Bristol in Bloom: Arnolfini’s Floating Botanic Garden

Arnolfini in the harbourside of Bristol presents two new videos showcasing a floating ballast seed garden as a conceptual work of art. The first film describes the brainchild of Brazillian artist Maria Thereza Alves, a garden which has been a work-in-progress for the past five years. Tom Trever, the Director of Arnolfini, explained: ‘The Seeds of Change project has it origins back in 2007 as part of the Port City Project. If you think of a place like Bristol, it was really built around maritime trade. The reason for Bristol existing really is the ships coming into port from all around the world over many centuries. Port City really wanted to reflect on that, but also look at how we’re all really implicated in those histories today.’

Maria Thereza was commissioned by Arnolfini to make a project as part of Port City. She began by researching all the ballast deposit sites along the river banks – some dating back to 1680 – around the city. She gathered samples of earth containing the discarded seeds (which were used as ballast) and planted them according to the design of German artist Gitta Gschwendtner. Maria Thereza then decided to get communities around Bristol involved in the germination of the dormant seeds and explore the local families’ histories with the port as part of the growing process.

Watch ‘Seeds of Change: A Floating Ballast Seed Garden’

In the second video, Nicholas Wray, Curator of the University of Bristol’s Botanic Garden, gives a brief overview of the history behind the seeds and their resulting flora. Nick described that the garden reflects the rectangular shape of a barge and provides an insect’s eye view for visitors. The plants come from a variety of different climates from around the world, creating a living archive of the history of Bristol, the ‘port city’.

Watch ‘Ballast Seed Tour’ with Nick Wray

Text by Carol Huston


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