Infective Textiles

As part of “Laboratory Life”, a project curated by The Arts Catalyst, Lighthouse and Andy Gracie, Anna Dumitriu led a group of artists, doctors and scientists to create “Infective Textiles” (2011) a textile-based artwork taking the form of a Regency style dress stained with bacterial pigments and patterned by antibiotics. This was her first major work which combined growing bacteria and antimicrobial substances including natural dyes in her work. The project work used ‘garage’ or ‘kitchen’ science methods and ‘DIY’ microbiological processes to explore the notion of infection control.

“Infective Textiles” Installation view Lighthouse, Brighton, UK

During the lab they cultured microbes from the local environment including soil, buildings and other public places. They then stained silk thread with natural and clinical antibiotics – including cloves, turmeric, green tea and Vancomycin – and used them to create embroidered patterns (based on microscopic images of bacteria and historic Regency designs) on fabric.

The dress was then placed in a ‘giant petri dish’ filled with DIY culture media made from supermarket products, upon which environmental bacteria, selected on the basis of the attractive natural pigments they were producing (burnt oranges, rose pinks etc), were grown. Their exhibition featured the Regency style dress, which was been pasteurised so that the bacteria are no longer living, video documentation of their project, framed works (which show slides of cultured bacteria and moulds, Gram’s stain paintings embroidered with antibiotic threads and drawings made by visitors to the lab) and a table of items used in their lab.

Making of “Infective Textiles”

The Infective Textiles project was led by Anna Dumitriu and created in collaboration with Dr Melissa Grant, Dr Brian Degger, Dr Rosie Sedgwick and Sarah Roberts. Thanks to Professor John Paul, Dr James Price and Alex May for their invaluable assistance and inspiration with this project.

Exhibitions

Laboratory Life: an art-science production laboratory & exhibition, February and March 2011, Lighthouse, 28 Kensington St, Brighton BN1 4AJ as part of Brighton Science Festival.

“Art and Medicine” at Brighton and Sussex Medical School in May 2011.

“Laboratory Life”, as part of “Alchemy” at The Microwave Festival in Hong Kong, China, October – November 2011

“Transitions: Knowledge Through Performance in Art and Science”, The Institute for Advanced Study, Delmenhorst, Germany, October 2012, curated by Timothy J Senior.

“Gone Viral: Medical Science in Contemporary Textile Art”, The Rockefeller Arts Centre, State University of New York, New York, March 2013, curated Leesa Rittelmann.

“Hybrid Skins” at TETEM, Enschede, Netherlands, October-November 2013, curated by Melissa Coleman. Image above copyright Cyril Wermers.

“BioArt Seoul 2015” at the Gwacheon National Science Museum, Seoul, South Korea, November 2015, curated by Art Clay.