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Stunning Photos of a Bonsai Traveling the World

Azuma Makoto's sculpture goes where no bonsai has gone before.
October 14, 2015, 5:50pm
Shiki I x Underwater, Azuma Makoto, 2015. Images courtesy the artist

The serene art of pruning and sculpting bonsai trees is transported to extreme environments in "botanical sculptor" Azuma Makoto's series, Shiki: Landscape and Beyond. A five-foot-tall "timeless pine tree" eschews tradition by resting suspended in a steel frame, rather than resting in a pot or vase like generations of its predecessors. Not only that, but Makoto has spent the last ten years bringing this rebellious flora, named Shiki I, all around the world and putting it in places no bonsai would normally go.


Makoto's work is a new take on landscape photography, sculpture, still life, and portraiture, juxtaposing his living subject with run-down architecture, frigid arctic environments, and scorching deserts. The living sculpture's journey around the world reached new heights last year during a project called Exobiotanica, in which the artist sent it into space on a weather balloon.

SHIKI I x Space, 2014

The Shiki I sculpture's exposed roots and handmade resin leaves make its life seem precarious—wouldn't they be safer in some earth somewhere? But only once the tree escapes the ground, which can sustain bonsai trees for decades, is it possible for it to sail through the sky, dive under water, and soak up the desert sun.

Shiki I x Glacier, Azuma Makoto, 2015

Shiki I x Fly Geyser, Azuma Makoto, 2015

Shiki I x Airplane, Azuma Makoto, 2015

Shiki I x Sand Dune, Azuma Makoto, 2015

Shiki I x Glacier, Azuma Makoto, 2015

Shiki I x Sand Dune, Azuma Makoto, 2015

Shiki I's journey came to the Zhulong Gallery in Dallas, Texas on October 23rd, where it was surrounded by large scale photographs of its adventures by Makoto's collaborator, Shunsuke Shiinoki. See more of Azuma Makoto's work on his website.


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Flower Artist Grows a Garden of Leaf People