Blood Sculpture: an autogenic speculation on the bacterial origins of blood


Media: blood, hydrogen peroxide, and detergent.

For many reasons, there is an intimate link between bacteria and blood. In the 1980s, bacteria were found to possess haemoglobins, and thus the same iron containing proteins that transport oxygen around the bodies of all mammals, and which give blood it’s red colour and metallic taint. Some of these haemoglobins are essential for all life, because they indirectly allow plants (via symbiotic nitrogen fixing bacteria to extract and utilise nitrogen. Besides haemoglobin, blood also contains many components that have evolutionary origins in bacteria, for example, the enzyme catalase. This work Blood Sculpture reveals this ancient biochemistry in a dramatic way. When my own blood is mixed with hydrogen peroxide and household detergent, the catalase within it, converts the hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen. Catalase has one of the highest high turnover rates of any known enzyme, so that one catalase molecule can convert millions of hydrogen peroxide molecules into water and oxygen every second. This powerful  process, and the emission of oxygen through it, drives the formation of the autogenic, bloody foaming structure here (above). Once the process is initiated I have no control over it so that the forms are generated entirely by the biochemical process, which here has intriguingly produced a heart-like form.

Below are some still images of the work.


The blood before addition of the hydrogen peroxide/detergent mix



The final heart-like autogenic blood sculpture

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