VAP Portland – Freeloader

*Freeloader*        pen, donated used plastic lids and wire

My first stay in Portland was two years ago and since then, a particular tree would often come to mind. This very distinctive street tree took hold and became the main target for research. I made an assumption while living in another state that my memory was true, and what was fascinating about this tree was the multitudes of mistletoe. Now back in town, I discover they are actually matted aerial roots of the New Zealand Christmas Tree, Metrosideros excelsa,  that run along the streets of Portland. There isn’t one in the Portland Botanical Gardens but the semi parasitic mistletoe could potentially grow from any of the eucalypts, banksias, wattles, mangroves and casuarinas. So there is a lot to learn; there are eighty-five Australian Mistletoe species. While using the host for support and obtaining water they in turn become a beneficial provider of food and habitat for a variety of birds, koalas, possums and insects and in some cases who are completely dependent on the mistletoe for survival.

This work, *Freeloader* is thanks to all those consumers who generously sent their used plastic packaging my way. On the various plastic lids that form this piece are images of not only local endangered species but all Australian animals that are up for extinction. *Freeloader* is primarily about questioning the connection we have with our natural environment and the not so natural consumer culture we have created. Although artificial, our urban green spaces do show something of our beautiful but fragile world and hopefully remind us to step up and participate as custodians.

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