Art & Science
Exhibit Tulip Mania series by Anna Fine Foer at BplusC
Tulip Mania Leiden, together with BplusC, has installed a special exhibition at the location Merenwijk. Tulip Mania proudly presents the series of twelve collages/watercolors, "Tulip Mania" by the American artist Anna Fine Foer, which she made during the period 2016-2018. The works show different aspects of the Tulip Mania during the 17th century, but also show parallels with current cryptocurrency trading. Anna Fine Foer collaborated with scientists from Leiden University who started sequencing and mapping the tulip genome at the time. The DNA code of the tulip can be found in a number of her art works. The works at BplusC are prints of the originals.
Biography Anna Fine Foer
Anna Fine Foer is an American artist living and working in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, who is inspired by scientific concepts. She has created watercolor collages about quantum mechanics, fractals, augmented reality and Einstein's thought experiments. She is trained in textile conservation and feels comfortable delving into scientific topics and also sees her work as an experiment.
A few years ago she read the book “The Botany of Desire” by Michael Pollan and was intrigued by its chapter on the "tulip mania" in the Netherlands in the 1630s, in which the striped type tulip was particularly prized. Centuries later, it was discovered that these "mosaic" tulips were caused by viruses that resulted in genetic mutations known as transposons. When she asked a microbiologist to collaborate on a project for an exhibit at the National Institutes of Health in 2018, he suggested she works with
transposons with which she was already familiar with through Pollan's book. She took the microbiologist's suggestion and incubated the project with a focus on experimenting with visualizing aspects of the tulip genome and other themes from the tulip mania. Through connections with scientists, she found a Dutch biologist from Leiden University who was sequencing the tulip genome and shared his preliminary results with her. He used a relatively new technology called MinIOn, specially developed to sequence long genomes like that of the tulip, which are more than 10 times longer than the human genome. She has used the genetic code in her watercolor collages and created a series illustrating different aspects of a tulip's story; the financial impact during the Tulip Mania in the early seventeenth century in the Netherlands, the tulip's ancestors dating back to Turkey and Central Asia, the ornamental history of the tulip pattern (a popular motif used in Turkish textile and ceramic design and on illuminated manuscripts), pigmentation experiments done during Tulip Mania, the botanical and chemical elements of a tulip and an exploration of historical botanical illustrations, specifically Dutch, seventeenth and eighteenth century examples.
Mosaic Virus - ©Anna Fine Foer
2018 collage and aquarel 75x55cm
Mosaic virus - Anna Fine Foer
During the Tulip Mania (Netherlands 1630-37) the most popular tulips were striped, which was caused by a virus. Ultimately, it was a series of bulb manipulation experiments done in 1928 by Dorothy Cayley at the John Innes Horticultural Institution in Merton (South London, England) that led to the discovery of the virus. The virus is known as tulip break virus, lily streak virus, or tulip mosaic virus. The name of the virus is a central motif in this collage, featuring a traditional mosaic floor pattern in the shape of a double helix. The helix patterns are collaged together with prints of the mosaic virus DNA sequence. The floor is also the fertile ground for a tulip garden, complete with tulips carved from a mosaic virus image.
The mosaic pattern is made with pigment color charts that refer to an attempt to standardize that which defies regulation, as was the case during Tulip Mania.
A Code for Tulips - Anna Fine Foer
The images used are the result of the first time the tulip genome was sequenced using Oxford Nanapore technology, MinION, thanks to a geneticist from Leiden. The collages of DNA sequences express the variegated petals most loved during Tulip Mania. Three centuries later, scientists understood that this variation in the petals was the result of a virus that caused mutations in the tulip genome. Prints are black text on white background and inverted to illustrate the binary aspect of a gene; it's on or off.
A code for Tulips - ©Anna Fine Foer
2018 collage and drawing on perkament 75x55cm
Sprinkle Gold Dust – Anna Fine Foer
During the Tulip Mania (Netherlands, 1630s), alchemical experiments such as sprinkling gold dust on bulbs were performed in an attempt to force the most desired variegated petal patterns, without understanding what caused the disturbance of the solid colored petals . Gold, bronze and silver coins break off; scattered and aligned between tulips, made of orizomegami (Japanese folded and dyed paper). The charts show the fluctuations of the currency; gold versus euros, gold versus dollars, etc. to reflect the speculative trade of tulip bulbs as currency.
Sprinkle Gold Dust - ©Anna Fine Foer
2018 collage; 3-dimensional painted by hand rice paper, metallic paper; 60x90cm
Hortus Botanicus – Anna Fine Foer
The oldest botanical garden in the Netherlands is where the Tulip Mania came to full bloom. Mirrors were placed in the garden to create the illusion of an abundance of flowers. At the bottom of the composition is a collage as a tribute to a Rennaisance cabinet of curiosities.
Hortus Botanicus - ©Anna Fine Foer
2018 collage; 3-dimensional painted paper flowers, mirror paper; 75x55cm
Hashtag Block Chain Tulips – Anna Fine Foer
Cryptocurrency code and illustrations of a decentralized network, also known as block-chain, are used in this collage to create stylized tulips arranged around block formations. The first speculation bubble was Tulip Mania in the 1630s, not much different from the madness surrounding today's bitcoin trade.
Hashtag Block Chain Tulips - ©Anna Fine Foer
2022 Collage, 3 dimensional, diagrams;
The above 5 artworks are part of the 12-part Tulip Mania series that can be seen until the end of September at BplusC Stevenshof, Trix Terwindtstraat 6, Leiden. The artworks are prints of originals.