"Germ Theory: Bacterial Co-evolution and Textile Art" is an solo exhibition by Anna Dumitriu at Kapelica Gallery in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
There is a sense that the world is heading towards a new pandemic, that an unknown disease will emerge or that an existing pathogen will evolve strategies to resist our limited antibiotic cures and strike us down. At the heart of this a sense of ‘the bacterial sublime’, combining terror and awe as we reflect on the impact of these minute life forms, whose complex behaviours we are only now beginning to understand. This solo exhibition, by UK artist Anna Dumitriu, investigates our ongoing co-evolution with bacteria from a physical, cultural and aesthetic perspective, blurring the boundaries between art, craft, and microbiology. The work uses a range of digital, biological and traditional media including bacteria, projections and textiles, inspired by the key pioneers of microbiology as well as contemporary research.
The exhibition includes “The MRSA Quilt” a storytelling quilt made using actual MRSA bacteria (Methicillan Resistant Staphylococcus aureus) grown on fabric, which has been embedded in chromogenic (colour changing) agar, the patterns are created through its interplay with various tools and techniques in the treatment and diagnosis of this famous ‘superbug’.
“The VRSA Dress” is a very new work that builds on the previous piece but maps the evolution of Staphylococcus aureus from its non drug resistant form (a sample cultured from Dumitriu herself), through MRSA to the terrifying Vancomycin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus, which can withstand one of our ‘last chance’ antibiotics. Patterns on the dress are created in interplay with a range of modern clinical antibiotics, embroideries stained with natural antibiotic compounds such as turmeric (yellow), and Prontosil, the first commercially available antibiotic (orange), derived from a red azo dye. The style of the dress is from 1960, the year that Professor Patricia Jevons first observed Staphylococcus aureus that was resistant to the antibiotic Methicillin.
"Bed Flora" is an ongoing collaborative crochet work based on the bacteria, Staphyloccus epidermidis, found on the artist’s own bed. Since 2006 the crochet has been exhibited around the world, and visitors have been invited to add to the work, which grows only in the ecological niche of the gallery, and needs wool to grow and visitors to metabolise.
The Communicating Bacteria Dress is also on show in the gallery, the dress was created using the processes of bacterial communication (quorum sensing) and uses video-mapping techniques to bring the killed organisms back to life.
All the pathogenic bacteria in the show have been sterilized and made safe prior to exhibition, but Dumitriu also works with microbiologists to develop safe DIY microbiology techniques to enhance public understanding of bacteria and participation in debates around new technologies in infection control.
The work in the exhibition was developed in collaboration with Dr John Paul, Dr James Price and Kevin Cole from the UK Clinical Research Consortium Modernising Medical Microbiology Project, Dr Simon Park, Dr Rosie Sedgwick, and Alex May.
17th October 2013 Evening Opening Reception
18th October 2013 – 1st November 2013
Kapelica Gallery, Kersnikova 4. Ljubljana. Slovenia
Bacteria Field Studies Workshop for Young People
18th October 2013
A workshop for young people to learn about the bacteria our everyday environment from the normal flora microbes that co-exist with us in our homes, the ‘field marks’ that can be observed around us (such as in ponds and streams or on the facades of buildings) and the beneficial bacteria, moulds and yeasts that help create some of the foods we love (cheese (cheese mould pictured above) and other fermented products).
We will also do our own microbiology experiments, look at foods under the microscope and use supermarket supplies to make DIY culture media to create bacterial textile artworks (which will stay in the gallery). We’ll discuss how antibiotics work and learn to make our own self-sustaining bacterial eco-systems, known as Winogradsky Columns (image below) – they make great pets and need no looking after!