Anne-Mie Melis+
Are Your Petunias Actually Transgenic? (Residency at Cardiff University)
2010 - 2011

From March to December 2010 I have been artist in residence at the School of Biosciences at Cardiff University. During this time I have followed up the growing process of mutant and normal Petunia flowers. The Petunia genome is naturally unstable by the presence of ‘jumping’ DNA elements and therefore the product of each seed is unpredictable, allowing for a multitude of floral possibilities. This phenomenon is used by plant scientists to do research into the function of genes in plants. My work consists of a unique herbarium of these modified Petunia flowers and animations that beautifully show the movements, morphology and growth of the plants. I use the Petunia plants with ‘jumping’ DNA elements as a metaphor to illustrate our love-hate relationship with Genetic Modified Organisms. Garden centers show the overflow of human engineered varieties and crossbred species. With my work I touch the subjects of natural evolution and human driven engineering in response towards a dynamic society and a shifting natural environment. I am grateful to the Leverhulme Trust who supported the residency. Special thanks go to Lyndon Tuck, Tom Gerats, Bernard Moxham, Walter Dewitte and Cardiff University.

Petunia specimens
Petunia specimens
hybrid Petunias
young plants
animation still (Blind Petunias)
Anne-Mie Melis