with Macoto Murayama
By Marnie Benney, SciArt Center Curator
Marnie Benney, SciArt Magazine: How did you come to combine imagery of the biological structure of flowers with the style of architectural blueprints?
Macoto Murayama: My works fuse botanical art with technical drawings – essentially, botanical art and technical art depict different objects. But they have similarities, such as having the function of illustrating or a being a precise expression, and I have a strong interest in them. I find them exciting to look at because there is a comprehensible visual pleasure within them.
When conceiving my works, I search for several references of botanical art, botanical illustration, and technical drawings. For the botanical works, I look for pieces that have both botanically accuracy and artistic appreciation. For the technical drawings, I look for artworks that depict mechanical structure – this type of reference has a great influence on my composition, acting as an expression developed from the design drawing of architecture and machines.
I call my fusion of botanical and technical art "Botech art."
MB: You make both video work and flat, 2-D work. Can you explain some differences between the two processes of making?
MM: I used to search for beauty from the inorganic part of a flower’s form (structure), and use it in my expression. However, besides the interior of flowers, the external part of flowers (the environment around the flowers or the relationship between floral and human) also has a non-natural aspect.
For example, flowers cultivated for horticulture and ornaments are a type of mass production intertwined with the imagery of "nature.” Basically, these flowers have been especially reformed and circulate as goods. Sunflowers will circulate in the market every summer.
Similarly, the Phalaenopsis orchid circulates anytime, regardless of seasons. The lifetime of these cultivated flowers is a mechanical loop, and my work presents this amazing but distorted life. Phal. Sogo Yukidian 1 - MV is a 10 minute loop video, which creates an image of the Phalaenopsis orchid, forever-blooming.
Phalaenopsis Sogo Yukidian is produced by a clone technology called “mericlon.” Individuals selected for excellent genes are produced in large quantities, and clone Phalaenopsis can be seen everywhere in the market. While I don’t have any negative feeling about this technique or business, it is an interesting combination of natural and inorganic processes.
With reference to traditional Turkish and Persian carpets, Botech composition 1 - MV is a Botech composition which was later made into a video. I used flowers and plants for the carpet design, and turned the complicated interwoven and entangled image into a work.
MB: Where does the line between art, science, and technology lie? In your work, and in our culture at large?
MM: I think art is an expression, science is truth, and technology is a tool. However, I think there are clear borders separating them; it is a special state when boundaries blur and all domains are mixed together.
I basically consider my work as art, but at the same time, I also try to integrate it with scientific elements and the most advanced technology.
MB: What excites you about showing the invisible, and what do you hope your audience gains from seeing at least part of the world this way?
MM: A rose has a very beautiful and elegant image, an association made from the way petals overlap, or because of its fragrance. But what does it look like inside the petals? What do the pistils and stamens look like? These are the parts that aren’t usually noticeable which I became interested in one day while observing the plants around me. When you observe the interior, which is usually invisible from the outside, you’ll see that another beautiful side of roses exists which differs from its general concept, and is composed of a very delicate structure. I’ve studied architecture before, so I became interested in the idea of plants being a kind of structure.
In this way, flowers that used to be the object of appreciation have now become the object of study. With this framework, our views and perspectives on plants can change significantly. Through this making process, I started to search for the essence which is invisible from the surface.
It would be great if viewers could change their perspective because of my works, being able to see things from a different angle. Not only just for plants, but for all the things in the world. By keeping a distance from the things around us and calmly observing them, you’ll be able to see what you usually don’t notice, and that’s life...
MB: What is your dream project?
MM: Currently, there are about 270,000 vascular plants on Earth. Even if I work throughout my entire life, it is impossible to turn all the plants into art works… but I still want to see them with my own eyes, and make each into an artwork. In my heart, I am full of this desire. In other words, I now have my lifelong vocation and it is a thing I won’t be bored of until I die.
In addition, in the past botanists used to collect unknown plants on uncultivated lands in the Great Navigation Era, and the things are still kept in records. I hope to follow their steps, traveling around the world, and turn the local plants into my works.