Waratah

Artists: Sarah Harvie (Australia) / Dylan Tonkin (Australia) / Christopher Page (Australia) 
Anthony Zeater (Australia)

Waratah is a unique tribute to an iconic flowering plant. The majestic waratah is native to Australia and is the floral emblem of the State of New South Wales: it is difficult to cultivate and slow to mature, but flowers riotously in its native bushland setting. To honour this extraordinary plant, the artists have created a huge inflatable light sculpture, rich in colour and beautiful by day; at night it opens out to give visitors a larger-than-life experience of the aesthetics of this magnificent bloom.

Waratah, like all flowers, is sensitive to its immediate environment: it responds to sound and movement, shifting from its ambient resting glow to an explosion of light. Visitors can walk right up to it and make direct contact and it responds playfully, creating integrated wave patterns with light. The interactivity built into the sculpture is inspired by scientific research that suggests plants and their flowers are more like us than we think.

Just as humans respond emotionally to different types of contact or interaction, some plant specimens appear to respond to physical contact and sound. Different sensations can trigger a cascade of physiological and genetic responses; for example, some plants can ‘hear’ when insects are chewing them and release chemicals to stop the damage. 

Plants are also able to sense changes in their environment, and appear to communicate these changes to other plants via a subterranean 'internet' of underground fungus. As they interact with Waratah, visitors not only celebrate the organic design of a marvellous work of nature, but experience a sense of that often-unseen relationship that exists between humans and plants.

Country represented by installation: Australia