The Plague Dress, clothing for pandemic times


Anna Dumitriu has developed a number of artworks that blend DNA with textiles, all in controversial circumstances. Her latest “The Plague Dress” involves a 1665 style raw silk, hand-dyed with walnut husks, referencing Nicholas Culpeper, a herbalist of the time who recommended walnuts as a treatment for the plague. The silk has been appliquéd with “original 17th century embroideries”, which Dumitriu has impregnated with the DNA of Yersinia pestis bacteria, after extracting it from killed bacteria. It is the result of a residency at the National Collection of Type Cultures (NTCC) laboratory at Public Health England, which is the world’s oldest collection of pathogenic bacteria. This light, elegant dress now has a tangible gloomy aura, with a critical tension between the deactivated, horrific past which has now been catapulted into the present.


photo credit by Fred Ernst


photo credit by Anna Dumitriu