CHIC Art Residencies – “Biotechnology From the Blue Flower” by Anna Dumitriu & Alex May – in progress, as of May, 2020.

Biotechnology from the Blue Flower is a project of a new sculptural bio-digital installation which can exist across both real and virtual spaces, with a focus on the areas of the use of chicory for dietary fibre and its impact on human health and the human microbiome. 


Biotechnology from the Blue Flower is a project of a new sculptural bio-digital installation which can exist across both real and virtual spaces, with a focus on the areas of the use of chicory for dietary fibre and its impact on human health and the human microbiome. The artists work with the plants themselves: the roots, chicory flour and 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 will be fused with video footage from the laboratory and data visualisations derived from the research processed through 3D scanning and modelling techniques to create a dramatic interactive artwork that will be brought to life using digital technologies such as video-mapping and sensor technology.


Dr 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.



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.


The artists are keen to explore 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.


The 3D scanning and modelling techniques may also be used to generate either augmented reality (AR) experiences or virtual reality (VR) 3D video content uploaded to YouTube, accessible via low-cost cardboard VR headsets and Smartphones – the aim is to reach out to large audiences and provide a wide range of potential ways of interaction. For example an AR experience that can be triggered by paper models that can be printed and made at home.

The final artwork would also be accompanied by a participatory drop-in workshop activity using materials and techniques to create a forum for dialogue and discussion, as well as an events programme


In 2019, Anna Dumitriu and Alex May visited Sensus b.v. – the industrial partner engaged in the CHIC Consortium. They 3D scanned several roots of the Chicorium intybus specimens provided by the Consortium partners.

In 2020, artists made progress on the experimentation on the structures of the plant and its roots & are now preparing the first version of the video footage.



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