Botanica - previous exhibitions
In May of each year, Botanica: Contemporary Art Outside brings Brisbane's City Botanic Gardens to life with state-of-the-art projections, unexpected installations and interactive artworks to captivate children and adults. This page provides the opportunity to view the artworks and event images from previous years.
Botanica is a temporary public art festival delivered by Brisbane City Council in the City Botanic Gardens, Brisbane City. The festival presents site-specific artworks that make connections with the gardens, providing cultural interactions and experiences.
For 10 days, Botanica transforms the iconic gardens into an accessible, free outdoor gallery. This unique cultural offering enables cross-disciplinary perspectives from art and design to come together around local stories and global climate discourse.
Botanica aims to provide visitors with experiences that promote social connection and inclusion, and creative participation and sensory involvement with the city and gardens. To achieve this, Council invests in art that is contemporary and has a multi-layered approach to meaning and production. Staged in Queensland's premier heritage site on the banks of Brisbane River's City Reach, Botanica aims to be a genuinely creative and transformational public art festival.
2021 Botanica artists
Botanica 2021 featured artworks from some of Australia's leading contemporary artists and designers and explored the nexus of art and design practice. The exhibition inspired conversations about our built, natural and digital environments.
Heartbeat transformed the kiosk in the heart of the City Botanic Gardens through a vibrant projection and textile installation.
In a year we'd all been affected by the stress and uncertainty of the global pandemic, Heartbeat created an uplifting sensory encounter. The rainbow colours were a beacon of hope, optimism and life. Red, orange and yellow emanated warmth and energy, while blue and green created a feeling of deep calm and wellness. Hiromi wanted Heartbeat to provide a moment of peaceful reflection and happiness for all who encountered it.
Materials: Mixed media, textile, neon, LED, light box, projection
Additional creative team
Kim Best (textile production), Wendy Mansell (editing), Craig Walsh (projection design), Steven Thomasson (projection design), Aaron Dora (project management)
The artist acknowledges the Heartbeat support team - Kim Best, Ayuko Oba, Craig Walsh, Steve Thomasson, Aaron Dora, and Wendy Mansell, and everyone who is dedicated to humanity, nature and the arts.
Hiromi Tango is a Japanese-Australian artist whose work spans sculpture, painting, drawing, photography, projection and performance. Drawing on a life-long passion for gardening, she explores how our connection with nature — and spaces like the City Botanic Gardens — can generate calm, wellness and happiness amongst the bustle and stress of our contemporary existence.
Top - Heartbeat (2021), Hiromi Tango. Photo: Dave Kan.
Bottom - Pictured: Hiromi Tango. Courtesy of the artist.
Museum of our lost world (2021)
Simone chose the formal flower garden as a site for her work for its symbolic power. As a highly designed folly in the shape of a flower, it reminded visitors that the City Botanic Gardens is a constructed space - a museum of nature that celebrates its diversity.
A lifeless ossuary of bleached cast skeletal remains of animals, fish and coral, the deathly site referenced the garden's early history as a zoo, but more importantly, our dangerous future. Simone envisaged the graveyard as a prescient foreboding of a dying world caused by the folly of human-induced climate change.
Materials: Cast gypsum
The artist acknowledged Perides Art Projects Brisbane, CSR Gyprock Trade Noosaville, her partner Kevin Wilson, her family, and all who assisted with this installation.
Simone Eisler is an experienced Queensland sculptor with an extensive exhibition and public art profile in Australia and overseas. Garden themes feature strongly in many of her large-scale, immersive installations and are a platform for her to explore issues of climate change, species adaptation, family history and the diaspora.
Top - Museum of our lost world (2021), Simone Eisler. Photo: Dave Kan.
Bottom - Simone Eisler. Photo: Kevin Wilson.
Esem Projects (E/P)
Visitors were invited to step inside the canopy of the Tipuana Tipu tree – to lie down, look up and listen in to past, present, and future sounds of our fragile and complex ecosystems.
Informed by the ideas of James Lovelock, creator of the Gaia hypothesis, Superorganism resonated with a vast spectrum of sounds from natural to artificial, from historical recordings to machine intelligence.
Taking place at a pivot point in the history of our planet, during an era of mass extinction and loss of biodiversity, Superorganism invited audiences to reflect on what we are losing, what we gain by paying attention, and what uncertain futures lie ahead.
