Culture Collections

Latest news from NCTC Artist in Residence Anna Dumitriu

 

Plague dress

 

Anna Dumitriu is continuing her collaboration as Artist in Residence with the National Collection of Type Cultures (NCTC) and currently developing a series of new works based on historically important bacteria in the collection. She describes her position with the NCTC as her “ideal role” as “the collection brings together the history of infectious disease, stories of the great pioneers of microbiology and cutting-edge new technologies such as whole genome sequencing of bacteria” - all her key interests as an artist.

Dumitriu’s work reaches out to a wide range of audiences from gallery and museum visitors to healthcare workers, patients and policy-makers. Her work has recently toured to Tashkent in Uzbekistan as part of the 2019 Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) conference on tuberculosis in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and to New York for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Global AMR Challenge which took place during the United Nations General Assembly and also included presentations from the US Health Secretary and the UK Chief Medical Officer. She has also exhibited at the CDC Museum in Atlanta this year, as well featuring on the cover of the CDC Journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

The artworks she has completed in this series have already found great international success. These include “The Plague Dress” which premiered as part of the 6th Guangzhou Triennial of Contemporary Art in China between December 2018 and March 2019 and will next be on show at the Rijksmuseum Boerhaave in Leiden in an exhibition called “Infected!” which will open on 20th April 2020.

"It was particularly poignant to connect the cities of Guangzhou and London as both cities have suffered extensively from Plague" says Dumitriu. The second Plague pandemic which was responsible for the Great Plague of London is 1665 is believed to have originated in the rodent population in or near China and was most likely spread along the Silk Road or by ship, perhaps even via Guangzhou which was a key trade port (formerly known as Canton) on the maritime Silk Road. Later the third Plague pandemic killed 60,000 people in Guangzhou in just a few weeks beginning in March 1894.

The forthcoming location for the piece in Leiden is highly appropriate as the museum was formerly a ‘Pest House’ for the care of Plague victims and holds van Leeuwenhoek’s microscopes through which he first saw bacteria in their collection.

Dumitriu says “one of most important issues I want to talk to audiences about is antibiotic resistance. We see the Plague as a sublime disease of the past but in parts of the world it is still very much a present-day issue and even in some cases has developed some antibiotic resistance. Thinking about resistance in such a culturally significant disease shocks people to pay more attention to the real problem of antibiotic resistance.”

Another work that Dumitriu has made with NCTC is entitled “Clean Linen” has also been shown as part of the 6th Guangzhou Triennial in China, in “ReShape” at MU Gallery in Eindhoven in the Netherlands and in “The Children of Prometheus” at NeMe Gallery in Limassol in Cyprus. In 2020 it will be part of “Body and Mind – Seen and Unseen” at the National Centre for Craft & Design in Sleaford. The NCCD is the largest venue in England entirely dedicated to the exhibition of national and international craft and design. The show will run from 1st February – 19th April 2020.

You can find about more about Anna and her work with NCTC here.

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