Biotechnology from the Blue Flower

Anna Dumitriu

15 Mar

Anna Dumitriu is working with digital artist Alex May and the CHIC Consortium to create a new sculptural bio-digital installation based on an exploration of chicory plant research. The project is entitled “Biotechnology from the Blue Flower” (2019 onwards). The artists will explore the morphology of chicory plants and well as the history and cultural impacts of the plants throughout history, for example as an ancient remedy or a coffee additive in times of crisis, drawing a thread between those histories and cutting edge contemporary research in the field and the potential future benefits of working with techniques such as CRISPR to provide healthcare and food benefits.

3D scan of chicory root, credit Anna Dumitriu and Alex May

The artists are focussing on the areas of the use of chicory for dietary fibre and its impact on human health and the human microbiome, and exploring the uses of inulin and medicinal terpenes extracted from Cichorium intybus (common chicory). They are working with the plants themselves: the roots, the flowers, chicory flour and chicory inulin and terpenes, as well as other potential materials they might discover. These sculptural, physical materials will be fused with video footage from the laboratory and data visualisations derived from the research processed through 3D scanning and modelling techniques to create a final installation.

3D scan of chicory root, credit Anna Dumitriu and Alex May

Chicory was one of the plants (along with the cornflower) that inspired the idea of the Blue Flower in German Romanticism – a central symbol of the movement. The romantic movement was in part a reaction to the industrial revolution and held nature and emotion in the highest esteem. But now we are part of a biotechnological revolution and again the blue flower becomes an important symbol, but this time in a more complex position at the interface of nature and technology. Central to societal explorations of what may be acceptable in terms of synthetic biology and how ‘nature’ and ‘natural’ may be defined in the future.

Chicory Protoplasts modified by Anna Dumitriu using CRISPR/Cas9

The residency commission was awarded through Art Science Node. ASN/ASSF is a partner in the CHIC Consortium, CHIC is a research and innovation project supported through the EU Horizon 2020 funding programme.

Chicory Plants grown from Protoplasts