Blood on Silk: Buy/Sell in the Butler’s pantry at Old Government House, Parramatta,Sydney, Australia 2017

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The butler’s pantry and Governor Macquarie’s office are two centres of power within Old Government House and are where these two men ran their respective empires. The butler oversaw the internal domestic workings of a large house and the Governor administered the colony of New South Wales from 1810 to 1821, as the seat of European governance in this region.

During this time the tensions between the rule of law, self- determination, anarchy and autocracy were evident and were played out in complex and changing patterns. This can be likened to the models found in markets supplying many contemporary commercial products and services. In the contemporary situation, the impact on health and safety by the characteristics of a product or service is controlled by the relevant layer of government by a framework of regulation and law. On the odd occasion a market is able to convince the government that they can control themselves without interference by government law and regulation and establishes a set of requirements and standards and administer their own compliance with them. Within a globalised market the intersections of anarchy or the black market, the practice of self-administration and the administration of international law can become very complicated and overlaid with multiple tensions.

Fiona Davies works’ are multimedia installations encompassing both the real and virtual. Her current theoretical practice examines medicalised dying within a hospital’s ICU and intertwines the emotional landscape with contemporary medical practices – specifically, definitions of death, the processes of surveillance and the materiality of some of the key products used in ICU, blood, blood components and body parts. This last focus on the materiality of blood reflects the impact of the market and in particular the black market in many parts of the world.

The work Blood on Silk: Buy/Sell is located in the domestic environment of Australia where the ability to buy and sell these products on the open market has been controlled by Government regulation. Here it is not legal to pay the donors of blood or plasma suppliers and there is little evidence of a back market. Other countries such as the USA do pay plasma suppliers and are now responsible for around 70% of the world’s known plasma supply. Many of the poorer states such as Alabama are both nett blood and plasma exporters.

There are very few countries in the world where it is now legal to buy and sell a body organ. Where it is legal, such as in Iran, the government has established limits on what the supplier can be paid, the maximum age of the supplier, etc. Prior to 2008 it was considered relatively easy to buy an organ from a live supplier overseas. Then the World Health Organisation started to focus on organ trafficking and a group of representatives of private and public organisations worldwide met in Istanbul and issued a declaration in 2009 outlining requirements for an ethical, regulatory and economic framework for the live supplier industry. A component of the market then went underground. The first market model that followed is a referral broker system where a trusted person usually someone who has previously bought a kidney links a potential buyer with a broker. This morphed into a system where increased access to the internet allowed buyers and sellers to find each other and then the buyer would source a smaller hospital which would look the other way in terms of the supplier of the kidney. The hospitals were usually associated with medical tourism and often specialised in cosmetic surgery. Now as it becomes more and more obvious that the buyers are not as price sensitive as expected the prices paid by the buyers have grown from roughly $20,000 in 2008 to over $120,000 today. The market is therefore much more attractive to larger criminal and terrorist organisations as a source of fund raising.

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