A Plant is a Community

Liquid Architecture || 3rd November 2018 || Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens

Image Credit: Keelan O'Hehir

Image Credit: Keelan O'Hehir

Image Credit: Keelan O'Hehir

Image Credit: Keelan O'Hehir

A Plant is a Community is a collaboration between Liquid Architecture and people+artist+place and forms part of Liquid Architecture’s major investigation, Why Listen to Plants? It featured an indigenous research residency and commission at the Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens by Quandamooka artist Libby Harward, alongside a day-long public program of talks and listening experiences. 


Commission: NGUGI BAJARA

A botanical garden is an alien concept in First Nations culture. In our culture, we belong to country, where all things are interrelated, and nature and culture co-evolve.  First Nation Peoples listen to plants and plants listen to us. (Harward-Nalder, 2018 “Ngugi Bajara” – click here to read the essay)

“Following in the footsteps and traditions of my Ancestors, through the practice of Gangga (a word that best translates as “to call out and to hear simultaneously”), and of Ganggalanji, which extends this action to thinking in the words of the Coastal Bundjalung speaking people of South East Queensland, this sound installation gives voice to the plants currently housed in the Tropical Dome located the Botanical Gardens, in the first languages of their countries of origin.”

Together we hear the sound of many First Nation languages asking “Why am I here?” whilst languages from Meeanjin (Brisbane) ask, in return, “What are you saying?, What are you doing? Why are you here?” 


Public Program

When we regard a plant, we usu­ally only see what’s above the sur­face: stems, trunks, branches, leaves, buds and flow­ers. But there’s so much more below ground – intri­cate nets of roots, radi­cles and fungal bodies through which water, nutri­ents, knowl­edge and com­mu­nity flows. Plants are always con­nected, always talk­ing and lis­ten­ing to each other, even in the most con­structed of land­scapes. A plant knows and makes worlds; it is always in com­mu­ni­ca­tion with others. Through root-lis­ten­ing, through prac­tices of shar­ing words, time — and seeds — can we cul­ti­vate a veg­etable-based con­scious­ness?



Uncle Des Sandy, who is the senior elder for the Yuggera Nation, and Traditional Owner Dr Robert Anderson AOM will reflect on place and plants in Mt Coot-tha.

Derek Oram Sandy from Yerongpan dancers gave a short didgeridoo performance. 

Dr Glenda Harward-Nalder talked about the Tradition of walking in the footsteps of Ancestors, and discuss her collaborative project with Libby Harward, Ngugi Bajara (Footsteps). Here essay on the subject is available to read on Liquid Architecture's website

Libby Harward, who is a Ngugi woman from the Quandamooka, shared her thoughts from her research residency at the Botanical Gardens site. Her sound work in the Tropical Dome reflected on the colonial practices of planting for a controlled aesthetic, and how it interacts with the inter-relationship of the flora and fauna that already occupies country. It was Libby’s intention to utilise sound and language to understand some things about the interactions and what they might be communicating in an under-heard sovereign dialogue about colonisation, display, danger, and resistance.

Libby and Glenda are descendants of Junobin of Mulgumpin (Moreton Island) in the Quandamooka (Moreton Bay), through their Great Grandmother, Rose Gonzales-Campbell, whose Tribal name, Wijumbaregun, relates her to the Black Dolphin. The tribes of Minjerribah (Stradbroke Island) and Mulgumpin (Moreton Island) in the Quandamooka are known as Yulu-burri-bah – people of the sand and sea places. Mulgumpin and Minjerribah are two of the three largest sand islands in the world. 

The world’s leading plant bioacoustic scientist, Monica Gagliano (Perth) gave a reading and thoughts from her latest book, the phyto-biography Thus Spoke the Plant (North Atlantic Books; 2018).

Leah Bar­clay responded to Monica’s book with a loca­tive sound instal­la­tion explor­ing the acoustic ecol­ogy beneath the sur­face of the soil. Acces­si­ble by mobile devices, the instal­la­tion included live streams with micro­phones buried (‘planted’) deep in the ground beneath the Botanic Gardens site. 

Renata Buziak’s phyto-graphic abstractions will offer alchemical readings making the sign language of plants legible to human perception. 

Through­out the day, Mutual Making (Caitlin Franz­mann and Dhana Mer­ritt) gen­er­ated a space for plant thinking and the cre­ation and shar­ing of plant wisdom and expe­ri­ences over conversation, divination, and tea-drinking.

Primitive Motion (Leighton Craig and Sandra Selig) invited audiences into their sun-drenched secret garden of sound. 

A Plant is a Community was curated by Liquid Architecture co-Artistic Director Danni Zuvela. 


This public program was presented as a part of Co-MMotion: Brisbane City Council's Temporary Art Program 2018, produced by people+artist+place. This residency was also supported by Brisbane City Council through their Creative Sparks program.