The Institute of Epigenetics and Stem Cells (IES) appointed Anna Dumitriu to the first Artist in Residence Program at the Helmholtz Zentrum München in Germany. Dumitriu’s project, entitled “The Mutability of Memories and Fates” responds to the concept of cellular memory and cell fates, and explores how the cell packages DNA and what impact that has. It focusses on the mutability of the cell, or what controls its constancy, and how this affects gene expression and the nature of life. It explores the desirability of a deeper understanding of cell biology and the significant impacts it will have on healthcare and disease prevention. The completed work will arise from discussions with researchers and through shared poetic and philosophical reflections on the research.
Dumitriu is in the process of developing a new body of artworks resulting from a deep exploration of the research taking place at the Institute. The work is being developed through close engagement with the researchers both during physical residencies and online meetings and seminars. Dumitriu is gaining a strong understanding of the projects and methodologies used at the Institute, and learning from the rich knowledge of the scientists and informing herself about the research field. She has already undertaken experiments involving the effect of climate on cell growth and DNA replication, induction of totipotent cells, and visualisation of the way DNA is wrapped in the cell nucleus. The project received follow-on funding for 2022 and takes the form of a deep exploration of the existence of “cell memory”.
The residency is co-ordinated by Professor Maria-Elena Torres-Padilla (Director of the IES), Amelie J. Kraus (Scientific Coordinator of the Epigenetics@HMGU community), and the art-science curator Dr Claudia Schnugg.
Cellular Reprogramming Necklace
A sculptural necklace physically represents the chromatin structure of the OCT-4 gene. This gene important for inducing an embryonic stem cell-like state, in effect wiping the memory of the cell (at least to a degree) and giving it the potential to become a different kind of cell. In eukaryotic cells (cells with nuclei) DNA is wrapped around histones and the tightness of this binding either prevents or allows the expression of genes. The necklace is embedded with extracted heterochromatin and euchromatin from the OCT-4 gene.
Following an exhibition at the Deutsches Museum in Munich Germany the artist ran a workshop with researchers at the Institute of Epigenetics and Stem Cells (IES) at the Helmholtz Zentrum München Dumitriu led a workshop with researcher to create 3 versions of the piece. One necklace is on exhibition in the foyer of the Institute of Epigenetics and Stem Cells and the others are touring.
Thanks to Maria-Elena Torres Padilla and Adam Burton for their scientific support and Alex May for 3D modelling support.
A fibre based artwork references the difficulties of returning a differentiated cell to the form of a pluripotent stem cell and explores the question of whether cells have memories. In this work the knitted squares have been washed, shrunk through drying, partly unpicked and reknitted. The re-knitted parts still show the scars of the previous knitted form. Thanks to Eleanor Hyland-Stanbrook for her support in knitting.
A work-in-progress that explores cell differentiation and memory. In the early stages the artist has transformed stem cells (which can become almost any kind of cell) into totipotent cells (which can become any kind of cell). Thanks to Antione Canet, Maria-Elena Torres Padilla and Adam Burton for their support in this project.
A work-in-progress showcase of the artworks took place at the Deutsches Museum in Munich for the 60th Anniversary of the Helmholtz Zentrum on 18th November 2021.
“BioArt Alchemy” a solo exhibition of works by Anna Dumitriu at Spazju Kreattiv in Valletta, Malta, from 16th September 2022 – 30th October 2022.
Artworks from the project were exhibited at the EPIC Conference, a joint conference by the three specialist science networks: EpiGene3Sys, ChromDesign and INC-Spain that took place from 17th to 20th October 2022 in Granada, Spain.
BioArt Revolution/ Revoluția BioArt, an innovative solo exhibition by Anna Dumitriu which brought together contemporary artistic approaches and modern scientific experiments to address issues of global relevance such as infection, climate change, and diversity. The show took place as part of Timișoara 2023 European Capital of Culture, from 30th September to 1st October 2023. The exhibition, which was created in collaboration with the Romanian Science Festival, took place in the stunning setting of Bastionul Maria Theresia, Galeria 2, Str. Hector, nr. 1, Timișoara, Romania.
BioArt Knowledge: A Solo Exhibition by Anna Dumitriu at the Yarrow Gallery in Oundle, Near Peterborough, UK, from 9th November – 6th December 2023.
Anna Dumitriu lead an in-person workshop at the Institute of Epigenetics and Stem Cells at the Helmholz Zentrum in Munich (Germany) exploring cellular reprogramming and cell memory, as part of her art residency, on 10th August 2022