Opening on 15 January 2014 at Watermans Art Centre in Brentford, west London, the exhibition will show installations and sculptures made with stains of mycobacteria, transformed historical artefacts, and textiles that reveal the complexities of the history of tuberculosis (TB) and our responses to the disease.
Bioartist Anna Dumitriu is fast becoming known for her work creating textile art with and about bacteria, in particular stitching textiles with superbugs, such as her 'MRSA Quilt'. For 'The Romantic Disease: An Artistic Investigation of Tuberculosis', she has worked at the cutting edge of research alongside Oxford University and Public Health England scientists from the Modernising Medical Microbiology Consortium.
'The Romantic Disease: An Artistic Investigation of Tuberculosis' explores the history of TB from artistic, social and scientific perspectives and covers subjects such as superstition, TB's literary and romantic associations, the development of antibiotics and the latest research into whole-genome sequencing of mycobacteria. It has been made in collaboration with a number of leading organisations including the charity Target TB and Brighton and Sussex Medical School, who gave advice about the project.
Artworks in 'The Romantic Disease' are made with a combination of textile art and biological matter including strains of Mycobacterium vaccae, M. bovis and M. tuberculosis that have been sterilised prior to exhibition. For example, Dumitriu has developed a series of textile installations stained with bacteria dyes patterned using antibiotic 'resists', which focus on how early 'antibiotics', such as Prontosil, were derived from chemical dyes. For a piece titled: 'Where there's dust there's danger' she has created a series of tiny felt lungs from wool and dust, into which she has incorporated the DNA of killed M. tuberculosis made in a Containment Level 3 Laboratory.
Re-crafted historical artefacts and objects are added to the mix. These include an intricately carved and engraved Pneumothorax Machine, previously used to collapse the lungs of unfortunate patients in order to 'give them a rest'.
'The Romantic Disease' will run from 15 January to 24 March at Watermans Art Centre, with additional events taking place throughout the exhibition, including an Open Lab art/science workshop and a symposium on World Tuberculosis Day.