Is this bonsai? Does it matter?

An interesting thing happened. Recently, I’ve been working with a group of urban eco artists on their installations for the Jerusalem Season of Culture arts festival, which will take place in September 2016.

One of their key pieces is a massive installation focusing on the emptying and decay of one of Jerusalem’s iconic town squares. Once the bustling center of the city’s urbanite culture, a thriving meeting place of Jerusalem’s extremely diverse populations, the changes of the past two decades have gradually gutted the square, emptied it, and rendered it a mere shadow of its past self.

The artist group wants to create an installation that will draw people back to the town square to sit, relax, contemplate, meet up, and interact. They want to do this by creating a mobile orchard. Full-size fruit trees in pots, that visitors will be able to move around to create their own private, shaded spaces.

Trees in pots is where I come in to the picture. I’ve been working with the group to see how we can bring this idea to life. As we were brainstorming ways to deal with the technical, logistical and budgetary challenges of the project, I wanted to also try and bring the underlying concept to bear in the trees themselves. What if the pieces themselves could provide the ‘mobile grove’ experience, while still exemplifying the issues that the installation seeks to address?

What if we could create a full-size tree, but still have it painfully absent? The idea I’m playing with is to take several 3- or 4-meter tall saplings from a commercial tree grower, and build them around a tree-shaped mesh frame. In order to test out this idea, I constructed a scaled-down model.

Here’s the result so far (click for the full-size image. the mesh screen doesn’t really show up in the thumbnail) –

Apple tree mesh sculpture - scale concept test

Apple tree mesh sculpture – scale concept test

Bear in mind that, first of all, this is just a concept test. Also, as with all bonsai projects, this is just the initial starting point of the design. Over the coming months, the initial design can be developed and built upon, with additional ramification creating a more interesting image.

That said, I think that at full size, with more detailed work, and perhaps using a darker mesh with more presence – by September this could be a very interesting piece!
What do you think?


Some detail shots –

Tree sculpture - detail2 Tree sculpture - detail

2 comments on “Is this bonsai? Does it matter?

  1. I have always understood Bonsai is tree or shrub in a pot. i also suggest in this day and age,there are are some very odd stretches of thinking and interpretation.

    • I’d say it’s bonsai by technique, but not necessarily by design.
      How about two or three years from now when the ramification starts to mature?

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