Celestial Gardens: The Secret Sounds of Plants
Waiting in the warmth of the late summer evening, two dancers – woodland nymphs perhaps – dance gently through the crowd, floral arches lofted and turned above the silent dance. The calming mood momentarily paused by the usual Covid-safe activities, then we’re inside the massive conservatory (the largest single span glasshouse in the Southern Hemisphere) and bathed in ambient music and bold coloured lights.
This combination of nature, visual art, lighting and plant-driven music is a collaboration of several artists: Sacred Resonance have connected medical monitors to plant leaves so their biodata influences the ‘sound bath’; Jessica Curtis of ‘In Search of the Divine’ has created sculptures hanging from the trees and sitting on the forest floor, illuminated by Paul Owen’s lighting design. Other woodland ‘creatures’ – more dancers with impressive headpieces – move in the spaces around the spectators walking through the conservatory, stopping to touch the plants, or find the artwork hidden amongst the leaves.
It's a wonderful concept, well-executed in this great building amongst the Botanical Gardens. There is a true sense of calm and despite the number of people, the large space of the conservatory and the immense volume of plants means you rarely feel crowded by others. Except at the bar, where your first drink is free (part of your ticket) and you can enjoy it in the darkness outside, watching the bats circling above.
Some of the artwork was difficult to find and despite the lighting being bold in intensity and colour, wasn’t always directed to illuminate the blown glass and other sculptures – but this just made you look harder.
This is the calm across the road from the storm that is the Garden and Gluttony, and if you can get a ticket for the remaining events, worth an hour or two of your time to be more at one with nature.
Review and images by Mark Wickett