Planting an idea and growing a global exhibition

Planting an idea and growing a global exhibition

For JC colour mag July 2021

An extraordinary international initiative, involving six countries, 10 conceptual artists, and 12 botanical gardens, is due to open on September 21 in time for Succot.

Seeing the Invisible will be the largest exhibition of artworks created with Augmented Reality (AR) technology ever seen. It will open simultaneously in Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa, the UK and America — and the entire project has been initiated and led by the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens, whose executive director is the Bournemouth-born Hannah Rendell.

As Hannah explained, Seeing the Invisible has been only eight months in the planning, and has been devised by the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens and the Outset Contemporary Art Fund, in conjunction with the Jerusalem Foundation. The idea was born out of a collaboration during the pandemic: as Outset’s co-founder Candida Gertler OBE noted, “our eyes were opened to the incredible opportunities for creating an entirely new kind of contemporary art experience, within the setting of a botanical garden”.

“People were enthusiastic about this kind of show” says Hannah, “because it didn’t require transportation, specialist insurance, or risk damage to the gardens”. Instead, the AR works — by artists ranging from Ai Weiwei to Ori Gersht, from Isaac Julien CBE to Sigalit Landau —can be seen by visitors to the gardens via a special app, downloadable to smartphones and tablets.

Two of the gardens are in Britain — the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh, and Cornwall’s internationally famous Eden Project, whose curators are developing an additional educational programme to accompany the exhibition.

Eighty per cent of the artwork is new, says Hannah, “created especially for the exhibition. For the majority of artists it will be their first time working in AR”. The unique part of the exhibit is that although the artworks are the same, the way they are placed in every location gives them a different spin, so that a work can appear against tall Saguaro cacti in the Tucson, Arizona, Botanical Gardens, or look as though it is part of a lush redwood forest in Edinburgh.

AR allows the artists to play around with ideas not possible if they were physical artworks, and engage with the different physical surroundings all over the world. Hannah says there was massive enthusiasm from the gardens and the artists for the idea — “not one person said no, everyone wanted to do it. Israel often has a hard time doing projects internationally, but not on this occasion”.

The co-curators of Seeing the Invisible, Hadas Maor and Tal Michael Haring, are wildly excited about the upcoming show, which runs for a full year.

Such was the enthusiasm, in fact, that the team are planning for 40 gardens to take part in the event next year.

  • 13 July, 2021