Blurring Boundaries

Working at the forefront of art/science collaborative practice, Anna Dumitriu has a strong interest in the ethical issues raised by emerging technologies. Her installations, interventions and performances use a range of biological, digital, and traditional media including live bacteria, robotics, interactive media, and textiles. In this exclusive interview she discusses her ideas, work and future projects.

Anna-Dumitriu 6

Richard Bright: You once stated that you “don’t like the idea of boundaries between disciplines.” How did your interest in science come about and, in particular, your interest to work with microbiology?

Anna Dumitriu: I think it’s very strange that ‘knowledge’ has been divided up in to disciplines where there’s really a continuum between things, and people have diverse ways of understanding – for some, an artistic approach which also allows room for aesthetic components to exist is more useful. We all experience the world aesthetically but in science that needs to be taken out of the equation as much as possible. This isn’t to say it is possible to fully do it or that science can be wholly rational, or as rational as it claims to be. I guess I am interested in those areas where aesthetics and our attempts to scientifically explain or understand the world meet. Microbiology is fascinating because it is far from fully known about or understood and these organisms fill us with terror, disgust, or wonder and awe in various ways – these are living things – with intentionality and they fill our bodies so much so that we are teeming ecosystems or ‘super organisms’. Our struggle to understand them, how they can help us and how to prevent them from killing us is integral to medical science and an ongoing process for science, and it’s so important we need more than a scientific understanding of it – we need to understand it, and the emerging research around it, aesthetically and emotionally too. For me it’s an expression of the sublime. I’ve written about it here:

Anna Dumitriu: Bacterial Sublime

Anna Dumitriu: Bacterial Sublime

RB: How does the practice of microbiology correspond to the practice of making art?


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