For everything you have missed, you have gained something else;
and for everything you gain, you lose something else.
Ralph W. Emerson
The work Haem from artist Cecilia Jonsson and researcher Rodrigo Leite de Oliviera presents a custom-made iron compass needle.
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 counterclockwise. The work is accompanied by a selective archive about the process, including a list showing the date of birth and weight of the 69 donated placentas.
Cecilia Jonsson (SE/NO)
Cecilia Jonsson is an interdisciplinary artist who explores links between organic life and inanimate matter as both a method of observation and as a medium. Informed by methods used in the natural sciences, her works are often site-related, artistic interpretations of the phenomena and processes of nature. Her projects develop as investigations of physical and ideological properties of the raw materials that are fundamental to human existence, from their origins deep in the ground, to the extraction, transformation and global exploitation.
Cecilia received her MA in Fine Art from Bergen Academy of Art and Design and the Nordic Sound Art program. She has been artist in residence in diverse organisations, such as Triangle France (Marseille), Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa (Venice), V2_ Institute (Rotterdam) and The Geological Survey of Norway (Trondheim). Her works have been exhibited widely and more recently at Science Gallery Melbourne, Artspace MU (Eindhoven), National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Natural History (Venice) and Edifici Disseny Hub Barcelona. In 2014, Cecilia was awarded prize in VIDA 16.0 International Awards and she won the Dutch Bio Art and Design Awards 2016. Cecilia received an Honorary Mention in the category of Hybrid Art of the Prix Ars Electronica 2017.
Haem is developed in close collaboration with Dr. Rodrigo Leite de Oliveira of The Netherlands Cancer institute. Commissioned by Bio Art & Design Awards with the support of ZonMw. In cooperation with the department of gynecology and obstetrics at OLVG West and blacksmith Thijs Van der Manakker. Video by Signe Tørå Karsrud and Sergio Cuervo Gonzalez.