for British artist Marc Quinn, who would also like to literally take some of their blood, in the service of his newest work. Cool idea, bro.
Titled “Odyssey,” and slated to open in September 2019 on the steps of the New York Public Library, the piece is framed as a not-for-profit artwork by Quinn that will comingle the blood of 5,000 donors, half of whom are refugees, into two identical metric-ton cubes of FROZEN FUCKING HUMAN BLOOD.
“The fundamental point of the sculpture is that under the skin, we’re all the same,” says Quinn, quoted in the Guardian. “You will see two sculptures made from blood but you won’t know who they’re from.”
The idea here is that no one, including the artist himself, will be able to tell the difference between the cubes of refugee blood and that of regularly patriated citizens. Get it, guys? No matter who we are, under the skin we are all blood! That definitely sounds like a beautiful affirmation of shared humanity, and not something a serial killer might say before draining random amounts of blood from 5,000 people. We are all blood underneath, Clarice.
“Get Human. Get involved,” says the call for volunteers at bloodcube.org (BLOOD. CUBE. DOT. ORG.) which somehow equates donating a bit of your blood to be put on display in a frozen cube as an act of service in a crisis that has displaced nearly 68.5 million people worldwide. While the press on the project is eager to broadcast the fact that 50% of the funds Odyssey raises will go to the International Rescue Committee, with the rest distributed to a group of other refugee organizations and programs, it is not really clear how this work of art will generate the projected $30 million aside from “additional fundraising.” Also, the additional refugee organizations will be selected by the trustees of a UK charity established by Quinn called Human Love, which definitely does not sound like the name of a creepy cult that funds itself by collecting blood samples and then selling the genetic information of 5,000 individuals, including celebrities like Kate Moss, Jude Law, and Paul McCartney.
Scientology is a good start, thought Quinn, probably, but I’d like my art world celebrity cult to also involve BLOOD. HOW CAN WE MONETIZE THE BLOOD OF REFUGEES???
Kate Moss is quoted as saying: “The one thing about blood is that it is the same for everyone.” Kate Moss is also a well-known instrument in the eroticization of the physical indicators of starvation — a condition that is hugely lucrative when exercised voluntarily by supermodels, but presumably less beneficial to refugees fleeing in terror for their lives or crowded into camps lacking basic amenities.
Hey, the state of existence is terrible, and the millions of displaced and psychologically traumatized (and resilient and courageously adjusting) refugees are just one facet of a world in crisis these days. I understand the impulse to want to help out. But when one considers the staggering logistics involved with Odyssey — from mini-laboratories as blood draw facilities in several cities across the world, working with medical and legal ethics boards, and the video apparatus that enables donors to tell their stories as part of the exhibition — it raises the question of whether it might just be more efficient to, you know, donate the project budget to some fucking refugee organizations. If that’s what you care about, I mean.
After its initial display in New York, there are plans in the works to show it in London and around Europe, as well as through Africa and the Middle East. Quinn reportedly likes to view Odyssey as the world’s “first migrating artwork,” apparently forgetting that most museum shows travel to multiple locations after their initial run. Also, as if the story needed another horrifying twist, keeping the cubes frozen in transport poses such logistical issues, that the current plan is to melt them down and FUCKING RECAST THE CUBES OF BLOOD when they arrive at the next exhibition site. I’m starting my own Kickstarter campaign to make sure that all of Quinn’s assistants are up-to-date on their immunizations and vaccines.
The work will be housed in a steel-framed pavilion designed by Norman Foster, to protect the cubes from weather — a consideration, incidentally, rarely afforded to refugees. I think if this art world vampire really wants to raise awareness, he should transport his artwork via unstable rafts in the dark of night on stormy seas, at the risk of losing everything.
You know, like refugees.