‘Amy Wong is a painter, scientist, and teacher – but is perhaps best known as a creator of worlds. Miniature, botanical ones, that is. Over the past 3 years, Amy’s Melbourne-based studio, Petite Green, have been re-working the classic concept of the terrarium as simulated natural environment to produce new, narrative-driven mini-scapes, complete with human characters and stories.’ — The Plant Hunter
The function and meaning of terrariums has changed a lot over time. Where do your creations sit against the more classic concept of the terrarium?
Amy Wong: Originally, in the 1800s, when Nathaniel Ward designed the first terrarium it was for transporting plants across the world. Then he wanted terrariums to feed the hungry. Now, I think, with most terrariums these days being open rather than sealed, it’s less about creating something scientifically accurate or useful and more about possessing something that’s aesthetically pleasing. All the terrariums I create are, as much as possible, to scale. I want the plants and the figurines to relate to each other in a realistic way, rather than just being an odd jumble of plants and objects thrown together.
So a large part of your interest is in story-telling, rather than re-creating or simulating natural environments in a scientifically accurate sense?
AW: Yes I think so. Even though I approach the creation of the terrarium from a scientific, technical perspective, I want people to appreciate it from an artistic point of view.
A preference for the macabre – actually sometimes when I peer into your terrariums, even the seemingly innocent ones, I often have this impression of an undercurrent of maybe something darker, or more ominous, something unseen. What do you think of this?
AW: I think just about everything miniaturized could be seen as a little bit twisted, because everything seems so realistic even while it’s all trapped and frozen under a glass dome.
The humans are frozen but the plants are still growing. So there’s this tension, this threat, that the plants and the natural world might one day overwhelm and destroy the humans.
AW: I think so.
Viewers experience the landscape at eye-level by placing their heads within the terrarium-like structures. The experience is multi-sensory and immersive, with muffled sounds and smells of earth and moss. Viewers find themselves in intimate proximity to soil, plants, and each other, sharing the same air.
3rd habitat (vivarium terrarium), this one’s for a boa constrictor.
‘Taking the concept of a terrarium to a new level, product developer Daniel Zeller has made the Terrarium Desktop to bring nature right at his workspace. Daniel created this custom terrarium desk after being fed up with the long, chilly winters in Norway. The Terrarium Desk hides inside a mini garden illuminated with LEDs and the beauty of green plants can be enjoyed from the tempered glass on the tabletop. The desk’s pullout drawer lets you water the plants with ease.’ — collaged
‘When people use the word “outsider” about an artist, the image it conjures up is of someone outside of the gallery system, making work with a sense of compulsion and hidden obsession. Yet the late, legendary Tetsumi Kudo had his own completely unique visual vocabulary and approach to art. He was someone who separated himself from country and category.
‘His work is mindblowing. Strange monstrous hands and melted faces grip aquariums filled with stripy phallus-fish and plastic crap. Acid-green cock caterpillars crawl around cages filled with violently unnatural roses. Lips, dicks, flowers and electronics are contained in odd boxes and cages exuding violent hyper colours. It’s like an alien gardening show in which human beings, supermarket shit and electrical engineering are fused together.
‘Kudo never showed in the US in his lifetime and is little known to the general public. Yet his legacy is huge; his influence can be seen in the work of David Altmejd, Jake and Dinos Chapman and the late Mike Kelley. “Kudo’s works looked less like sculpture than like movie props from lurid science fiction film,” Kelley wrote in 2008. “They did not resemble any other contemporary sculpture I was familiar with, and I admired them greatly.” He spoke of Kudo’s “grotesque rendering of the body, cut into pieces or dissolving into puddles of goo.” Paul McCarthy, meanwhile, has been discussing Kudo in lectures since 1968, and talked about him in his book Low Life Slow Life: Tidebox Tidebook.
‘According to the highly respected New York gallerist Andrea Rosen, who represents Kudo’s estate, the artist was recognised during his lifetime, but that attention faded. “It wasn’t just that it was out of fashion,” she says, “but that we actually stopped really being able to digest this more visceral work. It’s people like Paul McCarthy that allowed us to really look at Kudo’s work again. If you talk to Paul, he would say he was in Paris in the 60s looking at Kudo’s work and it was the greatest influence in his life. It’s two-sided – because of someone like Paul we’re able to really look at the works again. But it’s because of Kudo that we have Paul.”’ — Dazed Digital
How to build a waterfall for a terrarium
‘To make this project waterproof I used a combination of two different sealers. After the waterfall construction was finished, I used four coats of a non-toxic acrylic -called shields all (found at this site: hytechsales.com/prod50.html). Then for the areas to be constantly submerged in water, I used aquarium safe silicone sealant (found at Home Depot)-by smearing one layer of the silicone all over what would become the two lagoons. To be safe, I went beyond what I knew would be the water lines, and then sprinkled some colored sand as a way of covering up the look that the silicone leaves behind. I also sprinkled colored sand all over the visible sections of the sculpture -after the last layer of acrylic was applied. This counteracted the “shininess” left behind by the acrylic sealant.
