The Urpflanze and flower bombs

A while ago I decided to visit the tiny Essex University art gallery and inside found what at first appeared to be a bizarre room full of dark corners, screens of looping film and weird grey sculptures. What was jarring at first grew on me, especially when I realised the biological nature of it all. The installation was the work of artist Melanie Jackson and, as I read later in an interview, was strongly influenced by nature and science. There were many aspects to the work; large-scale replicas of pollen grains and gold-plated nanoparticles alongside lights that looked like microscopes to hint at the world of the very small bought into view. Looping film of plants represented the endless cycles of nature and vast swollen gourd sculptures gave a nod to genetic modification and our involvement in nature.

Jackson named the collection after Goethe’s notion of the Urpflanze, an apparent link between Goethe’s Urpflanze, which contains within it the potential to create all possible future plants, and modern plant science with its ability (or assumed ability) to create new plants (This is Tomorrow, 2010). The exhibition itself may not have grabbed my attention so much if it wasn’t for the material handed out with it. Instead of a gallery leaflet or pricy exhibition coffee table book a newspaper was available. This was full of a random, and sometimes so-artsy-it’s-almost-unreadable, collection of facts, pictures, snippets and information relating to science, art, nature and the collaboration of them all in this work.

Finally getting round to reading it all fully this morning (it’s still the holidays, right?) I was struck by one section. That on ‘plant terror’ – a section on green guerrillas and making grenades from fruit and vegetable seeds to bomb disused land. Utterly intrigued I did a short internet search and the organisation is true, alive and thriving. A New York-based operation aiming to inject green life into the city through not only seed bombs but window boxes, urban farms and community gardens. And they’re not the only organisation, there’s plenty more websites encouraging guerrilla gardening. It’s the seed bombs that give me almost child-like delight though, the idea of mixing seeds, fertiliser and a bit of compost in a balloon, old bauble, egg shell or something similar and releasing it into the wild.

I might not be donning a balaclava and mounting a midnight green-fingered campaign any time soon but with spring coming a home-made seed bomb might make the perfect present, watch this space!

Originally exhibited at The Drawing Room the exhibition at the University of Essex was an extension of this work and was open until December 18th 2010 (link here). With (Part 1) in the title let’s hope there’s more to come. The top picture above was borrowed from This is tomorrow and remains © Melanie Jackson and Matt’s Gallery. The seed bomb picture is from the Urpflanze exhibition newspaper and remains (C) Melanie Jackson and Esther Leslie. More information can be found at:


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