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NCTC welcomes Anna Dumitriu as artist in residence

Pioneering BioArtist Anna Dumitriu has joined NCTC as artist in residence and will be exploring the extensive collection to develop artworks inspired by and incorporating NCTCs historic microbes. Anna is internationally renowned for her artwork that brings together history, biology and cutting edge new technologies. Her aim is to draw out some fascinating stories from the collection and create new works which raise awareness of NCTC and how new technologies, such as whole genome sequencing are revealing new insights into infectious diseases. These works will be exhibited to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the collection in 2020.

Anna is currently developing a “Plague Dress” based on a Restoration era design from the time of the Great Plague of London. The silk dress (the Silk Road is considered an important route for the Plague Mediavalis biovar) is dyed with walnut husks (walnuts were historically considered a medicine for Plague and recommended by Culpeper) and incorporates lavender, turmeric and other substances used by Plague Doctors to stave off ‘the pestilence’. Actual period embroideries are being added and impregnated with DNA from killed Yersinia pestis NCTC 5923, extracted by Anna herself under the supervision of Dr Sarah Alexander and Dr Mohammed Abbas Fazal in the NCTC labs.

Anna recently completed “Clean Linen” which will premiere in her new solo exhibition at R-Space in Lisburn for the Linen Biennale of Northern Ireland, which opens on the 1st August 2018. It comprises an antique French linen nightgown embroidered with images of the bacteria that cause Plague, tuberculosis, scarlet fever and diphtheria and invisibly impregnated with their extracted DNA. In the 17th Century (and later) it was not common practice to wash the body as people believed washing their linen clothes was sufficient and that “linen washed the skin through humoral regulation”. This was related to the belief that clothing spread disease, which arose around the time of the Great Plague.



   'Clean Linen'

   Exhibited at R-Space in Lisburn






                                     Lung stitch detail                    

                                     Image Credit: Anna Dumitriu                                                                                       

This new works are just the start and Anna tells us: “working with the NCTC is a dream come true for me, I am fascinated in the stories behind these most historic pathogens and cannot wait to tell them through my artworks.”

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January 2020