In Second Nature Calgary artist Jennifer Wanner explores ideas of genetic engineering, technology, conservation and the human relationship with nature. After “harvesting” specimens of the most endangered plants in Canada from an online database, Wanner has created delicate botanical collages out of elements that are carefully cut from inkjet prints of photographs found on the internet. She has spliced together fourteen new engineered plant species, hybrids that are imagined as a brave (and beautiful) new way to conserve and protect vanishing flora in Canada.
Each collage represents one new hybrid for every province and territory of Canada. The series of artworks is entitled Periculum, which in Latin means: trial; proof; danger; peril; risk; liability. The term refers to the endangered plants but Wanner also uses it to address humanity’s reliance on technology:
“We are constantly driven to develop technologies and organizational systems that attempt to counteract the negative effects we have already inflicted upon the natural world,” explains Wanner. “With my proposition to ‘genetically collage’ all of the provincial and territorial plant ‘species at risk’ together into one specimen we would only have to concern ourselves with protecting one plant species rather than a diverse range of them – a system of efficiency. These botanical collage images act as another futile and preposterous proposal to help restore and protect what we are on the verge of destroying.”
Karl Marx proposed the concept of “second nature” early in the twentieth century: as we surround ourselves with commodities constructed from nature, our relationships with nature and each other change. Jennifer Wanner brings that idea into the twenty-first century, conducting “field work” in the virtual realm of the Internet – a domain where “virtuality destroys reality.” For Wanner, second nature is “a virtual simulation wrought by revolutions in information, biotechnologies, and consumer culture.”