Botanical sculptor Azuma Makoto creates a sculptural ecosystem at Mexico’s SFER IK
Japanese artist Azuma Makoto’s largest flower sculpture to date responds to SFER IK’s unique biophilic design and the surrounding wilderness
It’s been over three years since the self-taught architect Eduardo ‘Roth’ Neira built Azulik Uh May in Mexico, an epic eco-resort and cultural hub that winds its way around the lush vegetation of ancient Quintana Roo, leaving it untouched. Famed for its organically shaped, undulating buildings, which have been made from indigenous, local materials, this jungle resort is also home to SFER IK, an interdisciplinary art centre nestled amongst the trees that has constantly reoriented the ways of viewing and creating art.
After a period of closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic, SFER IK reopened in March with a new site-specific work created by the botanical sculptor and artist, Azuma Makoto. Led by the centre’s new director Marcello Dantas, the immersive installation has been created in response to SFER IK’s biophilic architecture and surrounding wilderness. Entitled Mexx, it is also Azuma’s largest creation to date.
Constructed from locally sourced materials like the museum building itself, Azuma’s Mexx sculpture is predominantly made from fibreglass, concrete and vines. It is also festooned with a large array of live, indigenous flowers to reflect Mexico’s rich biodiversity. Over the duration of the exhibition, which will be on view until early September 2022, the sculpture will bloom and grow within the museum space, thus blurring the lines between the man-made and natural worlds even further. A performance and an artefact in equal parts, the work visually expresses ideas of symbiosis and proposes how harmony can be achieved between our two realms.
‘I define Mexx as a medium that creates a dialogue between humanity and nature,’ explains the Tokyo-based artist. ‘Since every part of Mexx is made of natural materials, we can feel the power of nature with all our senses and understand humans are one with the natural environment. I was inspired by the unique architecture of SFER IK when conceptualising this installation. I wanted to create a biophilic landscape in this Mayan jungle and tried to create a symbiosis between humans and nature. Owing to its natural materials, the sculpture will change its shape and expressions as the plants and flowers grow.’
In a nod to SFER IK’s core philosophy of bringing together nature, art and ancestrality, Azuma’s choice of plant and flower varieties was just as carefully considered. ‘For this installation, I wanted to use plants that originated in Mexico, based on the cultural respect for nature around here. Here, there is a kind of energy that comes from the earth, and plants in the region have a particular strength and power, which is a nice match for this growing and evolving artwork,’ he says.
The immersive work also incorporates the Japanese concept of ‘ma’ or negative space, which was a new challenge for the artist. ‘In my past works, I preferred to install flowers and botanicals into the spaces where plants don’t normally survive to highlight that contrast,’ says Azuma. ‘For this installation, I wanted to apply the concept of ma to [fill in] the space of SFER IK’s great architecture and its natural elements.’ All the flora and fauna will be donated to the local village community at the end of the exhibition. §