2018 solo exhibition at the National Arboretum Canberra, Australia.
Traditionally, bonsai (living tree sculptures) are exhibited in hyper-minimalistic displays within the formal Japanese display alcove, or tokonoma. The visual and symbolic minimalism of these displays, built in a discrete, delineated, and strictly-defined area, create an aesthetic and conceptual limbo – a sort of other-worldly ‘no-where space’ which charges the traditional formal Japanese bonsai display with a tremendous emotive power.
Heterotopium focuses on this sense of spatial and conceptual limbo, drawing a parallel with another other-worldly no-where space glimpsed only fleetingly in deep-sea photography. It builds on physical and visual similarities between elements in the bonsai medium, and marine life, to imagine a surreal underwater world inhabited by ligneous creatures.
Heterotopium presents this world through the mediating experience of the underwater room often seen in public aquariums – a heterotopic space where one is temporarily inserted into a parallel world, forever secluded behind sheets of glass and masses of water; infinitely fascinating, but eternally out of our reach.
The National Arboretum Canberra installation comprised two pieces, displayed within the aquarium context – a jellyfish tank populated with small juniper bonsai; and a photograph of a marine-scape inhabited by a ficus tree and various small creatures found in the bonsai workshop. In both pieces, compositions remain true to traditional bonsai display, and in the case of the photograph – the piece was built physically without any digital photo manipulation. The photographic medium retains its documentative nature, in presenting an actual image of an imagined world.
Panoramic view of the 2-piece installation in the National Arboretum Canberra, with each piece displayed at the opposite end of a darkened room.
Physical composition of objects from around the bonsai studio, photographed and exhibited on a light box, without digital manipulation.
Concept art for full-scale installation.
Concept art - detail