persephone in the underworld

VAP Portland – How to make a flower a billion times bigger

by Artist Catherine Bailey


There is really nothing better than the smell of the local, coastal bearded heath in September. A beautiful sample of the coastal bearded heath which covers the south western coast of Southern Victoria, Australia, can be found in the Portland Botanic Gardens; a piece of land which it possibly once covered entirely. This awkwardly shaped, hardy, shrub feeds the local native bees. We have approximately 1500 species of native bees in Australia. It has a tiny tiny flower about 2-5 millimetres across. On the bush the flowers come in tiny, tiny bunches. Now if we were to times their size 10 to the power of 10 or make this tiny flower 10 billion times bigger and walk its shape in the gardens it would become the shape of the star above. (The mathematics is a little challenging for me – all equations are welcome) I walked the shape of the coastal bearded heath flower around the gardens to create this virtual artistic pathway. At the point of each petal of the flower there exists a truly magnificent, ancient tree. (travelling clockwise)

The first point starts at the Moreton Bay Fig planted in the 1850s
The second point reaches the Atlantic Cedar
The third point reaches the Red Flowering Gum
The fourth point touches a ancient English Oak planted in the late 1800’s
The fifth point reaches a giant Cow Itch tree

The pathway above, in the shape of a coastal heath flower, was conducted in a meditative walk. This meditative walk is a form of Qi Gong, which requires the participant to connect with their own qi  and the object he/she is walking. In this case a tiny tiny flower. So whilst you walk a path .5 kilometres long, you connecting with, even becoming, something .5 of a millimetre in size.  (in your imagination at least)

From the smallest flower to the biggest tree.
The biggest tree in the Portland Botanical Garden is possibly the Moreton Bay Fig Tree, planted in 1850s-1860s, on the right hand side as you enter the Portland Botanic Gardens. The pathway below has been created by walking the shape of this tree around the gardens in a meditative walk. This meditative which requires the participant to connect with the object he/she is walking. In this case a rather large tree. You breath the tree into every atom of your body and then you breath it out.

Moreton Bay Fig Tree Virtual Artistic Pathway
Moreton Bay Fig Tree Virtual Artistic Pathway

A local myth exists about this tree. It is said that it is the burial site for a baby which died on a ship on the way to Portland in the early 1800’s. The local myth is said to have its foundations in the early colonial practice of burying infants, which had died from illness or in childbirth, in family gardens where there was no consecrated ground in the town.


For more information about these images.

The artist would like to thank model Tegan Saunders, David, Bernice and Rachel from the Portland Botanical Gardens. Gordon Stokes and the Portland Historical Society, Tilly Govanstone from the Portland Theatrical Society and Karl Hatton from the Glenelg Shire.

All images are copyrighted ©cat bailey 2014. The use of any image from this site is prohibited unless prior written permission is obtained from the artist.


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