For years, art existed almost solely in the courts of rulers, exclusive both in its creation and appreciation. When the strict and imbalanced stratification of socioeconomic class in Europe began to dissipate around the time of the Industrial Revolution, art evolved worldwide both in form and accessibility. Azuma Makoto has revolutionized this notion, placing Earth’s terrestrial wonders in an extraterrestrial exhibit.
Makato’s works exemplify the complementary relationship between art and botany, inspired by the belief that each makes the other more valuable. His recent project, Exobiotanica, investigates the beauty that results when nature is uprooted, by floating a bonsai pine tree as well as a bouquet 30,000 meters into the stratosphere with helium balloons.
On July 15th, 2014, from Nevada’s Black Rock Desert (the site of Burning Man), Makato’s team worked with JP Aerospace to send the flora skyward. Makato assembled the bouquet on site, beginning with an aerial plant affixed to a six-rod axis and weaving in 30 different life forms from around the world. The 50 year-old bonsai was suspended from a metal frame, and both structures were equipped with Fuji Film and GoPro cameras to capture images each second of the flight.
Both journeys lasted a little over two hours, travelling up until the balloons carrying the contraptions burst before falling back to the ground. The vessels were recovered five miles from the launch site; despite the precautionary parachutes, neither bonsai nor bouquet were located, adding an enigmatic veil to the romantic exhibition.
The project allows us to appreciate nature in a new light as plants transcend their earthly origins for never-before-seen horizons, becoming ‘exbiota’ (extraterrestrial life). Each photograph exemplifies the striking juxtaposition sought by Makato, with vibrant plants out of their element contrasted against a distant, awe-inspiring galactic imagery. Exobiotanica finds tranquil balance between our troubled planet and the daunting cosmos, planting an optimistic seed in the heart of every dreamer.