‘Special note: the second video incorporates an expanding foam product. Expanding foam is considered to be very toxic, and you should use a professional gas mask, gloves, protective eyewear and protective clothing when using it. Ideally you want to use this stuff outdoors and let it cure for over 24 hours.’ — Lizard-landscapes.com
You often mention that planning is the most important. Do you stick to that, or do you simply follow intuition?
James Findley: Whilst planning can be important, especially when you first start out, it is great fun to just play around with styles and aquascape instinctively. I never draw anything, or plan it out on paper, but I often wake up in the night from dreaming about what I’m going to do – especially when it is a very large display tank. I feel very lucky because I am always scaping a tank, or getting ready to scape the next one, so it means I am constantly lost in a world of aquascaping! So I suppose you could say that I mentally plan my aquaecapes.
An aquascape shows how it is only really child-like imperfection that can be perfect in the aquascaping world. If you plant a perfectly symmetrical, ordered, neat aquascape then it doesn’t look natural and it doesn’t look very beautiful either. Only by connecting to our instincts can we truly create something that is perfect imperfection: something that reflects the beauty of Nature’s genuine chaos.
What do you think about circulation and filtration and what is the flow in your tanks?
JF: There is a lot of discussion about flow lately, but I have run tanks with relatively low flow in the past and had fantastic results with them, so for me it is not such a vital issue, except on the larger 1000 litre or more displays, in which I often add an extra power head for additional movement. Because the body of water is so large in these tanks, I do find that a bit of extra flow helps – but I do not use a mathematical equation to work it out.
Which type of lighting do you use (t5, MH or LED)?
JF: My favorite kind of lighting is halide lighting, followed by T-5s. I have tested various LED lights on planted tanks but unfortunately so far I have not found one that is good enough. Because I make sure that everything in The Green Machine works for planted tanks, they do not currently stock any LEDs – everything in there has to pass our rigorous tests first, and so far we have not found any LED that passes our tests. But I hope that there will be some good LEDs soon. Personally I hope that one will be developed quite soon, so I think it is best to save your money for a little longer until a really great LED light is developed.
‘Plant-in City is a collaboration between architects, designers, and technologists who are building new ways of interacting with nature. Our 21st century sculptural terrariums combine modular architecture, basic laws of physics, embedded technologies, and mobile computing to construct a “Plant City” where the aesthetic meets the pragmatic.
‘Each frame is made with cedar wood and copper piping, with digital sensors and integrated lighting controlled by smartphone app. The plants live in an artful structure that’s nearly self-sustaining. The project’s embedded technologies provide ambient and mobile interactivity. Through a network of Arduino micro-computers with sensors for soil moisture, temperature, humidity and light the plants are able to “speak” about their environmental wellbeing. For example, they make a sound when the soil is dry and a different one when it’s wet. Additional sounds for day, night, humidity and temperature levels are heard over time.
‘Units can operate as independent terrariums, or with extensive modular components to create a diverse ecosystem – your own personal park. Just think of Plant-in City as bionic plant furnishings for the information age that are equally at home in galleries, public spaces, cultural institutions, or apartments.’ — Plant-in City
‘Budowa terrarium narożnego wykorzystując zabudowaną wnękę na poddaszu. Terrarium ma wymiary 115cmx130cm (szerxdł), a wysokie w najniższym punkcie 70cm i w najwyższym 120cm.
‘Building a terrarium using the built-corner alcove in the attic. Terrarium has dimensions: 115cm x 130cm and high in the lowest point 70cm and 120cm high.’ — mowiszimasz
‘Looking into Mariele Neudecker’s terrarium’s, like looking into the Chapmans’ multi-part Hell, is a lot like watching TV; we suspend our sense of our own scale in relation to the model in the tank. This, too, was one of the functions of the otherwise merely unfashionable and ostentatious glazed and gilded frames Francis Bacon used on his paintings. Like the proscenium arch, the frame and the glazed box cue our theatrical suspension of disbelief. Like the picture frame, the vitrine is in fact a device with an old-fashioned purpose: to remove the object under scrutiny from the everyday world, the laws of time and place. It obeys instead another law, that of artistic and museological displacement.
‘Neudecker’s work is supremely conscious of this – presenting us with a world at a remove, a kind of wondrous 3D picture. It is, frequently, a picturesque or gothic sublime, often based on an even earlier picture, and often derived from the Romantic paintings of Caspar David Friedrich. She re-creates misty forests, mountainscapes, tumbles of rock and scree, peaks and valleys in miniature. All that’s missing is the pondering subject, the figure in the painting to witness the scene and give it its sense of scale, immeasurable distance and magnitude. We wonder, too, at the artifice with which Neudecker creates an illusory geography as much as we do at the meaning of them. Up close to her vitrines, we happily – willingly – choose to forget we are in a nicely-heated art gallery, and imagine ourselves in the forest or high mountain pass with Friedrich, or on a ship at the edge of an ice-floe, with Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner.’ — Adrian Searle, The Guardian
I finally got my plumbing sorted out and fixed so that i have adequate pressure in the return line to feed the waterfall/lagoon and now i can get to work on filling in the leaky spots with epoxy to make it perfect and silent like the rest of the tank. For now the tooth picks are keeping the stay water off the boardwalk and kind of channeling it back to where i want it to go to – The toothpicks can also give you a sense of the size that i built this all to, they are standard toothpicks.
