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Makoto AZUMA: Bridge of Plants
Written by Satoshi KOGANEZAWA   
Published: January 11 2010

fig. 2 View from "Makoto Azuma Exhibition at ARKHILLS Bridge of Plants" at ARKHILLS, photo by Shunsuke Shiinoki, courtesy of AMKK

fig. 1 View from "Makoto Azuma Exhibition at ARKHILLS Bridge of Plants" at ARKHILLS, photo by Shunsuke Shiinoki, courtesy of AMKK

    The title of the works, “Bridge of Plants” (2009), created by Makoto Azuma, and the concept of “working as bridges between cities and nature” would surely make you imagine in a relatively-easy way the figure of a bridge created using plants. However, if you actually look at the works that have suddenly appeared in Ark Karajan Plaza, ARKHILLS, your expectation of them may be immediately reversed. The exhibits are not anything like wooden suspension bridges covered with ivy often seen in mountain areas. They look like huge “worms” with four limbs rather than so-called “bridges”. Thus, the term, “bridge”, is used in the title of the work in a symbolic sense. These creations do not fullfil any of the roles of common bridges, connecting “this side” with “that side”. In contrast to the wide-range of their concept, the exhibits are in the form of something like “worms” lying indifferently on the ground in Ark Karajan Plaza.

    Within the plaza, the large-sized “Bridge of Plants”, which seems to be a “bridge” only in terms of its size, is displayed in front of a fountain. At a distance from this work, another two relatively small-sized pieces are arranged separately. As can be seen in the title of these two works, they were made up by putting plants in them, particularly on their surfaces. Their most distinctive feature is that they will grow and change their appearance during the exhibition period (1 Dec 2009 - 5 May 2009), from the beginning of winter to the start of summer, since they were created using a number of real plants.

fig. 4 View from "Makoto Azuma Exhibition at ARKHILLS Bridge of Plants" at ARKHILLS, photo by Shunsuke Shiinoki, courtesy of AMKK

fig. 3 View from "Makoto Azuma Exhibition at ARKHILLS Bridge of Plants" at ARKHILLS, photo by Shunsuke Shiinoki, courtesy of AMKK

    It is not unusual for Azuma to show the process of development and transformation of his works during an exhibition. His artworks were often created using plants to reflect their nature as living things. This was exactly what gave his creations such an intense impression. In fact, the exhibition period this time of half a year is longer than that of his previous exhibitions. The “Bridge of Plants” will have been displayed for the longer period than any of his other past works, except for Naoshima Bath, “I♥湯”, designed by Shinro Ohtake. Azuma was involved in the plantings around the bath, which will be there as long as it is operated as a public bath. We will be able to view the process of the plants’ growth and changes through the exhibits on the premises of Mori Building, well-known as one of companies representing the “city” of Tokyo.

    Still, as I have commented above, this cannot be considered the only feature of these works. If showing the process of the plants’ changes is the sole characteristic of the exhibits, it would only make us recognize the poverty of our thoughts from which we tend to consider “cities” as being opposed to “nature”, as we often say, “Cities are not richly endowed with nature”. Actually, even in Tokyo, we often find a certain amount of “nature” and we live while viewing the process of plants changes throughout the year. For instance, we can enjoy watching trees planted on public streets at equal spaces as part of a greenery business operated by government, and walking around forest parks, or taking care of potted plants at home. It would be negligent for us to find the coexistence of “cities” and “nature” only in Azuma’s works while making light of our living environment which makes it possible for us to enjoy seeing the changing seasons. Therefore, Azuma’s creations should represent something other than plants growing. Indeed, they are composed of plants which are similar to those found on streets in cities, but they should present something else which is difficult for viewers to grasped.

fig. 4 View from the opening press review of "Makoto Azuma Exhibition at ARKHILLS Bridge of Plants" at ARKHILLS (December 1, 2009), photo by Shunsuke Shiinoki, courtesy of AMKK

    This must be why the exhibits named “Bridge of Plants” were made in the form things looking somewhat like “worms”. In fact, plants are part of what we call “creatures”, but they cannot move freely as they have put down their roots in the soil. In terms of this, plants are not the same as “animals”. However, plants need water and sunlight; they breathe, grow, bloom, fruit, change the colour of leaves and finally die. This process is same as that of life of animals including human beings and insects. The “Bridge of Plants” can of course never crawl around the plaza like “worms”, but they are creations made with the aim of visualizing commonly-accepted characteristics of plants in an extremely easy-to-understand manner. In that respect, the pieces entitled the “Bridge of Plants” work as a bridge between our stereotype about plants and their truths.
(Translated by Nozomi Nakayama)

Last Updated on November 04 2015

Editor's Note by Satoshi KOGANEZAWA

“Bridge of Plants” is the maximum level one as a plant sculpture by Makoto Azuma. There are three works of bridge-like shape exhibited in ARK HILLS. A lot of kinds of plants are planted on the surface of them, and the round external seems like a huge "Insect". The exhibition period makes a clear distinction to the past works due to the exhibition period of a half year this time, though Azuma has already created some works on the concept of the growth or the withering up to now. The work can be viewed for 24 hours, and you would notice the remarkable change of the expression according to time if you visited to it in the morning, daytime, and the evening. What growth and transfigure does the plant show in this half year? Unreasonableness wants not to be said because the material is a plant, and to enjoy limited time by me though only such a work wants you to exhibit when permanent. I expect only such a work to be exhibited permanently. However I know it is impossible since it is a plant, and thus will enjoy it in the limited time. By the way, please be careful that the closest station to the venue is not Roppongi but Roppongi 1-chome and then Tameike Sanno. Otherwise you may have to walk long.

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