Kim Morgan is interested in human relationships as they exist between things, other people, and places. She explores this by focusing on materiality, thinking about the role that tactility plays in our heavily virtual and digitized culture. Morgan has most recently focused this investigation on blood, of which she writes, “Blood is the material fabric of our life and therefore we have a profound and dynamic relationship to it. It has medical, social, and political meanings and consequences. Blood is woven into our language to define relationships (blood ties, blood feuds, blood brothers) and features in religious and pagan rituals. As a material, blood is complex, vibrant, valuable, and abject.” Morgan uses the duality that blood represents—as cultural, sustainable, personal—in her new installation sigh.
To begin this work, Morgan collaborated with scientists to use Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), which enables her to view blood samples at 100x -100,000x or more. This magnification allows us to see in a way we cannot with the naked eye and provides us with information about our own bodies in an intimate way. For the actual samples it was important that Morgan collect them from people she knows—her mother, partner, friends, students, and herself—creating a unique portrait of an extended social unit, for each scan is unique much like our own fingerprints. The composite image is like a huge mural, which on first glance is seductive. Then a deeper look reveals what we are faced with, and we find irregularities; wondering what disorders, disease, and genetics they point to.
For sigh, Morgan printed this portrait onto a lightweight fabric and hung it across the room. The material has a translucency to it, making it more like a membrane or a skin than a curtain. But what is perhaps most striking is how it moves—the image breaths in the room, sighing and exhaling. It is almost as if we have stepped inside a huge lung or heart, and the blood cells move around us, circulating as they would through our veins. In the end, this work allows us to see deeper and makes tangible the mysteries of our own bodies.
Also note that Morgan has made a limited edition scarf with the “blood portrait” from sigh on it, using the same material used in the manufacture of the curtain. The scarf further points to blood as a fluid of life and commodity. The scarves will be available for purchase at Artpace and a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Ovarian Cancer Society.
From the artist: What was the impact of the Artpace residency for you?
The Artpace residency gives me the time, space, and funding to create, sigh! These are gifts. With the help of the Artpace staff and other professionals, I am able to realize a large-scale, experimental, and technically complex art installation in a short period of time, and have it on exhibit for public viewing. The Guest Curator’s (Denise Markonish, MASS MoCA) choice of selected artists for this round of residents has been another fortuitous opportunity—to get to know two incredibly talented female artists—during this intense period of time. These experiences have been invaluable.