Marc Quinn was sitting one day at his friend’s one-room apartment in Luton; he was unhappy and dissatisfied. Every day while walking around the block to do groceries or to buy whatever liquor he could afford in an effort to quieten his inner demons, he’d pass strange-looking gangster types, many of whom he knew for sure, were out selling drugs. Luton, for those who don’t know of it, is a small town outside of London, not very developed or crowded, known for thugs and also for drug-dealing to some extent. Marc had been kicked out of his East London studio apartment by his wife, who had been supporting his financial needs, including his art materials, for the past few months; the cash being a secondary issue for the loving wife, Marc had actually been lying to her and wasting a lot of her hard-earned money on alcohol, resultantly being unhappy himself with hardly any output in terms of his work. She had given him a few warnings, but realized she’d reached her threshold when he smacked her a couple of times and once even tried hitting their baby to emotionally blackmail her. Hence Quinn had been pretty messed up for over 8 months now!
Now his friend here in Luton, had graciously agreed to let Marc stay with him. This guy, Moby, was working at a local mall, but also an artist type who had given up on the idea of doing art professionally, after having lived hand to mouth for at least three years, switching places from one studio to the next and also between streets, with hardly any sold work which was already scattered amongst friends and a very few family members; and those people did not seem much interested to take good care of his work, considering his rising apathy towards it as well! So finally, after having lived the lives of a junkie hobo and a struggling artist, Moby had given up on ‘all that’ about a year ago, though he was still living on meager means but at least ‘respectably’, getting commissioned occasionally by fellow sculptors who knew his great skill and could afford to pay him.
Marc had been cutting his wrists under the influence of sleeping pills lately, something which he had quit doing more than a decade ago before this fateful turn in his life, yet again. Moby had been disgusted to find blood stains, once on his rug and another time, on the washroom floor on getting home, while his friend would be either dozing off or trying in vain, to create something with the little material he had managed to bring with him from back home. He even found himself, to his surprise later, saying to Marc angrily a few times, “When you’re already so low on resources and so eager to bleed, then you might as well make some art with your bloody blood before you kill yourself!!”
Today, Marc was waiting in this tiny slum-of-an-apartment for Moby to return. He was looking at the dark dampness outside the window, going through a hangover and thinking about what to do with his life; whether to do anything at all or making a suicide attempt altogether. He had tried calling his wife a few times over the last week, but she hadn’t bothered to return any of his calls or messages on her answering machine. He was missing his baby most of all, and cursing himself for trying to hit the benign little thing, out of sheer madness and ugly frustration. Right at this moment, his glance fell upon his wrist, which he had cut just yesterday, and then Moby’s words came streaming into his head. He’d been trying to create a sculpture head for over two weeks now, but he didn’t have the money to buy more clay, plus his hands would tremble so much these days that he couldn’t even put them to proper use lately! And THEN, an idea struck him: Why not make use of what IS readily available (relatively) and experiment with Moby’s outrageous idea! He dared not share it with anyone, but he was sure going to try it at least once now!
That’s where this work began. Marc got all his materials together: blades, a knife, chisel, plaster, mirror, and of course, a tourniquet. The next step was to identify all those areas of his body where he expected to find the blood flow at its best, so as to draw out maximum of it. From then onwards, Marc would wait till Moby would be away, in fear lest his old care-taker friend send him to a mental asylum, acting out of his deep concern. Marc had a purpose in life now, and he had to complete the work as soon as possible, so he could move back to London and spare Moby of the added burden of supporting him. The former did not really know why, but he was affirmative that once this artwork came out as what he had in mind, it could be an immediate success, given that he reached out to the right galleries; and yes, with his experience in the field, he already had at least 3 gallery curators he could speak with in this regard.
Across a span of 12 days, Marc had been putting his sweat and blood (literally!) into this 3D self-portrait, and by the end of this timeframe, ha had drawn eight pints of his blood and started preserving and freezing it from the start. What he drew altogether, was of course more than 8 pints, as it took him a couple of days to figure out how to keep the red blood cells mixed with the serum for proper effect. Once he had all the ‘home-made’ material ready, he began to sculpt, and this was precisely the point when Moby found out about his friend’s latest venture. But when he also saw that Marc’s alcohol and pill intake had drastically reduced now, and that the latter looked more fulfilled and productive than before, he decided to actually help him out on the project!
In a total of 3 weeks from the first incidence of idea generation, the cast for Marc’s head was made, and now the work is near completion. Moby has taken a few pictures of Marc during the sculpting process and showed them to some trusted artist friends in and around Luton, and from the feedback, both the friends know that the work would stir a lot of controversy. But at this point in time, that would be a very welcomed response; after all, a lot of artworks in the past were initially faced with controversy, which later transformed into ground-breaking success!
Marc Quinn, Self (detail)