The worm has turned up

Artist Julia Morison watches Imogen Bailey (3), of Dunedin, playing on the flexible worm after...
Artist Julia Morison watches Imogen Bailey (3), of Dunedin, playing on the flexible worm after the opening at the Dunedin Botanic Garden yesterday.
Families explore the new sculpture. Photos by Stephen Jaquiery.
Families explore the new sculpture. Photos by Stephen Jaquiery.

A giant glowing worm has appeared above ground at the Dunedin Botanic Garden.

It is not a supernatural phenomenon, but the city's latest piece of public art. The flexible worm, which can bend because it is constructed from thousands of pieces of interlocked and articulating marine-grade stainless steel, was installed over the past two days.

Manufactured in Hamilton, it was transported to Dunedin in two pieces and welded together by Farra Engineering on site at the garden.

The $85,000 worm was designed by Christchurch artist Julia Morison and commissioned by the Dunedin City Council using funds bequeathed to the garden, to celebrate the garden's 150th anniversary this year. Morison was in the city to oversee her creation's installation.

She said she chose a worm because of the mythological symbolism of Ouroboros, a worm-like creature, usually shown as a snake, which eats its own tail, symbolising constant recreation, and for the more down-to-earth reason that worms were the workers in a garden.

''They are kind of unsung heroes, and many unsung heroes have probably worked in the garden over the years, so I liked that.''

Hence, the sculpture would have two titles - Ouroboros and worm.

Morison said she had been aware of concerns about the process used to commission the piece, but had no comment, other than to say she could not have made the sculpture within the $60,000 budget the council had initially indicated for the project.

She was excited to see the worm installed.

Fascinated adults and children swarmed around the sculpture as soon as it was opened at 10am yesterday.

''It sits here really well. It has been a challenge and we had to make a few tweaks, but I'm very pleased with it,'' Morison said.

Botanic garden team leader Alan Matchett said the sculpture was an instant hit.

''Straight away, there were people all over it and walking around it. It's pretty impressive. It fits in the area really well,'' he said.

''I think it's going to change a few people's opinions when they see it. The right decision was made.''


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