Pneumothorax Machine

“Pneumothorax Machine” (2014) takes the form of an altered original pneumothorax machine originally used to collapse the infected lungs of tuberculosis patients in order to ‘rest’ them.

“Pneumothorax Machine” installation view at Watermans London

The carved case reminds us of the texture of the lung tissue as the immune system attempts to wall off the foreign TB bacteria that it cannot eliminate. The engraving represents a positive sputum smear test made using a Ziehl–Neelsen staining technique. This rapid diagnostic test can be used to diagnose patients with active pulmonary TB. The bacteria stain red with Carbol Fuchsin against a background of Methylene Blue and may give the appearance of scattered red ribbons.

“Pneumothorax Machine” installation view at the Extravagant Bodies Festival
curated by Kontejner, Zagreb

Recently, a limited number of studies have shown that artificial pneumothorax may be helpful in treating highly antibiotic resistant forms of the disease. New research using whole genome sequencing of bacteria makes it possible to study the disease at a genomic level and offers the promise of more rapid methods to recognise and manage drug resistant infections.

The work is part of Anna Dumitriu’s ongoing project “The Romantic Disease” investigates mankind’s strange relationship with the Tuberculosis, from early superstitions about the disease, through the development of antibiotics, to the latest research into whole genome sequencing of bacteria.