2024 – Pollinations, Castellum Hoge Woerd, Nl

The year 1683. In the heart of Brussels, nuns cared for the hidden treasures of the Jericho Regularis convent. Sister Agatha, a trained herbalist and guardian of medicinal herb gardens, found solace among the fragrant leaves of the mint family. Whole days she meticulously brewed remedies starting from aromatic essence that she alchemically blended with handed-down wisdom. Bees, diligent with their pollination tasks, vibrated a delicate dance in the light of the orchards. Sister Agatha moved through the gardens with steady gait, gently leaving her mark on the carpet of descending pollen. Surrounded by the serenity of the monastery, she converted her herbal rituals. Her devotion carried an ancient wisdom that resonated with the challenges of the modern world. The bees, zealous guardians of pollination, wove stories of interconnectedness.

Sister Agatha and the gardens of the Jericho Regularis Convent in the center of Brussels

Dr.A.M.Maes working in her field laboratory, set on a rooftop garden in Brussels city center

Selection of pollen samples collected by the bees in the rooftop garden and cataloged in the database

Close on the mint pollen collected by the honey bees (reproduction by Dr. A.M.Maes)

Four centuries later, in the year 2083, Dr. A.M.Maes devotes herself to her research, exactly eight floors above the coordinates of the hallowed ground of the ancient monastery. The scent of mint floats through the air in the Hortus Experimentalis where Dr. A.M.Maes has set up her field laboratory. The hum of robotic pollinators hovering above the experimental garden is pervasive. Dr. Maes – palynologist – delves into the details of her observations. The result of her pollen analysis depends on the accuracy with which she takes the soil samples. The microscopic time capsules, relics from the era of Sister Agatha, contain stories of herbal alchemy and the dance of the bees. Decoding the mint family’s medicinal legacy still results in tales of healing and resilience. In the latter days of her career, Dr. A.M.Maes strolls through the rooftop garden. The scent of mint takes her back to the days of Sister Agatha and to the mysterious wisdom of medicinal herbs. As the sun dips below the horizon, Dr. A.M.Maes muses on the continuum of life so purely encoded in the pollen grains. The palynologist’s musings extend beyond the boundaries of time. She sees herself as a preserver, like Sister Agatha, safeguarding the delicate dance of pollination for as yet unborn generations. The essence of the mint family lingers, a testament to the enduring nature of the cycles of life. The rooftop laboratory, hovering between past and future, whispers stories of resilience and hope, encoded in the pollen that links centuries and civilizations.
Meanwhile 2129, the Hortus Experimentalis has grown into a sanctuary for biodiversity amid urban sprawl. The mint family, once nurtured by Sister Agatha, flourishes in innovative ways. Biotech plants release medicinal substances into the air, a fragrant embrace of nature’s resilience. Robot pollinators, descendants of their biological counterparts, convert the dance started by the now long gone bees. Dr. A.M.Maes, now a distant echo in the annals of scientific history, left a legacy: try to decipher and understand the past, to use that knowledge to shape a sustainable future.

the Pollinaria Project is commissioned by Reaktor21 as part of Pollination – art in public space at the historical Castellum-site in Utrecht, Steede Hoge Woerd.
Anne Marie Maes is an artist and researcher working in Brussels.