Born in Colombia and now based in Mexico City, Adriana Salazar (b.1980) creates installations that displace the boundaries between life and death, nature and artifice, and the human and non-human. A finalist in this year’s Aesthetica Art Prize, Salazar produced a new piece as part of her Moving Plants series, which questions our understanding of the material realm and our own mortality. Utilising a locally sourced bamboo branch from the Himalayan Garden & Sculpture Park as a focal point, the artist re-situates the fallen flora within the gallery space and re-animates it through a sequence of basic mechanisms.
Fine nylon strings and handmade motors pull gently on the plant’s leaves, giving it motion and offering an imitation of life. An acquired sense of artificiality illustrates mankind’s desire to delay mortality, yet also hints at nature’s ability to adapt to specific places. Moving Plants consists of various site-specific installations, set in different cities around the world including Akiyoshidai, Sao Paulo, Houston, New York, Havana, Medellin, Bogota and York. We speak to the artist about the piece and the complex themes that exist within it.
A: Can you describe your installation? What does the bamboo branch represent, and how does its artificial reanimation relate to your ideas on life and death?
AS: My installation shows how the definition of nature can be reinterpreted, as nature doesn’t necessarily relate to biological life: the branch, a fragment of dead matter, can attain a different kind of life that can be perceived as such.
A: The complete Moving Plants series is comprised of various site-specific pieces installed around the world. Does each location influence the piece? If so, how did York influence this piece?
AS: Each city has a unique and problematic relationship with nature, so in each context that I place a Moving Plant, new questions arise and the installation acquires new meanings. Species of plants can also be so different as to demand a new set of rules.
A: Your practice seeks to displace the boundaries between life and death. How would you like the viewer to respond to this, and what do you hope they will take away with them?
AS: I hope my open question regarding life and death is understood as something that includes us human beings: we are also subject to arbitrary definitions and partitions.
A: You have mentioned an interest in exploring how inanimate objects experience the world. Coming from a human’s perspective, is this difficult to connect with?
AS: Mine is an absurd and impossible task, which is precisely why I decide to undertake it. It also entails epistemological and ontological stakes: What if we could view the world without our anthropocentric or anthropomorphic gaze? Wouldn’t it be an entirely different world altogether?
Entries are open for the Aesthetica Art Prize until 31 August. Details can be found at www.aestheticamagazine.com/art-prize.
Visit the artist’s website: www.adrianasalazar.net.
Adriana Salazar’s piece was made possible through the kind support of the Himalayan Garden & Sculpture Park, Grewelthorpe, Ripon. A private garden owned by Peter and Caroline Roberts, the park is open to the public for an eight week period each summer, as well as a fortnight in the autumn. Considered a botanical masterpiece, the garden comprises natural springs, woodland, lakes, contemporary sculptures and a wide selection of flora including rare rhododendrons, azaleas and Himalayan plants. The bamboo branch featured in Salazar’s work was sourced from the garden in March 2016.
The Himalayan Garden and Sculpture Park will reopen on 22 October until 6 November, The Hutts, Hutts Lane, Grewelthorpe, Nr Ripon, HG4 3DA. For more information, see www.himalayangarden.com or follow @The _Hutts.
1. Adriana Salazar, from Moving Plants. Courtesy of the artist.