Scattered in front of the Rem Koolhaas-designed Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, within the manicured sprawl of Moscow’s Gorky Park, 80,000 artificial flowers comprise the installation “Graft.” There are seven hand-painted yellow floral shapes in various states of blossoming and withering. The vision of Puerto Rico-based artists Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla, the installation references their concern over the loss of biodiversity in the Caribbean due to climate change. It’s a stunning commission from Garage Museum and there’s more here than meets the eye.
The flowers are made to look as if they’ve dropped into Garage Square from the deciduous trees around which they lay—only gazing up at these trees makes all aware of a discrepancy. No such flower could fall from these trees. In fact, the flowers are based on those of tropical Roble Amarillo trees (Tabebuia chrysantha) and without those trees present, an eerie, phantom sensation grabs hold.
“The artist originally wanted the flowers to be accessible to the people of the park,” staff curator Snejana Krasteva explains to us, “But we did an experiment and they began to collect them. It became a playground.” This lead to a low wire separating the viewer from the outdoor artwork—and it actually enhances the experience. “It becomes more curious and special,” Krasteva adds. Passers-through must truly consider what they’re seeing rather than touch.
It’s evident with their pell-mell placement that the goal of the artists was to make it look as if the flowers have been there for some time. As the installation will run into winter, there’s the potential for deterioration with the changing weather—and the greater contrast of the flowers upon possible snow. Afterward, the museum intends to reuse the flowers—which have been made from silicone that’s produced from leftover iPhone materials. Rather than use resources to recycle once more, they want to put each piece to use.
“Graft” will be on display through 1 December.
Images by David Graver