A huge red asterisk just appeared right in downtown Toronto, but it’s not just a cool art installation like any other.
It’s not just the installation itself that makes sense, but exactly where it’s installed.
A big red asterisk has been placed outside a Canadian Blood Services clinic on College Street in Toronto, as a reminder that some of the stipulations of their policies don’t always seem fair to everyone.
“In 1992, Health Canada implemented a lifetime ban on gay men that prevents gay men from donating blood. It wasn’t until 2013 that this ban was reduced to five years if the man abstain from sex with another man for at least five years,” reads artist Andy Chitty’s statement on his piece. Asterisk.
“In 2019, the ban was again reduced to three months. Today, gay men must abstain from having sex with other men for at least three months to be considered donors. safe blood. Asterisk offers an opportunity to draw attention to the lingering homophobia in these structural practices.”
The statement goes on to say that although Canadian Blood Services has proposed new screening criteria that omit gender and sexuality, they are still regulated by Public Health Canada, “which continues to promote homophobia by identifying gay men sexually active as ineligible donors. “
The bright red sculpture has been placed right next to the Canadian Blood Services sign while the asterisk itself draws attention to the omissions, appropriate symbolism to represent Chitty’s message.
“Asterisk expresses what CBS will not explicitly say: if a gay man has had sex once with a male partner in the past three months, he cannot donate blood,” Chitty’s statement read.
“In the same amount of time, a straight man can have sex with as many different partners as he wants and he’s still eligible to donate blood.”
The questions “During the last 3 months, have you had sexual relations with a man who, during the last 12 months, has had sexual relations with another man?” (Woman)” and “In the last 3 months, have you had sex with a man? (Male)” are still part of the Canadian Blood Services Basic Screening Questionnaire.
Chitty managed to boldly install this sculpture without permission from CBS.
“I considered asking permission, but I thought about how it changes the dynamic of the project by relying on the authority of the oppressor to allow the conversation that Asterisk try to have. Instead, I installed the artwork rather surreptitiously in the early morning hours of Tuesday, April 26,” Chitty told blogTO.
“I have yet to receive a response from Canadian Blood Services, and at this time they are still standing outside the CBS sign on College Street. The response so far has been overwhelmingly positive, and it seems that many of those who engaged with the play were unaware of the homophobia that still exists in the policies of Canadian blood donation services.”
Chitty has done other public art installations of an abstract/symbolic nature before, including one in Trinity Bellwoods with a clothesline strung with sheets spray-painted with the words “Sorry for the inconvenience” (the title of the room).
If you think this is a great way to draw attention to exclusion cases and think red asterisks like these belong in a lot more places, you can actually help make this a reality. :Chitty seeks to install them “to point to any context that exists beyond what is immediately available.”
“Its location suggests to an observer that there are elements of structural violence and exclusion within an organized body or institution,” reads Chitty’s site.
“For example, as consumers, we sometimes don’t know that our favorite fast food chain donates money to fund anti-LGBTQ+ organizations and practices.”
You can even get your own red asterisks yourself, although they are a bit smaller. You can fill out a form on Chitty’s site to get a free little vinyl asterisk with a QR code mailed to you.
“Asterisk because an ongoing activism project will require the participation of others who wish to speak about their own experiences in oppressive contexts,” says Chitty.
“I have received several requests so far for vinyl asterisks to be sent to individual addresses so that they can also participate in this project.”