The artist Mary Coble (US/SE) inaugurate Umeå´s new contemporary art space with the exhibition “Still Deferred” at Konstfrämjandet i Västerbotten. This installation work is a collaboration where gay men were invited to stitch text taken from a blood campaign, on hospital like curtains that problematizes the restriction of blood donations from men who had sex with men. The artist blood is also used on the curtains.
The exhibition “Still Deferred” that began during a live performance in 2013 where artist Mary Coble along with 11 gay men spent 4 days addressing the then United States discriminatory policy that deferred or refused blood donations from men who had had sex with men after 1977.
The slogan “Be a hero, give blood” coined by the World Heath Organization (WHO) is a center point of this work. This statement in the context excluding gay men from being able to be blood donors begs the question of whom is allowed to be this hero and under what conditions.
Using text and images from blood donor campaigns that urge, congratulate and frame blood donors as a certain type of ‘healthy, normal and heroic’ person Coble creates a series of hospital like curtains with text from these campaigns such as “Don’t be such a wuss, give blood, “Be human, give blood” and “Good people give”. The word “deferral”, scripted in Morse Code is then in Coble’s own blood blotted onto the curtains disrupting the divisive text.
The gay men who collaborated on this work stitched over the WHO’s image of a hero with red thread in place of their own ‘illegal blood’ in an act of re-envisioning the gay male hero.
While a more recent draft of the guidelines from the US Food and Drug Administration as of summer 2015 now states that a man should be barred from giving blood only for one year after he has had sex with another man. While this has been lauded as a successful step towards gay rights Coble insists that these protocols still perpetuates and represents a stigmatization and institutionally supported homophobia. Gay men are still deferred.
The exihibition is produced by Konstfrämjandet i Västerbotten with the support of Folkrörelsen Konstfrämjandet and Postkodslotteriets Kulturstiftelse.
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