The Healing BioDiversiTree @OOTO Festival

Out of the Ordinary

BioDiversiTree started as an apple seed at the Making New Waves Festival 2006, at Trafo Gallery, Budapest and made its first appearance at the OOTO Festival in 2010.

Appleseed: Symbol of BioDiversity

I started contemplating the apple seed while doing a MaxMSP Jitter workshop* at the Making New Waves Festival, 2006 and learned its genetics are so complex scientists originally thought the apple defied Mendel’s Law.  Indeed, after two years of intense research scientists have just recently cracked the code for the Golden Delicious apple. They say it’s the most complex genome ever uncovered.  That complexity makes the apple seed a great symbol for biodiversity.

The apple tree’s origins also offer a focus for the importance of protecting the planet’s forests. The wild apple tree forests surrounding Almaty, the capital of Kazakhstan – where scientists believe the apple originated – have been seriously eroded due to residential property development.

And of course, the apple is loaded with mythological symbolism – Eve tempting Adam with an apple in the Garden of Eden being just one of many, so it also offers a great focal point for discussion on many levels.  Not to mention recipes, and enjoying the apples themselves!

So it’s not surprising that after the Making New Waves festival (2006), I started to visualize apple trees installed in art galleries.  Built entirely from locally sourced materials – brought to the gallery by members as well as the public – offering a creative hub and opportunity to share stories about apples, apple trees, apple recipes – anything to do with apples, and make a creative apple to hang on the tree.  I submitted the project to a few artist run centers in Canada, but as yet, there are no takers.

Then in August 2010, I met Sem at a full moon celebration on the Hove seafront.  He was getting ready for Out of the Ordinary 2010 and I was suddenly struck with the idea of putting the apple tree installation there.   He asked me to send him something in writing, which I did, and he invited me to the festival.

I constructed the first BioDiversiTree at OOTO the following month and was finally moving forward with the apple tree installation idea. I knew a young woman who sold fruit for Graham Love, of Greenway Fruit Farm.  and explained the project to her. She introduced me to Graham, I explained it to him, and he generously donated apples from his orchard – apples to decorate the tree and to be available to the public, free for the taking.

Apple Tree, Greenway Fruit Farm, Stunt's Green - 2011

Graham didn’t want a sign put up, and when I told him I’d write about it on the internet he said he didn’t need that either.

I think it’s important to give him mention because his generosity builds the foundation of the tree’s purpose: to offer people an opportunity to immediately experience giving nurturing energy to the planet and receiving life-sustaining energy in return.

You can give energy to the tree simply

  • through your presence;

  • or a more focused energy through active meditation or contemplation;

  • or through creativity by making something to hang on the tree,

  • or adding a line to the community poem.


The tree immediately gives back by way of the apple. The apples are there for the taking. No one says you have to give something to receive an apple; it isn’t a barter. Rather it’s an awareness, and a choice to live consciously.

The tree provides an apple; it’s your choice to take without giving in return or to make a conscious decision to give back.  The ideal is that you give some nurturing to planet Earth, and she gives back to you by way of a life-sustaining environment.

We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Earth and her incredibly unique and complex ecosystem. BioDiversiTree offers visitors the chance to sit and think about that, and do it, and immediately receive something in return by way of an apple. By the doing, the idea becomes embodied.

Last year, at OOTO 2010, people thought it was a wishing tree and wrote wishes to hang on the tree. It’s what they had experience of. I’d never seen a wishing tree, so it was a cultural learning experience for me. This year I was clearer about the tree’s intention, and explained it’s more than a wishing tree: it’s a visualization tree.

The 2011 tree was sited at the entrance to the Healing Area, so it had a place of prominence and picked up on the healing energy, demonstrating powerful healing powers during its construction.

Due to its collective creation (the crew had helped construct: dragging branches from woods, digging a hole, placing branches in the hole)it had a strong presence and received lots of love from the festival installation crew.  Every time someone walked by they’d comment on the tree and how much they liked it. It attracted powerful people and powerful interactions.  Some finding it as a place for transforming controlling energy into more fluid accepting energy.

Collective Building Opens a Wide Creative Channel

I don’t know if that means BioDiversiTree will now also serve as a healing tree, or if healing is just one aspect of its purpose.  For me as an artist, it’s interesting to be involved in the creative process and experience the tree’s evolution through interaction with the public.

Gareth's Amazing Bug!
Gareth's bug.

The tree gives me a deeper sense of what it is to collaborate.  As a solo artist, I have a strong artistic vision, and it’s not always easy to shift that vision to accommodate the visions of others.

With BioDiversiTree, the concept and purpose are the vision.  Part of the concept is to allow it to respond to interaction with others resulting in a collaborative creation.  Because I work very organically, allowing the energy to flow and shape the work, it means  simultaneously sharing the creative energy channel. Makes for a wider channel, more ideas and interesting creations.

I’d like to install the trees in people’s gardens, and cultivate them into growing trees, planted with herbs, small flowers, mushrooms, and small vegetables.   They’d also be a really useful education tool.

I’d like to leave the tree I build at OOTO standing where I build it. Acting as a wildlife feeder, home to insects, birds, and small burrowing animals. Unfortunately it had to be taken down, so I broke off decorated branches and placed them around the tree, ready for the taking. People had already taken pieces away, so it seemed a natural progression. As I worked I received the energy of a nearby Gong Bath.

Click HERE to view more photos of this year’s tree.

Click here for pics and links to previous trees.

*The header image on was captured by Kai Niggemann during the culminating performance of the MaxMSP Jitter workshop at Making New Waves, Budapest. I originally wrote about that festival on which is now archived on the WayBack machine. If you’re curious you can go and dig around.


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