Ex Voto

“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.

“Ex Voto” Installation view at the History of Science Museum, Oxford

Lockdown Votives

The artwork has been extended during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in particular the first lockdown period in 2020, as the artist documented her experiences and combined them with reflections and memories of the period that she heard about through friends, colleagues, social media and the news. The “Lockdown Votives” series explores the changing face treatment of the disease, recovery stories, and other remembrances of the period. These votives are hung on turmeric dyed ribbon which has been a popular remedy during the pandemic. The ribbon is impregnated with actual SARS-CoV-2 RNA (coronavirus) from a plasmid construct. This is a safe, non-infectious reagent for SARS-CoV-2 research (NIBSC 19/304), obtained from the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control, UK. SARS-CoV-2 RNA was supplied by researchers Dr Ines Moura and Dr Jane Freeman at the University of Leeds who are working with the SARS-CoV-2 primers and the RNA construct in the development and use of a RT-PCR assay for SARS-CoV-2 detection in faeces.

“Lockdown Votives”

Plague Votives

Plague Votives (detail)

A new series of ‘Plague Votives’ was commissioned in 2020 for De Pest (The Black Death) at Museum Het Valkof in Nijmegen. These votives are hung on walnut dyed ribbon impregnated with Yersinia pestis DNA which the artist extracted herself from killed bacteria in the lab at the National Collection of Type Cultures.

Background

“Ex Voto” was originally developed as part of Back From The Dead: Demystifying Antibiotics at Oxford Museum of the History of Science, developed in collaboration with Dr Nicola Fawcett (University of Oxford) and Professor Maggie Smith (University of York) and also being created with the MRG-Grammar Consortium and The Wellcome Trust Brighton and Sussex Centre for Global Health Research.  

“Ex Voto” (detail) at The Museum of the History of Science, Oxford

Ex Voto on Exhibition in De Pest at Museum Het Valkof in Nijmegen in 2021

Ex Voto” is part of De Pest (The Black Death) a new exhibition at Museum Het Valkof in Nijmegen which runs from 26th May to 22nd August 2021. This installation includes both the ‘lockdown votives’ created during the first lockdown of the COVID-19 pandemic and a newly commissioned series of ‘plague votives’ created especially for the exhibition. De Pest shows how one of the most devastating infectious diseases that ever ravaged the world left its mark on art and society. With more than 200 works by artists such as Gabriël Metsu, Albrecht Dürer, Erwin Olaf and Berlinde De Bruyckere and writers such as Dante Alighieri, Giovanni Boccaccio and Albert Camus, the museum connects the history of the plague with current events. Never before has an exhibition of this size been devoted to this subject in the Netherlands.

“Ex Voto” as part of The Plague, an exhibition in Museum Het Valkhof, Nijmegen. Photo: Flip Franssen

Past Exhibitions

Back from the Dead” at the History of Science Museum in Oxford (UK) from 4th November 2016 until 18th March 2018.

BioArt and Bacteria” (solo exhibition) at the History of Science Museum in Oxford (UK) from 28th September 2017 until 21st May 2017.

Recent Works” (two person show) at The Wright Gallery at Texas A & M University from 5th – 8th March 2018.

BioArt and Bacteria” (solo exhibition) at The Esther Klein Gallery and the Science Center in Philadelphia (USA). The show ran from 18th October until the 24th November 2018.

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

“Ex Voto” (detail) at the Esther Klein Gallery at Philadelphia Science Center

Workshops

Workshops have taken place at numerous venues including The John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, Hertford College at The University of Oxford, The History of Science Museum in Oxford, DIYbio in Tel Aviv, The Weizmann Institute in Tel Aviv, Technion in Haifa, Texas A & M University, Watermans Gallery in London, The Wellcome Sanger Institute Cambridge, Imperial Science Festival at Imperial College London, and Eden Project in Cornwall, UK.

“Ex Voto” installation view at the Esther Klein Gallery at Philadelphia Science Center