c Marc Quinn

The Shoe

Translated by: 
Jason Woodruff




Marc Quinn made self-portraits using his own blood. To create Self, he steadily extracted his blood over a five-month period until he had saved up four and a half litres, the amount normally found in the body. He then poured the blood into a silicone mould of his own face. Once the blood coagulated, it had to be kept permanently at minus-fifteen degrees, thereby endowing it with an inherent fragility. In 1996, famous British art collector Charles Saatchi was in possession of the second iteration of Self when a caretaker accidentally unplugged the freezer it was in. The work melted and was nearly destroyed. The re-coagulated pieces remained like a persistently open wound. Ironically, though, it was that ridiculous mistake that best demonstrated the artist’s intended message about the frailty and impermanence of life. Quinn himself said that he hoped his series of self-portraits, like Rembrandt’s, would be endowed with his own ‘life’.

Several years ago, when Marc Quinn held his first exhibition in South Korea, I went to see Self. The moment I saw that glob of coagulated blood, I couldn’t help but retch in disgust. Having held back the vomit and regained my composure, the first thing I thought was this: if this work were to be damaged or lost after Marc Quinn dies, how could it possibly be restored?

Blood is a profound medium for an artist, forming and circulating through a living body as it does. If the work were to spoil at the wrong temperature or be lost, there would need to be a transfusion of more blood to repair it; but the problem is, how does one come by the blood? Because it is not just any blood, but Marc Quinn’s blood. If it were the Self that he’d made in his late thirties, wouldn’t it need to be repaired with his blood from that time? If blood from another person were mixed in, could we still say that it was still his self-portrait?

Marc Quinn himself answered the question when talking about the difficulty of preserving his work during exhibitions, saying that it was important that the work be made of his blood from that time of his life; from the blood that pumped through his veins when he decided to make it.


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