Voices: I’m an artist who paints in blood – this is why I’m so angry with Prince Harry
I am an anti-war artist and a former Soviet soldier. I reject Harry’s comments about killing people as though they are pieces on a chessboard. I am drenching St Paul’s Cathedral in Royal Blood – the UK’s Royal Coat of Arms filled with the blood of Afghan people who have not forgotten the illegal war on their land and who are against Harry’s comments about his desensitised killings.
As Harry is in London, I have contacted him to set up a meeting, as an ex-militarist myself, to discuss my ideas for the computer game I am producing inspired by his time in Afghanistan. We have much to discuss.
He is in court against Associated Newspapers Limited over allegations of criminality against him – “unlawful information gathering”. From what I have seen, he keeps himself in the spotlight, bringing attention to his personal life, while going to extreme lengths to plead for privacy.
Boasting about killing, whether for democracy or not, is something I do not accept. During military service in the Soviet Union, I saw a fellow soldier put a gun to his heart and shoot himself. Later, we were eating in the canteen and the guards pulled him through the room. His body and clothes were covered in blood, so he left a line like a signature behind him. A bloodline.
Seeing this man dragged across the floor, it was from there I understood blood as a currency – a material that demonstrated the physical cost of war. The colour of blood shocks us to understand this reality. My entire artistic practice has been based on deconstructing the toxic idea of imperialism and foregrounding the politicisation of blood, oil and gas as currencies of war.
I use medical materials to pump the liquid through a system of pipes and fridges. When people donate their blood to my sculptures, the work is instantly politicised. I never use my blood, my liquid or personality. I use the language of everyone. Words such as “democracy”, “capitalism” and “human rights” are filled with either blood from a specific group of people or oil from a region of conflict – Iran, Iraq etc. The material fills and transforms these concepts into something different, something new.
I have questions about why people give their blood for an ideology or a sentence – that’s why I use and move this experience. I propose for them the same idea: if you want to give your blood for an ideology, maybe you will give it to art, or for something else that you’re free to choose. It’s essential to put people in front of difficult choices, even if they’re shameful ones – like nationalism, blood, violence and death.
When dealing with capitalism, people try to smile, hide and pretend death does not exist, even though they admit it exists in other countries. They don’t want to accept that the colonial world they grew up in ruined countries and people. Royal Blood has been filled with 1,250ml of blood from people who want to take a stand against British imperialism. Before the coronation of King Charles III, I am bringing attention to the bloodline that flows through to Prince Harry. I am also bringing attention to the double standards of our contemporary reality, a reality people find hard to grasp.
While people like Julian Assange face extradition to America, where he could be incarcerated for up to 175 years, for unveiling war crimes, others are profiting. People like Tony Blair, George Bush, now Prince Harry with Spare – they all make millions, even as the individuals who reveal the truth are silenced. All governments have blood on their hands. I want this blood to stop war and violence. We can only trust in art to reveal the truth.
When war in Ukraine broke out, I used blood donated by Ukrainian fighters to send a message to Vladimir Putin with Putin Filled with Ukrainian Blood. The sculpture began to be projected around the world and a team of people turned it into Augmented Reality (AR). This meant that on the Victory Day parade in Red Square, hundreds of people projected the AR onto Putin’s tanks, soaking them in the blood of Ukrainian people.
The blood came from my friends and co-workers, who then went to the frontline to fight. Their wives and children still live with me today. The physical work might not change the world, but it will fix this period in time – so that future generations can understand and remember the barbarities of history.