BIOTECHNOLOGY FROM THE BLUE FLOWER
CHIC Art Residencies – “Biotechnology From the Blue Flower” by Anna Dumitriu & Alex May – in progress, as of May, 2020.
Biotechnology from the Blue Flower explores the cultural history and morphology of the chicory plant and investigates how new plant breeding methods such as CRISPR gene editing can be used to create future healthcare and food benefits.
Biotechnology from the Blue Flower is a project of a new sculptural bio-digital installation that can exist across both real and virtual spaces, with a focus on the areas of the use of chicory for dietary fiber and its impact on human health and the human microbiome. The artists worked with the plants themselves: the roots, chicory flour, chicory inulin and terpenes, as well as other potential materials that might be discovered. Both artists have extensive experience in working with biological media including medicines and genetically modified materials and therefore have a good understanding of health and safety, ethical and biocontainment issues.
These sculptural, physical materials are fused with video footage from the laboratory and data visualisations derived from the research process through 3D scanning and modeling techniques to create a dramatic interactive artwork brought to life using digital technologies such as video-mapping and sensor technology.
The final installation takes the form of a 3D printed sculpture of the plant. This sculpture is based on high-resolution photogrammetry scans of the chicory plant clones that the scientists are working with. Playing with the transition between the digital and wireframe forms, the artists explore the exterior and internal morphologies of plants and roots. The sculpture contains relics of CRISPR-modified protoplasts and leaves, some of which the artists created themselves in the lab. The chicory genome, which is projected behind the sculpture, has been edited to remove repeating DNA sequences (which appear as the plant evolves), to reference Goethe’s notion of the ‘original plant’.
The 3D scanning and modelling techniques generated an augmented reality (AR) “Blue Flower” now available for iPhone/iPad/Android devices http://onelink.to/blueflower. The work is part of of the Art & Science Node app which is available on Google Play and the Apple App store alongside other works.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Anna Dumitriu is a British artist working with BioArt, sculpture, installation & digital media to explore our relationship to infectious diseases, synthetic biology and robotics. She has an extensive international exhibition profile including ZKM, Ars Electronica, BOZAR, The Picasso Museum, The V&A Museum Philadelphia Science Center, The Museum of Contemporary Art Taipei LABoral, Art Laboratory Berlin, and The Museum of the History of Science. She was the 2018 President of the Science and the Arts section of the British Science Association.
Alex May is a British artist whose practice forges links between art, science, and technology through a wide range of digital new media, including virtual reality, photogrammetry, robotics, video projection mapping, interactive installations, algorithmic photography, video and sound art. Alex has exhibited internationally including at the Francis Crick Institute, Eden Project, Tate Modern, Ars Electronica, LABoral, the Museum of Contemporary Art Caracas, the Science Gallery Dublin and the Beall Center for Art + Technology.
MORE ON THE PROJECT
THE BLUE FLOWER
Chicory was one of the plants (along with the cornflower) that inspired the idea of the Blue Flower in German Romanticism – a central symbol of the movement. The movement was in part a reaction to the industrial revolution and held nature and emotion in high esteem. In our current biotechnological revolution, the idea of the blue flower will become an important symbol again, but this time in a more complex position at the interface of nature and technology. Central to societal explorations of what may be acceptable in terms of synthetic biology and how ‘nature’ and ‘natural’ may be defined in the future.
CHIC & THE NPBT’S
The artists are exploring the morphology of the chicory plants in the work as well as the history and cultural impacts of the plants throughout history, for example as an ancient remedy or a co ee additive in times of crisis, and then draw a thread between those histories and cutting edge contemporary research in the field and the potential future benefits of working with techniques such as CRISPR to provide healthcare and food benefits.
OUTREACH TO THE AUDIENCE
Our Bio-Tech Planet: Future of Plants and Humans (OBTP) – Chic Final Exhibition event, 24.10.22 – 30.10.22 / Botanical Garden, Rome, IT
Biotechnology from the Blue Flower was exhibited within the international, cross-disciplinary and unique event: Our Bio-Tech Planet: Future of Plants and Humans (OBTP), held from the 24th to the 30th October 2022, at the magnificent site of the Botanical Garden of Rome. The exposition of the two artworks realised by CHIC-ASN Artists in Residence was accompanied by a full-week interdisciplinary event embracing an international multimedia art exhibition by internationally acclaimed artists (with AiR exhibition at its center), live performances, culinary workshops by world-renowned chefs, panel discussions, and talks.
Gene Cultures – MIT Museum in Cambridge, 02.10.22 – 24 / Massachusetts, USA
The full sculptural installation of Biotechnology from the Blue Flower is now on show in a major exhibition “Gene Cultures” at the MIT Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA which opened to the public on 2nd October 2022 and continues until 2024.
Wundercamer BioArt – 6.04.22 – 24.06.22 / Kunsthaus Wiesbaden, DE
Biotechnology from the Blue Flower was presented during the solo exhibition Wundercamer BioArt at the Kunsthaus Wiesbaden. The exhibition was accompanied by several events: artists talks, curatorial tours and lectures.
Fascination of Plants Day – 18.05.22 – 26.06.22 / Poznan PL
During the exhibition WHAT NEXT – exhibition/video program/ AR app (public) at the Gallery of the Club for Science and Art, Faculty of Biology, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland, Art & Science Node of presented the CHIC AIR program including the film “Aftertaste – the molecular Orchestra” by Marille Hahne and “Biotechnology from the Blue Flower” by Anna Dumitriu and Alex May as well as interactive AR app “Our BioTech Planet”.
Brighton Digital Festival (BDF), 29.10.21 – 07.11.21
The ASN AR exhibition Capture the Future(s): Our BioTech Planet was part of the Brighton Digital Festival (BDF) as an open ongoing event, promoting the works of CHIC-ASN artists in residence, including internationally renowned Brighton based artists: Anna Dumitriu and Alex May.
Capture the Future(s): OUR BIO-TECH PLANET. The Routes to Roots Networks and Beyond – Virtual & augmented reality exhibition, Plant Biology Europe Congress, from 26.06.2021
The project was part of the fully virtual exhibition “Capture the Future(s): OUR BIO-TECH PLANET. The Routes to Roots Networks and Beyond” that had its premiere at the Plant Biology Europe Congress 2021. The exhibition combines the worlds of art, science and innovation, providing an international survey of artworks created by artists in collaboration with scientists in the field of life sciences and biotechnology.
PANELS & TALKS
- Anna Dumitriu & Alex May discussed their project “Biotechnology from the Blue Flower” at the panel discussion “Biotechnology From the Blue Flower: The Unnatural, That Too is Natural” with a panel of experts from the EU Horizon H2020 CHIC project, with whom they are collaborating on the 30th of June 2021. The event was part of of the “Capture the Future(s): OUR BIO-TECH PLANET. The Routes to Roots Networks and Beyond” virtual exhibition
- Anna Dumitriu presented her artistic research in the field of biotechnology and her CHIC-AiR project in an online lecture:. “The unnatural, that too is natural: Artistic Explorations in Synthetic Biology” at the University of California, Los Angeles Art|Sci Center (USA) on 12th May 2021 at 9:00am. View the recording here
ART & EDUCATIONAL ACTIVITIES
- The Goethe University in Frankfurt hosted a winter semester 2021/2022 course based on the project (and related works by Dumitriu and May). The Interdisciplinary course gathered students of art, microbiology, philosophy and curatorial studies https://aktuelles.uni-frankfurt.de/gesellschaft/kunst-aus-dem-labor-die-genschere-im-kuenstlerischen-einsatz/
The Project’s Progress