Haem
2016
Mixed media installation including custom made compass, murrine glass bowl, vinyl letters, sound composition, HD Video, water, electronics

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 installation consists of the compass apparatus floating in the midst of a custom-made glass bowl inspired by microscopic images of the placenta, which slowly rotates counter clockwise. The installation is accompanied by a sound composition, HD Video and a register of the date of birth and weight of the 69 donated placentas.

Haem was developed in close collaboration with Dr. Rodrigo Leite de Oliveira at The Netherlands Cancer Institute. Commissioned by Bio Art & Design Awards with the support of ZonMw (The Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development). In cooperation with the department of gynecology and obstetrics at OLVG West hospital in Amsterdam and blacksmith Thijs Van der Manakker. Special thanks to all the Mothers, Fathers and Babies who contributed to the realization of Haem. The Haem installation is accompanied by a sound composition by Marcello Sodano and a HD Video by Signe Tørå Karsrud and Sergio Cuervo Gonzalez, sound. Haem received an Honorary Mention in the Category of Hybrid Art of the Prix Ars Electronica 2017.

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HD Video teaser 3min