A Bonsai’s incredible journey around the world


Contemporary Art

When we were kids, we all dreamt about being astronauts, doctors, singers… Among the different career options available, however, I bet no-one ever dreamt about becoming a flower sculptor. You might be wondering what kind of occupation is this. Well, it’s a job for creative people only, and it involves combining the best elements of art and nature. 38 year-old Azuma Makoto is one of these creative types. In 2009 he unveiled his Azuma Makoto Botanical Research Institute (Amkk), a lab by all means, specialised in flower experiments. One of his most recent undertakings was to literally freeze bouquets of Amazonian flowers, encapsulating them in humongous blocks of ice, with the aim of studying the reaction of the petals, styles, leaves and stems.

Shiki: Landscape and Beyond is his latest effort, currently on display at the Dallas Zhulong Gallery, in Texas; it’s a series of large photographs shot by Azuma’s collaborator Shunsuke Shiinoki. The pictures represent the 10 year-long journey around the world of a bonsai named Shiki. The sculpture, a living log with exposed roots and handmade resin leaves, merges nature and inventiveness to celebrate both the passing of a plant and its artistic afterlife.

Encapsulated within a steel cage, what could be defined as a hanging botanical sculpture has moved along the planet through incredible places and landscapes. Last year Shiki’s journey stretched towards the extreme with the Exobiotanica project, when the artist sent the tree into space, above a meteorological balloon, making it fluctuate in the stratosphere: these ‘galactic’ shots translate into a true spiritual journey.

Makoto’s work combines art and technology, a new spin on Ikebana, the traditional Japanese art of flower arrangement. In his creations, you can perceive the strong desire of being exposed to beauty and glorifying it.

Why? Because, just like Prince Miškin said in Dostoevskij’s novel ‘The Idiot’, “Beauty will save the world.”