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COMMENT | The confluence of art, science and society

COMMENT | In Next Spring, a pandemic-era exhibition held at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum at the University of British Columbia, genetically impossible flowers spring up on display, each bearing their individual Linnean binomial classifications.

One of them is the Frankenflora pruina, a hybrid flower collected in 2080, having evolved in accordance with extreme conditions brought about by climate change – not too difficult to visualise given the extreme climactic disasters of the past months.

While the work is highly speculative, it does have a grounding in and appreciation for natural biological and chemical processes, resulting in a heady fusion of art and science, inspired in turn by themes of impermanence and connection. In her artist’s statement, Katrina Vera Wong writes that:

"The world’s flora has evolved curious morphologies and compositions, specially adapted to the areas they happen to germinate in and the pollinators they might rely on. … I marvel at the structural and chemical means with which plants thrive, and seek to puzzle out combinations for future flowers."

Such an approach should not just be considered as a current fad, or a pop-science gimmick, but rather a form of speculation which collapses the rigid boundaries between art and science.

This is not the only such exploration, of course. Closer to home, Tan Zi Hao’s work throws in additional elements of Malaysian history and immigration patterns to imagine new species of the...

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