VERNANTIBUS OCEANUM / BLOOMING OCEAN
Vernantibus Oceanum/ Blooming Ocean is a story about a fictitious plant that in symbiosis with other forms of life travels through different environments of our planet. This project is formed by ceramics, videos, maps, trips and two main collaborations:
Kailin Sun, scientist and botanical artist. https://kl8888.wixsite.com/kailinsun/about-me
Givaudan, one of the most important perfumes company in the world, who created just for this project one fragrance. https://www.givaudan.com/
Photos by Sara Mayoral
High in the mountains of all continents, something unique happens. After traveling the skies, the pollen of the Vernantibus Oceanum falls on the flowers of different plants. In a symbiosis between species, a blue fruit is formed which, once ripe, will fall to the ground to be washed away by the rains and snows of the great peaks. For months, perhaps years, the fruit of the Blooming Ocean will travel through rivers, lakes, torrents and deltas to reach the coast. On the sands of the beaches, birds, crustaceans and other animals will move the fruit to deeper waters. The waves will accompany the fruit until it finds itself in warm waters. Between corals and rocks a small calcareous structure emerges in what will become the flower of the Vernantibus Oceanum. In a final interspecies relationship, the flower becomes home to polyps that help grow the structure that will eventually expel pollen to the surface to continue the eternal cycle of the Blooming Ocean.
Video filmed by me in Egypt, Perú, Mallorca, Lanzarote, Turkey.
Photos by Sara Mayoral
The first time I encountered the blue of the Vernantibus Oceanum was in the Mediterranean Sea.
Like every summer I swam in the waters of the sea where I grew up. For me the stillness is found between the breaking of the waves and the movement of the seaweed, where the slate stone of the Costa Brava breaks with the dark blue, or where the transparent waters reveal the aquatic life of the Balearic Islands.
I was submerged, moving between rocks and sand, when I found a small conch. I came up to the surface, and I sat uncomfortably on Majorcan rocks that live between, outside and inside the water; I observed what I found. I was struck by the intense blue color only comparable to the blue of the sky of Madrid. It was not exactly a conch, I did not know what it was, but I left it there. That encounter became the first of many more. That same summer I found more of these "shells". But when winter came, I also found them on the coast of the Netherlands or on the coast of Asturias.
I collected several of these specimens and took them to the Botanical Institute in Munich. The surprise came when one of the PhD students, Kailin Sun, correctly defined the object as a fruit. The fruit of a plant. Curious to decipher this mystery, I searched the herbarium of the Munich Botanical Institute without finding anything similar. Some time later, during a trip through the Andes, I came across a very similar shell at an altitude of more than 2,400 meters. I could not believe it. Did this "seed" travel around the world? From that moment on, I decided to travel along more coasts and mountains looking for its origin. After several months, I stumbled upon another one in the Alps. The confusion I felt vanished when weeks later I came across more of these shells in different Bavarian forests. Perhaps it was in these places that the plant had formed the fruit then dropped it and due to its hardness it would be dragged into the seas? The connection to the oceans was apparent in each of the specimens I found: in their color, their shape, but also in their smell evoking the marine. There was no doubt that I had to return to the sea.
The reunion with the Mediterranean is always moving, its waves bring back memories of all those pine-scented summers. Under the waters I found what looked like a small blue coral, embedded in the rock and therefore impossible to extract, perhaps it was related to the fruits I had found. I documented each discovery with videos and photos. With that archive I decided to travel to a sea rich in corals where I could get to know the blue, the Red Sea. Landing in Egypt was almost as exciting as diving from a ship into deep waters. This time those waters divided a desert on the surface and offered a huge ecosystem beneath it. And there, with the air cylinder on my back, I found another fruit and just a few meters ahead, a flower of intense blue. The flower of the Vernantibus Oceanum. My travels had materialised through this flower. A delicate structure that grew clinging to other corals and was an attraction for different fish and reef life. For a week I dived with mantas, with moray eels, with starfish and found dozens of these blue flowers.
The life that the reef offered was the death that the coast showed. Hundreds of dead coral remains drew the border between the desert dunes and the waters of the Red Sea.
The characteristic smell of the see hung in the air, but it was accompanied by a memory of wood, forest, rain, elements absent for thousands of miles around. Perhaps that smell had arrived with the fruits that had absorbed the forest life from the mountains and had carried it to the ocean. That scent traveled through my memory, from the mountains to the seas in the brief moment in which I perceived that smell.
I wanted to bring those dead flowers with me to Munich, and with the permission of the Egyptian government I took them with me. So, with a collection of photos, fruits and what looked like the decaying blue flowers I arrived in Germany. The blue faded with the answers coming in with the white. A plant that forms its fruits in the mountains and forests and lets them travel to the sea to bloom. The life cycle of this being was closed when in the Balearic Islands, Turkey, Galicia, Hawaii, New York, Peru, Thailand, Munich, Italy... more fruits or flowers were found. To this day there is no scientific certainty of how this plant reproduces. The impossibility of keeping it alive out of the water does not facilitate its study. But after two years and with the help of botanist Kailin Sun we have proposed theories on how Vernantibus Oceanum could reproduce. A plant that formally shows the relations to the sea, and also connects to the forests with its aroma. That scent that marked me on the Egyptian coasts, that memory of rain, of wet earth, became fragrance. The cycle was still moving when Camille Pouthé, Givaudan's fragrant development manager, contacted me. The company, whose perfumers are the best in the world, was interested in reproducing the Vernantibus Oceanum scent. In Paris, the perfumer Maxence Moutte created the fragrance of the “Blooming Ocean” for Givaudan. After testing five fragrances, I opened the last of them and I was transported to all the places that I had traveled. In just a second I traveled through the life cycle of a unique plant. The life of Vernantibus Oceanum in a small perfume bottle.
Photos by Sara Mayoral
Painting by The artist and botanic scientist Kailin Sun. 12.2023. Watercolor on paper
Vernantibus Oceanum is unique in its species. It has not been related to other symbiotic plants.
The first samples date from September 2022, found in waters of the Spanish Mediterranean coast.
Only 3 phases of the plant's life cycle have been found:
-Fruit: Samples dating from 09.2022 to 1.01.2024. Cone-shaped with reliefs at the top, it has an opening at the bottom. Cobalt blue color. Measurements: length 3 - 5 cm, diameter 2,50 -4,5 cm.
Found in: Alps (Bavaria) Pyrenees (Atlantic Pyrenees, France) Andes (Peruvian Sierra) Hawaii, Mediterranean (Valencian Coast, Catalan, Balearic Islands, Turkey, Italy), Red Sea (Egypt), Cantabrian Coast (Asturias) Atlantic Coast (Netherlands), Nile River (Egypt), Hudson River (USA).
-Flower: Samples dating from 03.2023 to 09.2023. With central structure and calcareous petals. Measurements: length 6- 11 cm, diameter 4 - 10cm Found underwater in cadmium blue color.
Found underwater in the Mediterranean Sea (different parts of Spain and Turkey), and in the Red Sea (Egypt).
-Dead flower: Samples dating between 03.2023 and 09.2023. Blue color in transition towards white with rupture of the superficial part of the plant in cracks. Measurements: length 6 - 120 cm, diameter 4 - 60 cm. Found in the Mediterranean Sea (Spain and Turkey) and the Red Sea (Egypt).