The ongoing “Normal Flora Project” was started in 2005, and this pioneering artistic project (created in collaboration with Dr John Paul) significantly pre-dates contemporary popular research into what has become known as the microbiome (made possibly through developments in technology). At that time this area of microbiological study was considered to be of no commecrical or medical interest and the project threw into question the ways in which our scientific understanding of the world is limited by finance, and how the limits of our understanding are drawn. Over time the project has evolved in other directions documented elsewhere on this website.
The project offers a physical embodiment of the interconnectedness of life through a deep examination of the rarely noticed everyday world of microbial life: the bacteria, moulds and yeasts that surround us and live both on and inside our bodies.
So called “Normal flora” microbiology is the study of the ubiquitous bacteria, moulds and yeasts that form an absolutely key part of the complex ecosystems we live constantly with: our bodies, our homes and our everyday world, and, of course, the wider planet. We are so closely linked to these minute life-forms that it is worth considering for a moment that more bacteria can be found on the end of an average fingertip than there are people actually living in the world; and several kilograms of our body weight are made up of bacterial symbionts. But these facts are not widely known. The word ‘bacterial’ is synonymous with dirt; the normal reaction to the suggestion that something is covered with bacteria is one of disgust but in fact less than 1% of bacteria are harmful to us and many are actually beneficial.
Bed and Chair Flora
"Bed and Chair Flora" comprises a carved and changed found chair; the seat cover (hand stitched needlepoint) and the carving represent images of the bacteria that were cultured from the object originally. The ongoing collaborative crochet is based on transmission electron microscope images of bacteria from the artist’s own bed. Created in collaboration with Dr John Paul and lots of wonderful crocheters.
"Cutlery Flora" is a set of knives, forks and spoons which are laser engraved with images of the bacteria that Dumitriu cultured from clean cutlery in her kitchen drawer and represent clearly the ubiquitous of bacteria and how that contradicts the popular notion that it means unclean. The cutlery is useable.
Lab Coat Flora
"Lab Coat Flora" is a hand stitched lab coat whitework embroidered with images of the bacteria and moulds cultured from it.
Around the time of the enlightenment the perversely difficult practice of whitework embroidery was considered to be one of the highest levels of achievement for a woman. They would sew in the evenings by candlelight straining their eyes to see the tiny stitches, hunched over their embroidery hoops, their bodies twisted and constricted by tight corsetry, one pinprick of blood meaning the whole piece would be ruined. This coincided with the period in which many of their male counterparts started to become ‘gentleman scientists’ beginning to rigorously study the world around them ‘scientifically’. This was the time when the scientific method was developed and disciplinary boundaries were drawn between art and science. By juxtaposing whitework embroidery with her scientific practice Dumitriu considers these paradigmatic changes in the process of research and current moves towards transdisciplinarity, alongside a consideration of what ‘feminine’ approaches to science might mean.