Feb. 15th, 2020

Blood Pact

A Cyclical Composition for Inter-species Interdependence

Text & visuals © M Wingren

I feed my plants my blood, which contains 3 major nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. This trinity of supplements is the basis for all organic plant foods, such as bone meal and dried animal blood. Instead of buying bits of other animal bodies, I use my own. This writing is a reflection on the practical, cultural, and transformative implications of this practice, in the context of a composition: “Blood Pact”.

While I was in residence at Fabrica Research Center, the design studio Dossofiorito gave a workshop where we made things for plants. I wrote a score, and prototyped new instruments to play it. Human-interpretations of plant communication suggest that plants like water sounds, so I began with a series of suspended vessels to catch water and create drip-sounds. This array fed into a plant-feeder designed to slowly release nutrients into the soil. The score is cyclical: it begins with the collection of blood (using a menstrual cup), which is poured into the feeder. The piece runs for the course of 1 container of water - the piece runs for the duration of moisture/nutrient dispersion into the soil - the piece runs approximately 29 days, and then begins again.

Cultural taboos arise when discussing this work. One poignant example: in Italy it is historically believed that people who are menstruating should not touch or water plants. The disproportionate amount of beliefs surrounding menstruation view the process as scary or icky - something to be contained, figuratively and literally, and often with expensive and environmentally degradative materials that are out of balance with our body’s ecosystems. The outcome of this score is reliant on containers, but those that accept rather than condemn, and that are re-useable/renewable, to orchestrate symbiotic processes.

But does it smell bad? No - I guess it could if it the blood didn’t mix with the earth and just sat there rotting. I’ve been tending houseplants and kitchen herbs this way for 5 years or so and never noticed an odor, nor have any flatmates. What about when it’s not the season to fertilize plants? I store my blood in the fridge, in a jar that says “raspberry jam.”
I have not always been so candid or comfortable about menstruation. When I was around 12, and people started telling me I would “become a woman” I was perplexed, and terrified. I also knew that I wouldn’t, but didn’t have the words for what I would become, or for what I was already (I have since come to use the term “agender”). I wished there was something I could do to prevent my body from going through puberty. I taped my boobs down as soon as they started growing, developed bad posture, and created elaborate rituals in an effort to prevent my period from starting. My period did start, but I never became a woman.

Viewing menses as a useful substance, rather than an entirely fraught process, reconciles some of my dysphoria. The practice is in opposition to patriarchal taboos about periods, industrial/animal agriculture, and disposability. It is also a way to offer something back to those plants that I depend on. It could theoretically become a closed-loop system - the practice should be considered for use by astronauts if it is not already. Using my blood as plant food is a practical reversal of society’s negative views on menstruation, and my discomfort with my body/assigned gender. It is a blood-pact with plants. May our bodies be of benefit.


Clue, “36 superstitions about periods from around the world”, helloclue.com, September 5, 2017
Marta Zaraska, “Can Plants hear?”, Scientific American, May 17, 2017

About the author
M Wingren is intermedia artist, designer, and musician with a background in new media and neuroscience. Broadly, they are interested in the parallels and intersections between computing, biosystems (brains, plants, fungi...), and music. www.ii-ll-ii.com / @stickypsyche


Plant Fever is a project curated by d-o-t-s and produced by the Belgian museum CID Grand-Hornu. Visual identity by Matthieu Visentin. Exhibition scenography by Benoît Deneufbourg