Blood Relations – Anish Kapoor & Salman Rushdie

I’ve managed to see some of the Anish Kapoor pieces that we are privileged to have in Brighton at the moment as part of this year’s festival. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m an admirer of Kapoor – I can remember seeing his sand sculptures at a gallery in Liverpool when I was very young. The bold colours, strong shapes and irresistible texture of the sand must have made a big impression on me – Ive never forgotten it.

I could happily talk about all the pieces I saw, but I’m just going to look at Blood Relations – because as a collaboration of sorts with Salman Rushdie, it’s got a literary bent, and this is meant to be a blog about books after all.

Situated in the fabulous Fabrica gallery, Blood Relations is a sort of bronze tank, divided into two by a thick band of Kapoor’s signature blood-red and engraved all around with text written specifically for Kapoor by Rushdie. To read the text in order and in its entirety you have to walk around the whole piece six times.

Inside, the tank is again divided into two halves, one filled with what looks like either red paint or blood, the other with large, red, fleshy lumps and pile of something that looks suspiciously like entrails.

I found the piece sensual and almost hypnotic, but with a disturbing edge – walking around and around the sculpture to read the text is slightly dizzying and really draws you in. It takes you on a physical journey, perhaps paralleling the mental process that Kapoor and Rushdie hope the experience will inspire.

Rushdie’s text – an ‘interrogation of the Arabian Nights’ – exhibits all his usual characteristics as an author – humorous and insightful, and I noticed other people there half laughing at the words as they read them, before casting a wary, almost guilty, eye back toward the bloody mess lurking inside the tank.

It might seem an overly blunt and clumsy analysis to suggest that Blood Relations muses on the Satanic Verses furore – but as Rushdie’s words encircle the bloodbath, in which the viewer/reader comes to be implicated as they slowly circle the tank, taking in the words, this is what came to my mind. There is a sharp contrast between Scheherazade, who tells stories night after night to keep herself alive, and Rushdie, whose storytelling in The Satanic Verses ultimately and tragically became implicated in a number of deaths – which is brought into focus as you orbit the tank, reading the words, delaying the inevitable glance you know you’ll make at the gore that lies within.

One line stuck with me from the text engraved on the piece – ‘There are no answers. There are only questions. We are alone with our imaginations’. I think these words encapsulate how all great art makes me feel – that more often than not, there is no answer and that it doesn’t matter that there isn’t – because the questioning is the most important thing.


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