[Exhibition] Vanessa Mardirossian at In the Middle, a Chimera

Biolab member Vanessa Mardirossian will be exhibiting her work Residual Textile Dye Spectrum: A Colour Chart of Textile Fibres on Cotton Canvas (142 x 96 cm), 2022 at Milieux’s End-of-Year Exhibition & Symposium starting today and running until May 18th. It will be on display on the 11th floor of the EV building for the duration of In the Middle, a Chimera.

Vanessa Mardirossian on her work:

This piece shows the wide range of shades I can achieve by creating colours with leftover food and bacteria. It presents the result of a series of workshops I gave at Milieux Speculative Life Biolab assisted by Alexandra Bachmayer in March 2022 thanks to the Sustainability Research Award offered by the Sustainable Action Fund (SAF) which I won last year last to promote sustainable development at Concordia. The combination of ancient vegetable dyeing techniques, with contemporary methods of colour production carried out by living organisms, allow me to achieve many colours from the Pantone palette. This giant colour recipe chart also serves as a light fastness test to see which mordants offer the best dye stability. Each colour square contains its own combination of unique recipe of dye, mordant and post-bath.

My research-creation thesis entitled “The hidden side of materiality: an ecoliteracy of clothing through a molecular approach to colour in an eco-responsible practice of textile design”, addresses sustainable avenues for the development of dyes for textiles. My interest in the molecular aspect of colour began after watching documentaries denouncing the environmental toxicity of fashion. Through an Art-Science approach to textile design, my research consists in developing a textile eco-literacy, which implies an ecological knowledge of the materials we use. This vision leads to an even broader reflection that allows us to develop a critical approach to the way we make and dispose of our materials.

In 1997, the publication “Biomimicry: innovation inspired by nature” by Janine Benyus revolutionized the way in which Nature can influence design practices by rethinking our production methods and by better understanding the modes of functioning of living things. The concept of “Waste = Food” popularized by “Cradle to Cradle” (McDonough & Braungart, 2002), promotes waste as a resource, which leads me to develop dyes from bacteria that feed on food waste. Bacteria are a renewable resource that allows the production of pigments, at room temperature and within 48 hours.


For more information about Vanessa’s practice, check out her Instagram page.

Her research — including the workshop series — are supported by the Sustainability Action Fund, SSHRC, and Milieux (Textiles and Materiality Cluster and Milieux Speculative Life Biolab).


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