While light is streaming in through the stained glass windows, the walls and ceiling of the elegant 18th century space is covered in blood as is the marble statue at the entrance. It is perhaps appropriate that this is the chapel of a hospital, and one that was originally founded to treat incurables, where blood is so symbolic to life and death.
Guy’s Hospital in London was founded in 1721 by Thomas Guy to care for the “incurables” from St Thomas’ Hospital which, before the development of London Bridge station, was located across St Thomas’ Street. His body is interred in the crypt of the Chapel and he is commemorated with a statue in the chapel by John Bacon which is also covered in blood.
New York-based artist Jordan Eagles uses blood as other artists use paint. His installations “Blood Equality” in Guy’s Chapel and “Haemotel” in an adjacent intimate and dark space connected by a thin blood line weaving between them, reflects on blood as a life force but also the fact that sexually-active gay, bisexual and transgender people who have donated the blood for his transparencies are stigmatised by the fact that they are banned from donating blood to those in need. Science has not yet conquered stigma.
Outside the chapel, the historic courtyard and adjacent building is a building site for the Science Gallery at King’s College London, opening in 2018, crossing the boundaries of science, medicine and art, with an emphasis on community engagement.
“BLOOD: Life Uncut” is the pre-opening project, and this phase also includes Peta Clancy and Helen Prior’s “The Body is a Big Place” in the Old Operating Theatre across St Thomas’ Street, exploring organ transplantation and the roles of the donor (in this case a pig), the surgeon and the patient and blood itself as the life force that enables a transplant to be successful.
Connecting into the community the “Blood Bikers” will be roaming the streets between London Bridge and Tower Bridge collecting stories, sharing messages and staging performances linked to blood,
Part of the global Science Gallery network, at the same time as “BLOOD: Life Uncut” was opening in London, an exhibition with the same theme of BLOOD was opening at Science Gallery Melbourne, with the Old Quad at the University of Melbourne in Australia transformed by Jordan Eagles’ projection “Blood Equality-Illuminations”.