For his art piece “Exobiotanica,” Azuma Makoto traveled to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada to launch a white pine bonsai tree and a floral bouquet into the stratosphere. Makoto’s team collaborated with California-based JP Aerospace, a volunteer organization that calls itself “America’s OTHER Space Program.” Makoto and JP Aerospace used helium balloons for the launch. The project was documented on cameras donated by Fuji Film and GoPro, and the tracking systems were calibrated to locate the vessels upon return to Earth. The bonsai tree reached an altitude of around 91,800 ft, and the bouquet reached around 87,000 ft. Both vessels were retrieved about five miles from the launch site. The bonsai and flowers, though, were never found.
Makoto’s own text explains the project:
“Plants on the earth rooted in the soil, under the command of gravity.
Roots soil and gravity – by giving up the links to life, what kind of “beauty” shall be born?
Within the harsh “nature,” at an altitude of 30,000 meters and minus 50 degrees Celsius, the plants evolve into EXBIOTIA (extraterrestrial life).
A pine tree confronting the ridge line of Earth.
A bouquet of flowers marching towards the sun hit by the intense wind.
Freed from everything, the plants shall head to the space.”