Ex Voto: Lockdown Votives
By Anna Dumitriu
“Ex Voto” (2016 onwards) is an ongoing participatory artwork and major installation that explores the impact of infectious diseases and antibiotics on our lives, created through the making of ‘votive offerings’ during drop-in story sharing workshop sessions. These secular ‘votive offerings’ reference those found in religious settings symbolising a wish or giving thanks for its fulfilment. The ‘votives’ are hung on ribbons, stained or dyed with bacteria, including various species of gut microbiota, Staphylococcus aureus and modified antibiotic-producing Streptomyces (all sterilised), as well as natural antimicrobial substances such as madder root, and non-hazardous chemical dyes used in the lab.
The artwork was extended during the COVID-19 lockdown period, as the artist documented her experiences of lockdown in the UK and combined them with reflections and memories of the period that she hears about through friends, colleagues, social media and the news. The “Lockdown Votives” series explores the changing face of the treatment of the disease, recoveries, and remembrances of the period. When exhibited they will be hung on turmeric dyed ribbon which has been a popular remedy during the pandemic and the aim is to safely impregnate the ribbon with a SARS-CoV-2 RNA construct so that when you walk under the piece the traces and memories of this sublime virus still hang over us, as they will in our future lives.
By Anna Dumitriu
“Engineered Antibody” explores the field of synthetic biology and takes the form of a beaded necklace based on an antibody purified from the blood of an HIV-positive patient. Made up of 452 hand-made beads, it both represents and physically contains the actual 21 amino acids of the unnatural engineered antibody in their precise order and folded into the exact protein structure. An antibody is a protein that is produced by the immune system in order to combat foreign bodies and viruses, which it can bind to. This antibody has been engineered to better block HIV infections through the introduction of an additional amino acid called sulfotyrosine. The artist draws on the image that all forms of organic life are made of amino acids, which join together like strings of beads to form proteins that fold into three-dimensional structures essential to their function. The beads are then attached to textiles that have been dyed using Coomassie Brilliant Blue, originally a wool dye and nowadays used as a stain in laboratories to visualize and separate proteins. The form of the embroidered calico is based on the diagram of the antibody structure.
Made in collaboration with Xiang Li and Chang Liu at the Liu Lab for Synthetic Evolution, University of California Irvine and supported by the Beall Center for Art and Technology.
By Anna Dumitriu and Alex May
“Susceptible” is based on cutting edge research from the CRyPTIC Project, an international consortium led by the University of Oxford.
CRyPTIC’s research analysed thousands of images of the tuberculosis bacteria growing in the presence of different antibiotics. They combined that data with the whole genome sequences of those bacteria, in order to predict, for the first time, which antibiotic drugs can be used to treat a patient with the disease based on the DNA of the organism infecting them.
The work is layered with origin and destination data from London Gatwick Airport prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. This highlights the fact that health is truly a global issue, which needs global solutions and collaboration.
This project is supported by DRIVA Arts DRIVA (Digital Research and Innovation Accelerator) which is led by the University of Brighton (UK) and funded by the European Structural Investment Fund and Arts Council England.
Anna Dumitriu is a British artist who works with BioArt, sculpture, installation, and digital media to explore our relationship to infectious diseases, synthetic biology, and robotics. Past exhibitions include ZKM, Ars Electronica, BOZAR, The Picasso Museum, HeK Basel, Science Gallery Detroit, MOCA Taipei, LABoral, Art Laboratory Berlin, and Eden Project. She holds visiting research fellowships at the University of Hertfordshire, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, and Waag Society, as well as artist-in-residence roles with the Modernising Medical Microbiology Project at the University of Oxford, and with the National Collection of Type Cultures at Public Health England. She was the 2018 President of the Science and the Arts Section of the British Science Association. Her work has featured in many significant publications including Frieze, Artforum International Magazine, Leonardo Journal, The Art Newspaper, Nature and The Lancet. Current collaborations include the Institute of Microbiology and Microbial Biotechnology at BOKU – Universität für Bodenkultur in Vienna, the EU H2020 CHIC Consortium, the University of Leeds and the Institute of Epigenetics and Stem Cells at Helmholtz Zentrum in München.
Artist Homepage: https://annadumitriu.co.uk/
Image and Text Courtesy of the Artist.
Edited by Sue and Emily/CAFA ART INFO