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Coffee and a Cow

Cow Up a Tree

Cow Up a Tree

Visiting Docklands is a bit like going on holiday. There’s always something new to see. Separated bike lanes along the Harbour Esplanade and La Trobe St have opened up new pathways from the south to the north of the city.

What should be the highlight – the water’s edge – has been a bit of a lowlight. But now Hortus x Seven Seeds has set up on Harbour Esplanade in an emerging form of semi permanent installation. Everything about the structure is thoughtfully done.  Inside is a greenhouse that was part of the Melbourne Now exhibition. Its a bit  like eco-camping in the city –  the sort of shelter Caroline Liardet might have wished for when she arrived on Port Melbourne beach.

Coffee eases our gathering and our conversation. I’m not specially fussed about coffee but I like urban views, plants and hospitable people – and Hortus x Seven Seeds  has all these elements. This place is purposely designed for people to gather in configurations that please them, and for their children to find fun. Its about activation, humanisation and filling in this gap on the water’s edge.

Hortus x Seven Seeds

Hortus x Seven Seeds

It’s also right next to  Cow Up a Tree, a sculpture that has up until now conveyed a sense of desolation to me –  things upside down and paradoxical.  Now there is a reason to stop and appreciate this most interesting sculpture by John Kelly.  The ‘4 tonnes of tactile bronze’ reveals more close up – the creases in the limbs of the tree are just as you see on the limbs of lemon scented gums. The work refers – but only in part –  to how cows are sometimes caught in trees during floods. Early Melbourne experienced huge floods in which just such scenarios occurred:

‘. . .Once again in 1844  a flood of great severity occurred after two or three days rain. A sea of water spread out to the Bay. After subsidence the flooded area was strewn with the carcasses of pigs, cows, horses, dogs etc.’

So perhaps Cow Up a Tree is prescient. The IPCC report released this week spells out the risks we face. The Hortus x Seven Seeds initiative highlights the importance of the inventiveness, creativity and resilience that will be called upon.

The artist statement suggests that in the future, people may meet up at Cow Up a Tree. Now there is a reason to do just that.


Victoria Hammond’s 1999 piece Cow up a tree tells more of the intriguing references in this work

Daley, C The History of South Melbourne, p22


  • I would really like a cow up a tree in my front yard, Mini version of course, my yard is tiny.

    • Janet Bolitho

      ... but without the flood, I think. Maybe a chicken instead.

      • Hi Janet, Would you be interested in our Map your local treasures competition?

        • Janet Bolitho

          Definitely! Its just finding the time. I'll have a good look at your conditions of entry.

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