Body Parts for Sale Series: 01 Sperm

about the exhibition

Explore my inspiration for the Body Parts for Sale exhibition in this blog post - Body Parts for Sale Series: Intro

Collagraph Printing - Body Parts for Sale - 01 Sperm


The average size of a male ejaculation is half a teaspoon. About 5-10% of it consists of sperm, around 200 million of them per ejaculation. Only one is needed to impregnate an egg. Sperm quality (the amount of sperm in an ejaculation), in western men has halved over the past 40 years. No one knows why, and there are no treatments for it. There are however ways to improve sperm quality through lifestyle decisions.

Many men choose to donate sperm to sperm banks, helping couples that cannot get pregnant on their own. This sperm is used in a treatment called artificial insemination: a process where sperm are placed in the womb manually. Since April of 2016, it is legally possible for Swedish single women to be artificially inseminated and raise a child on their own. This led to much debate, as well as a local shortage of sperm in sperm banks.

The first idea I had for this artwork didn’t work out at all, so I had to go to second one. I wanted to create something with a movement, an inward direction, kind of like the inversion of an explosion.

I started with a 1 mm cardboard that I glued vlieseline on using spray mount. The vlieseline holds a lot of ink and is a good way to achieve a black background. Then I drew all the lines. I was hesitant whether I should put the small spot in the middle, maybe it is too literal, the sperm on their way to the egg. In the end I chose to do it. I wanted the gravity in the centre.

After drawing all the lines I used an awl to punch the holes. A time consuming process. Since I wanted the lines to be white I used a nylon string to sew. In that way the ink will rub off there. During the process I got more and more fascinated with the mess of threads that grew on the back side of the plate until I finally decided to print that side as well. I put shellac on both sides to seal them for the printing process and hence one idea created something new.

I was a bit anxious how the print would turn out. Since the nylon thread was very thin I was not sure that it would leave a visible mark. With collagraphy it is always a balance, to rub off enough ink. Not too little or too much. I still wanted the background to be dense and black. The final result turned out quite well. It is very subtle and you can hardly tell all the details from the photos. The other side was easier to print. A fascinating mess, an explosion that lacks the control of the other side. In the end it may be a better representation of the subject. What do you think?

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The collection

To explore more about Body Parts for Sale, visit my other blog posts in this collection

Body Parts for Sale Series: Intro

Body Parts for Sale Series: 02 Blood

Body Parts for Sale Series: 03 Kidney part 1

Body Parts for Sale Series: 04 Kidney part 2

Body Parts for Sale Series: 05 Womb

Body Parts for Sale Series: 06 Eggs

Body Parts for Sale Series: 07 Hair

Body Parts for Sale Series: 08 Children

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