Azuma Makoto: Water and Bonsai
As an artform that can be traced back over two thousand years in Japanese history, the cultivation of the bonsai follows many horticultural and aesthetic properties that are said to evoke unique responses from different viewers. Traditionally grown small enough to fit inside a small pot, the bonsai generally symbolizes “the aesthetic qualities found in nature through balance, simplicity, and harmony,” with balance being a key element of the bonsai’s aesthetic qualities.
In this installation, Water and Bonsai, self-proclaimed “botanical artist” Azuma Makoto submerges what appears to be a small bonsai tree in an aquarium filled with water. Upon further inspection, however, we learn that this bonsai is actually a piece of deadwood adorned with moss. The moss is kept alive with the aid of a filtration system and LED lights.
As Makoto describes the work,
“Bonsai transforms its shape through [the] ages [and] now finds a life in water and continues to be alive. We can, continuously, admire its new appearance with plants from land and water within clear water.”
In this sense, Water and Bonsai seeks to redefine the tradition of the bonsai by exposing it to a new natural element: the water. The bonsai’s shifting appearance in the water further demonstrates its ability to achieve aesthetic balance and harmony by being “one with the water.” As a result, Makoto exposes us to a sort of miniaturized botanical ecosystem that showcases the beauty and complexity of the plant world.
Azuma Makoto’s practice as a botanical artist involves the staging and creation of “botanical sculptures” and large scale art installations. For more information about Makoto’s other projects, visit his website here.
- Victoria Nolte