Birmingham chemist collaborates with renowned bioartist for new installation exploring the chemical nature of DNA

This October, Birmingham-based art gallery BOM will host The Chemistry of Biology: An Alchemy of DNA, a new installation developed by internationally renowned Bioartist Anna Dumitriu in collaboration with Dr Robert Neely from the University of Birmingham.

Artwork by Bioartist Anna Dumitriu

The new installation explores the chemical nature of DNA - the enigmatic ‘instruction book of life’, a concoction of five elements - oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, carbon and phosphorus.

Dumitriu has been collaborating with Dr Neely, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Birmingham’s School of Chemistry, to explore how new chemical tools that allow us to directly visualise the DNA sequence will have far reaching cultural and scientific implications for the future.

Inspired by alchemical desires to change matter into new forms, create a remedy to cure any disease, or find the secret of immortality, Dumitriu weaves together complex alchemical narratives with synthetic biology, DNA sequencing, and new super-resolution imaging technologies to deconstruct what DNA is and what it means to us.

The installation will run 12- 26 October 2017. Entry to the exhibition is free. BOM is open to the public Wednesday – Saturday, 12:00 – 5:00pm.  An Exhibition opening reception featuring a discussion between Anna Dumitriu and Dr Rob Neely chaired by Louise Latter, and followed by drinks and DNA/chemistry activities, will be held  on 11 October 2017.

Reflecting on the collaboration, Dr Neely said: "Anna has had a really positive impact on my lab. We’ve been challenged to think about the work we do from a different perspective and that shift in context always stimulates new ideas and discussion.

"Anna is a great connector of people and has begun to link our work into a much larger network of artists and labs. The challenge now is to take some of those ideas forward and to do some really exciting new science."

Dr Neely joined the School of Chemistry at the University of Birmingham in the summer of 2014. The Neely lab focuses on the application of the DNA methyltransferase enzymes as tools for biotechnology and on single-molecule and super-resolution imaging at the interface between chemistry and biology.

Anna Dumitriu is a British artist whose work fuses craft, technology and bioscience to explore our relationship to microbiology and emerging technologies. She is currently artist in residence in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Birmingham. She also holds artist-in-residence posts with the Modernising Medical Microbiology Project at the University of Oxford; at the Department of Computer Science at The University of Hertfordshire, and at the Wellcome Trust Brighton and Sussex Centre for Global Health Research.

BOM is gallery and collaborative organisation forging a new model of practice at the intersection of art, technology and science with measurable social impact. By making sustained investment in a community of Fellows, and developing strategic projects and partnerships, BOM tests pioneering ideas that investigate the transformative value of the arts across education, health and society.

The collaboration has been funded by a Leverhulme Trust Artist in Residence Award.

For more information, please visit the BOM website.