The Romantic Disease

Anna Dumitriu

30 Mar
2020
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“The Romantic Disease: An Artistic Investigation of Tuberculosis” is a solo exhibition and ongoing project by Anna Dumitriu, with an accompanying events programme.

“Pneumothorax Machine” installation view at Eden Project

This project takes the form of an artistic investigation into mankind’s strange relationship with the so-called ‘Romantic Disease’ Tuberculosis (TB) from early superstitions about the disease, through the development of antibiotics, to the latest research into whole genome sequencing of bacteria. Through juxtapositions between historical artefacts and stories woven by the artist around our changing beliefs it throws our idea of knowledge into question.

The Romantic Disease at Watermans

Tuberculosis has been strongly linked to creativity due to its long association with art, literature and the Romantic Movement. It has even been linked to fashion and Lord Byron famously declared:“How pale I look! – I should like, I think, to die of a consumption … because then the women would all say, ‘see that poor Byron – how interesting he looks in dying!’”

Exhibition tour of “The Romantic Disease” at Waag Society

The fight against TB is strongly linked to the science of microbiology and the development of antibiotics and vaccines. Even today the latest developments in whole genome sequencing of bacteria are focussed on understanding the disease better.

“Rest, Rest, Rest!” installation view at Eden Project

Anna Dumitriu has been working with leading TB specialists and researchers from the UK Clinical Research Consortium: Modernising Medical Microbiology Project including Professor John Paul, Professor Derrick Crook, Dr Tim Walker, Dr Nicola Fawcett and Dr Ana Gibertoni Cruz to create this significant body of work which is combines historical artefacts and knowledge with cutting edge research and techniques.

The exhibition contained altered historical objects and textiles combining ancient treatments for the disease, such as dyes made from madder root, safflower and walnut and textiles created using various kinds of mycobacteria, including Bacillus Calmette Guerin (BCG) the vaccine for TB made from weakened bovine (cow) TB and the extracted DNA of killed Mycobacterium tuberculosis. All of the material used in the exhibition has been rendered sterile using validated processes and the development of the work involved an intensive residency in Public Health England TB research centres, shadowing researchers and clinical specialists in their work.  Project collaborators/advisers also include Professor Melanie Newport and Professor Bobbie Farsides from Brighton and Sussex Medical School, Dr Carole Reeves and Dr Helen Donoghue from University College London and the charity Target TB.

Romantic Disease Past Exhibitions

“The Romantic Disease” installation view at Extravagant Bodies Festival curated by Kontejner in Zagreb

Watermans in London, UK, funded by The Wellcome Trust between January and March 2014

Theatrum Anatomicum at Waag Society, Amsterdam in the Netherlands in June – July 2014

Art Laboratory Berlin in Germany in September – November 2014.

Edinburgh International Science Festival in 1st – 30th April 2016.

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

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.

The 8th Medecins Sans Frontieres Eastern Europe and Central Asia Conference on Tuberculosis between 28th February – 1st March 2019.

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

The Extravagant Bodies Biennial in Zagreb 18th September – 10th October 2019 at HALA V of The Nikola Tesla Technical Museum.

Supported by the Wellcome Trust.