Antibiotic Resistance Quilt

Quilts are a traditional way of passing down stories and the piece can also be used as a discussion tool to facilitate dialogue about this important threat. The “Antibiotic Resistance Quilt” (2017) extends and builds on Dumitriu’s MRSA Quilt project.

This soft and cosy embroidered quilt hides a dark side; it uses actual infectious bacteria to reveal the emerging threat of antibiotic resistance, the ability of disease-causing organisms to combat the medicines we use to treat them. The quilt is impregnated with actual traces of the most significant drug resistant bacteria, such as strains of Klebsiella pneumoniae, E. coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Enterococcus faecalis, Enterobacter cloacaeNeisseria gonorrhoeae (Gonorrhoea) and MRSA (Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus) grown on multi-coloured dye containing agar jelly, normally used for diagnosis. Some of the patches of silk have polka dots where discs of antibiotic impregnated paper have been effective in preventing the bacteria from growing, in others the bacteria swarms right across the silk unabated.

Growing the bacteria on to the squares of silk in the lab

On a few contrasting patches the antibiotics have been completely overgrown by potentially deadly multidrug resistant bacteria that have evolved to beat our available treatments. Other patches of silk are impregnated with E. coli bacteria that have been genetically modified by the artist using a technique called CRISPR to remove its drug resistance abilities, suggesting that in the future techniques such as synthetic biology might help solve the present crisis. This aspect of the piece was made in collaboration with Dr Sarah Goldberg and Dr Roee Amit at Technion in Haifa as part of Anna Dumitriu’s Future Emerging Art and Technology (FEAT) residency. The patches of silk have all been sterilised.

Anna Dumitriu was commissioned to create the Antibiotic Resistance Quilt for the Science Gallery Dublin’s exhibition In Case of Emergency. The work was produced in collaboration with Kevin Cole and Dr Nicola Fawcett from the Modernising Medical Microbiology project, led by the University of Oxford and Public Health England, with additional support from Tanya Seton. 

Exhibitions

In Case of Emergency at tThe Science Gallery in Dublin (Eire), 13th October 2017 – 11th February 2018.

Anna Dumitriu and Alex May: Recent Works” at The Wright Gallery at Texas A & M University (USA) 5th – 8th March 2018.

BioArt and Bacteria” (solo exhibition) at Eden Project in Cornwall (UK) from 30th March – 1st June 2019.

“The Antibiotic Resistance Quilt” installation view, “In Case of Emergency” at the Science Gallery Dublin

Exhibition Reviews

The exhibition has been reviewed widely and “The Antibiotic Resistance Quilt” has been regularly named one of the highlights of the show:

Exhibition review of “The Disaster Artists” by Desmond O’Neill in The Lancet (UK), December 2017.

Exhibition review “Disaster preparedness: Risk, rout and ruination” by Anthony King in Nature (international), October 2017.

Exhibition review “In Case of Emergency, here are the best shows to see this week” by Aidan Dunne in The Irish Times (Eire), October 2017.

Exhibition review “Doom and downfall at the Science Gallery” by Michael Foley in The Trinity News (Eire), October 2017.

Exhibition review “Watch the World End with the Science Gallery” by Ciara Haley in The University Times (Eire), October 2017.