Eleanor Antin ‘Blood of a Poet Box’ (1965–8)

Eleanor Antin,Blood of a Poet Box, 1965–68 (with the material used in its making). Courtesy Ronald Feldman Fine Arts.

This conceptual sculpture is a wooden box containing 94 glass slides of blood specimens collected by Antin, from poets and artists in the New York art and poetry scene during this period. The named samples include Allen Ginsberg, Carolee Schneeman, Yvonne Rainer and Allan Kaprow.

Blood of a Poet Box 1965-8 by Eleanor Antin born 1935

Last week I had a meeting with two scientists in the lab where I’m currently in residence. I showed them a photograph of the work and we talked about Blood of a poet box for quite some time. They were really very taken with the conceptual intent of Antin’s work, particularly as these slide boxes are still used in the lab today  – although the boxes are now plastic, rather than leather-bound or wood.

Antin’s piece really highlights for me a difference in approach – toward working with blood as a material in an artistic context and in the field of contemporary bio-science. Here in this work, Antin has labelled the blood carefully – each slide not only corresponds to the name of its owner –  but resonates with the work of that particular poet or artist; as such it becomes highly charged and signficant.
In the lab by contrast, the blood is both labelled by and named after the scientist who is working with it. Independent of its origins, it becomes material to be worked upon. Developed and cultured, it becomes appropriated by an other system…

Office of Dr Ash Toye (with Biochemistry reference books) and laptop showing Eleanor Antin’s work “Blood of a Poet Box, 1965-68” on Tate website. To the right hand side of the laptop can be seen 2 red (plastic) boxes; full of slides, these are similar to Antin’s box and still used in the lab today. (October 2017)



Thank you to Lucy Bradnock for sending me her illuminating publication “In focus Eleanor Antin, Blood of a Poet Box, 1965-68”. Tate Online (2017)

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