Materials: Audio and light installation, steel, soft furnishings
Additional creative team
Nigel Cruikshank (synthesisers and sampling), Rose Grayson (vocals), Leif Wilson (technical design), Pete Hird (sound engineer and installation)
The artists acknowledged contributions from scientific thinkers, recordists and creative advisors who have supported and inspired the making of this artwork. Field recordists featured include Vicki Powys, Andrew Skeoch, George Vlad and John Hutchinson.
Led by Dr Sarah Barns and Michael Killalea, Esem Projects (E/P) is a multi-disciplinary media arts practice, whose work addresses our changing relationships to space, place and ecology in a hyper-connected digital age.
Top - Superorganism (2021), Esem Projects. Photo: Dave Kan.
Bottom - Pictured: Esem Projects. Courtesy of the artists.
On Top of the World (No. 3) (2021)
On Top of the World (No. 3) had several conceptual dimensions. Firstly, it responded to Piero Manzoni's 1961 sculpture inscribed with the words "The Base of the World, Homage to Galileo" — placed upside down in a field in Herning, Denmark.
As Australia is often regarded as the 'bottom' of the world, this artwork challenged the definitions of 'top' and 'bottom' in the context of spatial positions.
The work underlined humanity's struggle with orientation in the world, suggesting to be 'on top of the world' is to be on the ground, and directly connected to the earth.
Materials: Chalk on grass
Courtesy of David Pestorius Projects and the artist.
Paul Bai was born in China and has lived and worked in Brisbane since 1989. Bai's cross-discipline art practice spans painting, video, photography and installation and builds upon the tradition of 1960s conceptual art. He has exhibited professionally nationally and internationally since 1996.
Top - On Top of the World (2021), Paul Bai. Photo: Dave Kan.
Bottom - Pictured: Paul Bai. Courtesy of the artist.
Here + Now (2021)
What are the 'signs' in the landscape?
What smells, sounds or sights keep us present, signalling the time of day, season, a moment in an ecological cycle, or our interconnection?
Drawing our attention to the thresholds of time and place, Here + Now asked through what lens visitors see the significant pointers in our landscape?
The work was a whacky blend of pop botanica, 'utopia' and phenomena. It highlighted the authority of Indigenous ecological knowledge, the democratisation of science through agency, and the significance of the relationship between community and ecology. Its goal was to highlight nature's equity that nurtures all.
Materials: Bamboo, LED, neon light, plumbing clamps, steel
Additional creative team
Gerry Turpin (Consultant. Senior Ethnobotanist, Tropical Indigenous Ethnobotany Centre, James Cook University)
To the Jagera and Turrbul Peoples of Brisbane City, and all Traditional Owners across Australia and the Torres Strait whose authority of ecological knowledge is paramount, Charlotte offers your her deepest respect.
Title inspired by Aldous Huxley's Island (1962).
Charlotte Haywood is an experimental, interdisciplinary artist who explores themes and practices from pop to the primordial. She seeks cultural and linguistic nuances of the body and the landscape to decrypt and unfold multi-narratives in an act of decolonising the self.
Interview with Gerry Turpin - Here + Now - Signs in the landscape
Join Gerry Turpin, Mbabaram Elder and Australia's lead ethnobotanist from the Tropical Indigenous Ethnobotany Centre, Australian Tropical Herbarium, James Cook University, Cairns, explaining the importance of Indigenous ecological knowledge and seasonal calendar plants.
Charlotte worked in close consultation with Gerry in the development of her artwork Here + Now for Botanica.
Citizen Science Program - ClimateWatch
ClimateWatch's Citizen Science program is the collaborative brainchild of Earthwatch Australia, the Bureau of Meteorology and the University of Melbourne. Join one of ClimateWatch's founders, to discuss phenology, or the study of the different life stages of plants and animals (e.g. flowering, fruiting) to understand how changes in climate (temperature, rainfall) are influencing the seasonal behaviours of different species.
Charlotte invited audiences to participate in ClimateWatch's Citizen Science project as an extension of her artwork Here + Now for Botanica.
Top - Here + Now (2021), Charlotte Haywood. Photo: Dave Kan.
Bottom - Pictured: Charlotte Haywood. Photo: Kate Holmes.
Breathing Spaces (2019)
Through acts of understanding, deconstruction and reconstruction, Breathing Spaces looked to recontextualise historic words about public spaces, to include knowledge of place long known as truth to First Nations Peoples.
By deconstructing the words of historic texts and rearranging them into a poem that included First Nations' understandings of nature, water, place and space, this work hoped to weave perspectives back into the public knowledge of the area.
While diving into history can sometimes cause heartache, this works aimed to demonstrate how understanding and reflecting on our collective past, we can take the newly dissected parts and create something new and beautiful.
