The Washington Post

Why is this 50-year-old bonsai tree suspended in space?

(Azuma Makoto/ ©AMKK)

“I always wanted to travel to space … this is a dream come true,” Japanese artist Azuma Makoto told the New York Times’s T magazine.

On Tuesday, Azuma and a 10-person crew launched two botanical objects into the upper atmosphere for his new collaborative project titled “Exobiotanica,” or extraterrestrial plant life. The arrangement above is titled “Shiki 1,” a Japanese white pine bonsai suspended from a metal frame. The untitled one below is made from an arrangement of orchids.

(Azuma Makoto/ ©AMKK)

To get the arrangements into space, Azuma teamed up with JP Aerospace and headed to the Nevada desert. They were attached to metal frames and and helium baloons and set aloft, with a still camera and six GoPro cameras tied in a ball.

The balloons traveled for almost two hours before bursting. The bonsai and the flowers were never recovered. But using GPS trackers, the cameras attached to parachutes were.

John Powell for JP Aerospace told T magazine: “The best thing about this project is that space is so foreign to most of us … so seeing a familiar object like a bouquet of flowers flying above Earth domesticates space, and the idea of traveling into it.”

The images evoke the delicacy of life amid the harsh and vast beauty of the universe. On his Web site, Azuma wrote he wants to see what beauty is born when the arrangements are freed from “command of gravity.” He explained to T magazine: “I wanted to see the movement and beauty of plants and flowers suspended in space … I am using brightly colored flowers from around the world so that they contrast against the darkness of space.”


Nick Kirkpatrick is the foreign photo editor at the Washington Post. Follow him on Instagram or Twitter.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments

Sign up for email updates from the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

You have signed up for the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

Thank you for signing up
You'll receive e-mail when new stories are published in this series.
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Close video player
Now Playing

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.