Art That Breathes: 17 Living Creations Made with Plants, Bacteria & Insects

Alternately beautiful and disgusting but nearly always
fascinating, works of art that use nature in place of more
traditional media raise questions about the power and
responsibility of human dominance over our natural surroundings
and the other species living on Earth. These living, breathing
works of art might be innocently pretty, like modified flower
petals or arrangements of colorful mushrooms, or they might
feel a little more sinister, making controversial use of living
mice, insects or bacteria swabbed from human orifices.

What’s your take on the use of living things as art? Do you
believe the message justifies its potential death, even if it’s
a bonsai tree or an ant?

Philodendron Xanad by Ruben Bellinkx

The lush green leaves of a living philodendron plant seem to
have pierced right through a wall in a confounding installation
by Belgium-based artist Ruben Bellinkx. The
leaves, as you can see, are much too large and seemingly
undamaged to have been forced through small holes in the walls
– so how’d he do it? Quite simply, the artist rebuilt that
section of the wall from scratch, cutting careful slits
following the contours of the leaves with a jigsaw.

Jeweled Larval Cocoons by Hubert Duprat

When placed in an aquarium with nothing but gold, turquoise and
pearls to make their cocoons from, caddisfly larvae will build
themselves jeweled enclosures that end up looking like tiny
sculptural treasures when they’re done. Artist Hubert Duprat
‘collaborated’ with the Trichopteres larva to produce the final
results, which are held together with silk excreted from their
salivary glands. The larvae spend a few weeks inside these
jeweled cocoons before emerging as mature flies.

The Life and Death of Botanicals: 6 Works by Azuma Makoto

Artist Azuma Makoto is
known for incorporating live and cut flowers, vines, bonsai
trees and even full-scale palm trees into his botanical works
of art, often contrasting themes of vitality and decay. For an
exhibit entitled ‘Drop Time’ at the Mass Gallery in Tokyo,
Makoto created beautiful bouquets and placed them inside
acrylic boxes so their slow decay could be observed through all
its stages. Another floral exhibit, ‘Iced Flowers,’ temporarily
preserved bouquets inside blocks of ice.

For ‘Sephirothic Flower,’ Makoto took lush floral arrangements
deep beneath the surface of the sea and photographed them in
the dark waters, capturing their interactions with sea
creatures like eels.

Makoto has even launched plants into space. ‘EXOBIOTANICA 2’
saw bouquets lifted beyond the Earth’s atmosphere using weather
balloons, and the original EXOBIOTANICA did the same with a
Japanese white pine bonsai inside a carbon fiber frame.

Somehow, the artist’s installation of a living bonsai inside an
abandoned power plant feels just as momentous as those outer
space shots, embodying a hopeful message about life springing

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