Additional creative team
Sai Karlen (motion graphics and multidisciplinary designer)
Jenna Lee is a mixed-race Larrakia, Wardaman and Karajarri, Asian (Japanese, Chinese, Filipino) and Anglo Australian woman whose contemporary art practice explores the transformation of the colonial printed word through the ritualistic acts of analysis, destruction and reconstruction, seeking to translate the page into a new tangible language.
Top - Breathing Spaces (2021), Jenna Lee. Photo: Dave Kan.
Bottom - Pictured: Jenna Lee. Photo: Jade Florence.
What did you say? (2021)
On the epidermis of a tree's leaves, microscopic pores called stomata exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen. The word 'stomata' comes from the Greek word 'stoma' meaning 'mouth'. What did you say? reimagined a tree's stomata as the mouth through which the planet breathes.
Some mouths breathe with ease; others struggle to catch their breath; a silent few are deathly still. Viewers were asked to listen and engage in deep, conscious breathing, to be present in the moment, to connect, consider and rest.
Using augmented reality, projected imagery and a soundscape of breathing, the artwork responded to our strange and ever-shifting social and environmental climate.
Materials: Projection and sound installation with augmented reality animation.
Additional creative team
Helena Papageorgiou (augmented reality), Michael Dick (sound)
Kellie O'Dempsey develops site-generated installations that incorporate sound, animation, light, video and sculpture. O'Dempsey hybridises these elements to generate artworks that are experiential and emergent. Creating in both solo and collaborative formats, her diverse practice investigates notions of transformation and the absurd through improvisation and happenstance.
Top - What did you say? (2021), Kellie O'Dempsey. Photo: Dave Kan.
Bottom - Pictured: Kellie O'Dempsey. Courtesy of the artist.
Ripple was an immersive audiovisual experience that was projection-mapped on the lagoon surface. As the audience navigated through the physical transformation of water via a touch screen, from ice to vapour (fear to truth), they experienced different metaphors for the states of human emotion.
The work explored water as a metaphor for the subconscious, linking interactive animation and sound to the expressions of the audience, nurturing empathy for nature and highlighting the vulnerability and strength in shared human emotion.
On the weekends, the installation was accompanied by roving performances from Theatre of Thunder and a musical Acknowledgement of Country from the electro/hip-hop music duo, Kairos Kin.
Materials: Interactive audio-visual installation
Additional creative team
Simon Burgin and Johnathan Crowe (creative and technical support), Remo Vallance (design for fabrication), Tom Marxon (engineering), James Clark (audio engineering and system design)
Georgie Pinn has two decades of experience working as an artist, director and producer of interactive public cultural events. Her work combines immersive technology with installation, narrative, film, animation, theatre and sound. Pinn's creative practice is underpinned by her long-term research into empathy as a creative force for making connections across cultural, age and gender divide.
Top - Ripple (2021), Georgie Pinn. Photo: Dave Kan.
Bottom - Pictured: Georgie Pinn. Courtesy of the artist.
Aim Higher (2021)
Palm Circle was temporarily transformed into a public sports arena, reminiscent of the historic use of the land it encircles.
Aim Higher invited everyone to shoot netballs into macrame hoops mounted at various heights ranging from achievable to unrealistic — uniting audiences from diverse demographics on a level playing field. In contrast to the historical inequalities for women in sporting and art domains, Aim Higher manifested a symbolic, ideological space of parity.
The work represented women throughout history who have utilised their crafts to aim higher than society deemed reasonable; to stride closer towards equality with traditionally masculine domains.
Materials: Netball rings, cotton macrame, rope, netballs, Cuban royal palms (Roystonea regia), hammocks, UV black lights, neon dye, textiles and other materials
This work has been generously facilitated with support from QUT. Georgie thanks Charles Robb, Ivy Trove and the artist's family and friends who generously volunteered their time.
Georgia Hillas is a Brisbane-based visual artist who graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Visual Arts) from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in 2019. Growing up as an elite athlete, Hillas draws upon personal experience and mass media to inform her practice which navigates the marginalised history of women in sport.
Top - Aim Higher (2021), Georgia Hillas. Photo: Dave Kan.
Bottom - Pictured: Georgia Hillas. Photo: Claudia De Luca.
View photos from the 2021 Botanica - Contemporary Art Outside open-air exhibition in the slideshow below, or in our Flickr album.
- 2018 - Step outside and be inspired
- 2019 - Remnant landscapes
- 2021 - The intersection of nature and culture