The Romantic Disease: An Artistic Investigation of Tuberculosis

About this event

by Anna Dumitriu
Opening Reception – 15th January 2014, 6-9pm
Exhibition open daily 16th January 2014 – 24th March 2014, 12pm (noon) – 9pm

“The Romantic Disease: An Artistic Investigation of Tuberculosis”, is a brand new solo exhibition by Anna Dumitriu showing installations and sculptures made with strains of mycobacteria, transformed historical artefacts, and textiles that our reveal the complexities of Tuberculosis (TB) and our responses to the disease. The show explores the strange history of TB from artistic, social and scientific perspectives and covers subjects such as superstitions about the disease, its literary and romantic associations, the development of antibiotics and the latest research into whole genome sequencing of bacteria.

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 sterilized prior to exhibition. Re-crafted historical artefacts and objects are added to the mix. 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 “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 Mycobacterium tuberculosis produced in a Containment Level 3 Laboratory (the highest level for handling bacteria). Around a century ago household dust was incorrectly thought to be one of the primary causes of the disease. Amongst the altered historical artefacts an intricately carved and engraved Pneumothorax Machine can be found, previously used to collapse lungs of unfortunate patients ‘to give them a rest’.

The exhibition has been developed through Anna Dumitriu’s ongoing artist’s residency at The University of Oxford with the UK CRC Modernising Medical Microbiology Project and is funded by The Wellcome Trust.

There will also be a major one day symposium on World Tuberculosis Day on 24th March 2014 with key speakers in the field of TB and press conference will be held at Watermans for World Tuberculosis Day on 24th March. The latest research into this disease, which currently affects one third of the World’s population, will be discussed in a highly accessible way.

To book a place please visit:

As well as the exhibition and symposium, The Romantic Disease has an ‘open lab’ workshop with Anna Dumitriu, Dr Simon Park, Dr Melissa Grant and special guests. This will run on five Saturdays, 11am – 5pm, on 15th and 22nd February, 1st, 15th and 22nd March 2014 and visitors on those days will see the group at work in the gallery.

To attend the free open lab please see


Watch the video here

‘Open Lab’ Workshops
5 x Saturdays, 11am – 5pm, on 15th and 22nd February, 1st, 15th and 22nd March 2014

During the exhibition Dumitriu will lead an intensive workshop over five weeks, in collaboration with Dr Simon Park and Dr Melissa Grant. The workshop will be open to deeply engaged members of the public, artists, scientists and researchers. It aims to progress techniques and method for artistic engagement with bacteria. They will work with live bacteria, dyes, stitch, and natural and clinical antibiotics. The workshops will make reference the historical objects in the exhibition.

Participants are expected to commit to attend all five sessions. Please contact to apply for a space.

Symposium – The Romantic Disease: An Art and Science Investigation
11am – 5pm – 24th March 2014
The project will culminate in a fascinating and accessible multidisciplinary symposium on World TB day 2014 bringing together the project team and advisers to tell stories of their own relationships to the disease across art, science, ethics and healthcare, with opportunities for debate and discussion.

Speakers include:Anna Dumitriu (Artist who created “The Romantic Disease: An Artistic Investigation of Tuberculosis) will discuss the project and the inspiration behind this new body of work.

Dr John Paul (UK CRC Modernising Medical Microbiology Project, and long term collaborator with Anna Dumitriu) will discuss the place of TB in the natural history of bacteria and how whole genome sequencing of bacteria is revolutionising our understanding of the disease.Professor Bobbie Farsides (Professor of Ethics Brighton and Sussex Medical School, and collaborator with Anna Dumitriu on “Trust me, I’m an artist“) will discuss TB and the humanities.

Professor Melanie Newport (Professor in Infectious Diseases & Global Health at Brighton and Sussex Medical School) will speak about the latest research into TB in global medicine.Dr Carole Reeves (Senior Lecturer in Science and Technology Studies, University College London) will speak about her research into the stories of The Children of Crag-y-nos and her investigation of a lost Tuberculosis treatment.

Dr Simon Park (Microbiologist and Artist, University of Surrey, one of the ‘Open Lab’ workshop leaders, and a collaborator with Anna Dumitriu) will discuss his own artistic research.Target Tuberculosis (a charity providing treatment, care and support in Africa and Asia) will discuss the challenges they face in developing countries and their perspectives on the exhibition.

Book Your Tickets


Click here to find full details for those with access requirements.

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