Atesh M. Gundogdu: To begin, can you describe you studio space?
Jordan Eagles: My studio is in a warehouse in Ridgewood, Queens. It’s divided into two areas – a ventilated and temperature-controlled space, where I work with the blood and resin and where all the art gets created. This space is covered in thick plastic tarp, corner to corner, there are various workstations and a freezer. It’s crucial that this area is kept at a high temperature – it’s usually 90 degrees in the workspace. This section of the studio feels like a lab, but at times, when I’m in the thick of a project, it becomes very messy. The second part of my studio is an area that’s safe for breathing – away from resin and the intense heat – in which I don’t have to wear a respirator/mask and can store the finished works. This part of the studio is great for doing computer work, testing and hanging work, experimenting with lighting and Illuminations projects, and just chilling out.
AMG: What was the impetus for Jesus, Christie’s?
JE: Jesus, Christie’s is part of a new multi-chapter body of work that looks at the loss of potential that comes from the constant bloodshed and discrimination in our society. These new works pair historical and popular culture content with the appropriate blood donor. In Jesus, Christie’s, blood donated from an HIV+ undetectable long-term survivor and activist is paired with an original Christie’s catalog from the sale of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi. When I think of the astronomical hammer price for this work – over $450 million – and imagine how much good could have been done with those resources to help the sick and needy stay healthy, and how Jesus might feel about the commodification of an image of his likeness, it really asks us to question the priorities of our society. In Jesus, Christie’s I view the central figure, Jesus as Salvator Mundi –“The Savior of the World”– as the greatest blood donor of all time, having shed his blood on the cross for the sins of all mankind.
The FDA’s discriminatory blood donation policy toward the LGBTQ community is an issue I’ve been addressing through the sculpture and collaborative project Blood Mirror (currently on view at the Museum of the City of New York). This sculpture is made from the donated blood of 59 gay, bisexual, and transgender men, including 50 men on PrEP. All of the men who donated their blood for the creation of Blood Mirror could have donated their blood to help save lives, if the FDA’s policy wasn’t discriminatory and was actually based on science as opposed to stigma. As it currently stands, gay and bisexual men cannot donate blood unless they are celibate for a full year. This new body of work builds on these issues.
AMG: What is your art for?
JE: This body of work advocates for policy change and provides new entry points to inspire dialogue about equality, health, stigma, community, life, death, spirituality, and science, while also attempting to create a stimulating visual and sensory experience for the viewer. Blood is too often thought of in the context of violence and disease. Not enough attention is given to the fact that blood keeps each of us alive and can be used to help others in times of need. The works also have a strong focus on the material’s physical and visceral qualities and allow viewers to experience the blood in a very approachable way because all the organic material is fully preserved and encased in resin.
AMG: What emotions are you channeling into your art?
JE: This is all dependent on the project or series I’m working on and the source of the blood (human or animal). When I’m working with animal blood, I’m usually thinking about themes of regeneration and that all living things are born from the same Universe and the works will often appear as supernovas, cellular details, or natural specimens. I’m often trying to channel that feeling of energy that pounds inside of our chest that wants to explode outwards – our inner strength, energy, and power that inhabit our bodies. The works created with human blood deal with social and political issues and allow me to transfer my anger and frustration into something productive, to dive deep into ideas that matter, with hopes that eventually policy can be changed to be inclusive for all people.
AMG: What is the relationship between meaning and aesthetics?
JE: Blood has an innate energy. I most often approach the works in way that gives space for the materials to speak. The source of the blood is important, as it adds a major layer to the meaning of the project. And the way marks are made, or blood is layered and preserved can definitely affect the visual result. In Blood Mirror, Jesus, Christie’s, and in many other works, the highly-polished, reflective surfaces essentially put the viewer in the work, allowing them to see themselves through the preserved blood and resin. The works can have many interpretations based on the symbolism of blood, the blood donor/source, and the history of the appropriated material. Lighting also plays a key factor as it illuminates the works, highlighting the relationship between meaning and aesthetics.
AMG: What is your favorite ritual?
JE: I meditate every day first thing in the morning and in the late afternoon or evening.
AMG: What songs/albums are your playlist nowadays?
JE: I listen to a lot of classical music on the way to the studio in the morning. When I’m working, I typically prefer silence. When I need to be pumped up and motivated, I like house music.
AMG: Who has inspired you in your life and why?
JE: There are many people who inspire me. A couple of individuals who come to mind immediately are Eric Sawyer and Peter Staley. I find it extremely inspiring how the early AIDS activists put themselves and their bodies on the front line and fought for what they knew was right, and how successfully they effected change in policy, which is responsible for saving millions of lives. I’m also very inspired by nature and images of outer space, which have had a huge impact on my work.
AMG: Who would you most want to meet?
JE: I would want to meet President Obama as I have great respect for him. I wish I had gotten to know my paternal grandfather, and in an imaginary world, I wish I could spend time with him.
AMG: What do you think of today’s artworld?
JE: Today’s artworld is like life in general, except with a higher concentration of crazy, interesting, colorful, mysterious and creative content and individuals. At times it can be very exciting and super supportive, and other times extremely discouraging and elitist. There are many artists whom I very much admire; and there are many others that I will never fully understand how they have an audience – such is life. As far as the economics of the artworld, Jesus, Christie’s, in part, speaks to my thoughts on this.
AMG: What is so scary about the future?
JE: That is seems so challenging for our society, and the world, to respect each other for our unique differences rather than hate each other for them, and that violence is becoming more and more acceptable. But the scariest thing is not to have any hope at all, and I am certainly not there yet.
The exhibition runs until January 13, 2019 at the Leslie-Lohman Museum