The Scotsman newspaper Saturday 12 February 2005
Health inspectors cancel art duo's human blood pudding show

TIM CORNWELL
ARTS CORRESPONDENT


AN ATTEMPT to cook a human blood pudding as an act of outrageous art has been abandoned after health inspectors were alerted. Scottish artists John Beagles and Graham Ramsay were planning to slice and fry black pudding made from their own blood in a show of "live art" this afternoon.
But they were forced to abandon the project after Edinburgh City Council dispatched its environmental health officers to the Royal Scottish Academy building on the Mound, the show’s organisers said. The National Galleries of Scotland, which runs the building, also read the riot act against any such creative cookery.


John Beagles, from Glasgow, insisted yesterday that the pre-cooked puddings made from two pints of the two artists’ blood will still be part of the exhibition. "They are cooked, we will be taking them through to Edinburgh, and they may be in the fridge or sitting on the table," he said. "We will be standing over them, guarding them." The pair will also show a film detailing how they prepared them. "There’s a film that documents the whole process, the blood extraction, the cooking and preparation.
The Body Parts performance art show continues this weekend.


Kate Downie, the president of the Society of Scottish Artists (SSA), stressed it was part of the society’s annual exhibition, which also includes watercolours, paintings, contemporary film and sculpture. "There are 16 other artists performing over the weekend, and it’s deflecting attention from what is going on," Ms Downie said. She explained that the council became involved after being informed of the two men’s show, titled Black Pudding Self Portrait. "The city council sent an environmental health officer to see what they were doing. They kicked up an incredible stink and said there is no way you can do this.


"I think they made the assumption we would be sloshing human blood all over the place. "Originally they were going to be slicing it up and frying it and offering it around to the audience, not with the intention that anybody would actually eat it." Ms Downie added that the gallery’s director, Michael Clarke, also rejected any frying. She dismissed speculation that a pavement protest was planned today.


A spokesperson for the National Galleries of Scotland (NGS) said: "Following a risk assessment being carried out it was felt that, in the interests of hygiene and public safety, the live performance should not go ahead. "However, the NGS have no objections to the cooked product being displayed within the Body Parts exhibition and, if the cooking and preparation can be filmed elsewhere, to the showing of a short film of the artists at work."
Ms Downie said: "These artists are very good, they have an amazing presence. They will certainly be there and they have got permission to take in their cooking efforts to show everybody."


The blood for the black pudding was stored after daily home visits from a nurse. Ramsay has said the show represents a mix of self-portraiture, meat products, and cannibalism. The two men succeeded in frying slices of the pudding in a show at the Gallery of Modern Art in New York and serving them up on a plate - before a manager protested. Footage of that show will be part of the film on display in Edinburgh.


Last summer saw another Edinburgh art show abandoned due to health issues. The Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals stepped in to stop a magic show at the Assembly Rooms that promised an attempt to produce 250 live rabbits from a hat.


Body Parts was put together by the SSA and the head of exhibitions at the Royal Scottish Academy, Colin Greenslade. Both organisations date back to Victorian times and have sometimes struggled to have their activities in the world of contemporary art recognised. "If the SSA doesn’t attract the next generation of artists, we will die on our feet," said Ms Downie.