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‘Black Pudding Self-Portrait’, 2004

27 SeptemberGlasgow. Blood extraction begins tomorrow. We’ve finally managed to track down a nurse willing to be our back-street bloodletter. She’s coming to John’s house to perform a series of syringe extractions. Trying to liberate some Venesection bags proved impossible. Perversely, in a National Health Service leaking syringes and medication, blood bags are the one precious, guarded item. Each one is digitally and centrally logged. So it’s a case of multiple syringe extractions and then straight into the ice cube tray and fridge freezer compartment.

28 SeptemberOur nurse came today. She wanted the money up front and didn’t ask any questions about what we needed the blood for. She was a little nervous performing the first extraction but it didn’t help that Graham’s veins were somewhat reluctant to come out and play. A couple of aborted spikes. In the end we had to switch arms. Fortunately Graham’s right arm was more receptive to the needle, while John’s arms positively welcomed the intrusion. 150ml of blood was safely stored and frozen.

30 SeptemberSecond blood extraction, already bruising from yesterday. Nurse is still arriving in full uniform straight from work. Next door neighbour caught a glimpse of the two of us welcoming her into the house. Awkward exchange of glances.

2 OctoberMore aborted spiking. This time John’s veins refused to rise to the occasion but another 200ml is eventually stored away.

4 OctoberAnother bloody extraction—very bad bruising and trackmarks. Suddenly, after little more than the exchange of pleasantries, the nurse has started talking. Unfortunately it is mainly her concerns regarding hygiene and the risk of venal trauma, e.g. haematoma, thrombosis, possible collapsing of the vein and subsequent infection.

6 October
Final extraction—routine. We exchange minimal thanks to the nurse. Last batch frozen in tupperware next to the fish fingers.

7 OctoberContrary to what we imagined, cooking the puddings has proved more unpleasant than extracting the blood. It starts badly with the beef suet. Repugnant matter, it has the look of a thousand dried maggots. Once heated it reveals its true horror. The smell is oppressive as the suet molecules cling to the nostrils. We both felt quite nauseous. After frying onions in the suet, we add oats and barley, plus cream, salt, and pepper. Then comes the money shot. Pouring one litre of defrosted blood into the mixture transforms the relatively bland ingredients into a slop of faecal matter. After 20 minutes bubbling and a period of cooling, we started to fill the Italian salami style sausage skins. After 30 minutes intensive stuffing we have four, 12-inch puddings. Scrubbing and cleaning the kitchen is a laborious task and no matter how many times we wash, the smell still lingers.

8 OctoberFor a long time we’ve been trying to figure out the best way to export the puddings and get them safely to New York as there is no legal route open to us. We entertained the fanciful notion of hiding them in our coats, or building a false bottom in a suitcase but eventually decide to post the puddings and hope for the best. The first package, containing two puddings, is labelled as second-hand books and off it goes. The second pair are declared as home-baked cakes and are sent the following morning. Fingers crossed.

13 OctoberReceive an e-mail from the curators confirming that two of the puddings have landed. Relief all round.

14 OctoberWe leave for New York via Frankfurt on a roundabout Lufthansa route. We sit behind a US Marine returning from Iraq replaying his personal camcorder footage of a vicious urban assault on a laptop. The sound of explosions and helicopter gunships echoes around the 747. After a few hours of that, entry into New York is straightforward enough but we’re glad we didn’t try to smuggle the stuff in with us. We’re fingerprinted, photographed, then off we go to our Chelsea apartment.

15 OctoberInstallation day at PS1. We check the puddings, a little off but not too bad considering they had a week in the postal system. The installation goes well and we’re set up by early evening ready for the opening tomorrow.

16 OctoberFirst cooking performance. We’re dressed for the kill—surgical masks, rubber gloves, chef’s tunics and a selection of large knives. John begins to manically sharpen a butcher’s knife and the continuous grinding of steel goes on all day. Once the puddings are sliced and in the pan we get an immediate and very strong reaction from the public—a potent mixture of total disgust and wide-eyed fascination. After an hour or so the gallery manager suddenly arrives and freaks out. She’s threatening to close down the show and is acutely paranoid about the possibility of hungry gallerygoers taking a bite. A security guard is now posted in our space on a constant anti-cannibalism vigil.

17 OctoberSecond day of the performance and still no sign of the second package. They’ve either been seized and are currently being examined by customs officials or some unfortunate soul has decided to make a meal of them. Either way it’s not good news.

18 OctoberA day off and we hit the galleries and shops. Much to eat in this town. Breakfast —french toast, pancakes, bacon, maple syrup and plenty of coffee. Lunch—pizza and cannelloni on Mulberry Street. Late afternoon cocktails near Grand Central Station. Dinner—a three-course lobster dinner for $29 is not to be sniffed at.

20 OctoberThe second package arrives at last, seemingly unmolested by customs and just in time for the final day of our cooking performance.

23 OctoberFinal day of frying. A very busy afternoon with a good number of visitors and all the remaining meat is cooked up. By now the gallery is stinking good and proper, as a heavy veil of fat lingers in the air. One visitor shrieks with the realisation that every breath he’s taken has become an act of cannibalism. It’s a truly interactive experience. At the end of the day, with nobody around, we finally give into temptation and sample a couple of bites.

Beagles and Ramsay show new work at the CAPC Museum, Portugal in April. The ‘Black Pudding Self-portrait’ will be exhibited at the Trade Apartment, London later this year.