HAEM – Unfolding paths of the placenta

Iron, perhaps paling in nobility to its gold and silver elemental companions, through its nature and abundance has emerged as essential to life. The iron that runs through our veins and allows us to breathe is the same element from which the weapons, shields and tools were fashioned that have allowed humanity to not only survive, but flourish, for millennia.

The physical basis of Haem is iron derived from an unexpected source – the human placenta. Although this transitional organ possesses a complex labyrinth of blood vessels, the placenta provides a direct connection between mother and developing child. Iron itself plays an essential role during pregnancy, by guiding oxygen from the mother to the foetus across the placenta.

To symbolize this directed movement, a compass needle made out of metallic iron derived from the blood protein haemoglobin of donated human placentas was created. This object concentrates the labour of dozens of births, of thousands of hours of fluid exchange, at the earliest meeting point between new and existing life. By bridging aspects of the arts, life sciences, and metallurgy, Haem demonstrates in an unconventional way the fundamental interconnections between elements of the earth and the human body.

The film was conceptualised and directed by Cecilia Jonsson and Rodrigo Leite de Oliveira. Camera by Clara J:son Borg and Signe Tørå Karsrud. Sound by Clara J:son Borg and Sergio Cuervo Gonzalez. Editor Clara J:son Borg and sound design, mix and music by Marcello Sodano. Haem was commissioned by Bio Art & Design Awards 2016, developed with the support of The Netherlands Cancer Institute, ZonMw (The Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development), The Arts Council Norway and Bergen Municipality.

HD Video, 31:53min