‘What does it mean to own an artwork that will never look the same from one month to the next? And how does an ever-changing, living sculpture tweak our preconceptions of what it means to conserve an artwork for posterity? Paula Hayes is an American visual artist and landscape designer who works with sculpture, drawing, installation art, botany, and landscape design and is known for her terrariums and other living artworks.
‘Hayes’ work uses living plants, minerals, and crystals; sculptural forms made of blown glass, silicone, cast acrylic, and/or ceramic; and both natural and built environments. Hayes often makes use of 3D rendering programs and works with fabricators to manufacture her large-scale sculptures. For her living artworks, Hayes relies on caretakers within the gallery or museum (or, in the case of those who purchase the works, the collectors themselves) to help maintain the pieces. Hayes considers this collaboration with the caretaker/owner a very important aspect of her work; she created an “Agreement for A Living Artwork” to ensure that the owner is committed to caring for the work.’ — collaged
How To Make A Carnivorous Plant Terrarium Inside A Light Bulb
‘In this video I demonstrate how to convert an incandescent lightbulb into a carnivorous plant terrarium. Small carnivorous planst such as a pygmy sundew, venus flytrap, or some butterworts will fit nicely in these light bulb terrariums. The beauty of using a light bulb for a carnivorous plant terrarium is that it intrinsically provides a feeding hole as well as helps retain moisture in the growing medium so one need not water as frequently as one would if planted in a regular pot.’ — Handini7
‘Certainly in the course of making an event, we produce objects and media and, most importantly, some latent behavior, but all as elements conditioning an event. Its continuously evolving responsive environment changes weather and behavior according to the hour and the day, and according to what’s happening inside or outside its porous boundaries. We arrange our objects in a physical space to leverage the unbounded corporeal intuition that visitors bring with them, so the Remedios Terrarium is an architectural experiment as well as an event.
‘The Remedios Terrarium is also a set of conversations, articulated in things and events. It’s a philosophical investigation carried out in the form of material experiments made of experimental modes of matter. We create things, media instruments, and kinetic plants, “spoken” from diverse perspectives. We can be noisy, divergent, and even contentious, but making and exhibiting Remedios Terrarium —the 100 day long event — requires us to create a common boundary object together.
‘As you walk about the Gallery, you’ll encounter individual and collective echoes of questions and speculations reaching ten years back: How can we make compelling events without convention? What makes some events dead and others live? What is a gesture when we do not assume bodies a priori? How do conventions and bodies come into being or dissolve in the continuously ﬂowing world?’ — Topological Media Lab
Omni Nest™ Vertical – Large
‘If Milton Levine, the inventor of the classic Uncle Milton antfarm were alive today, I’m positive he’d be amazed at the advancements of the new world of ant keeping that began with his iconic upright design.
‘AntsCanada.com is proud to launch the brand new Omni Nest™ Vertical (Large), sporting an impressive 55 chambers and 11 floors, it is our newest and most dynamic formicarium under our ever-popular Omni Nest™ Series.
‘The most important and unique feature of the Omni Nest™ Vertical which sets it apart from the regular Omni Nest™, is that it is a modular formicarium. You can restrict or allow access to various ‘floors’ of the Omni Nest™ Vertical by way of sliding walls located at the sides of every floor. Therefore, if you would like to start a smaller colony off in a smaller space of the formicarium, you now have the option to gradually allow your colony’s formicarium to grow as your colony grows, so that your ants don’t have to live in a huge space if they are still small.
‘It is fully clear, fully hydrating, fully disassemble-able (making cleaning easier in case you would like to use it again for another colony), mold-resistant, rearrangeable, connectable, and affordable formicarium + outworld homes for your pet ant colonies. Observation of the colony is excellent due to the 360 degree transparency of the Omni Nest™ Vertical. Hydration of the nest exists via side wells that distribute water throughout the nest via capillary action. The nest stays hydrated for a few days.’
Jos van den Brand
Pc controlled Paludarium creating a sunrise and a thunder and lighting storm. There are two Paludariums. The upper is occupied with two chinese waterdragons. The lower by poison dart frogs. Both Paludariums are controlled with a PC and the program is written in Labview. The system can be used through a Touchscreen panel to bypass routines or start demo’s.
‘Twig Terrariums is a verdant venture sprung from the minds of two old friends, Michelle Inciarrano and Katy Maslow. Twig’s open studio and shop is located in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn (County of Kings, NYC). Twig began on a whim – Michelle, a lifelong plant nerd, convinced Katy, a skeptical poet, to gather some mosses and repurpose a cruet jar from her kitchen cabinet. What happened from there is a devotion and obsession that has yet to quit. The Twig chicks spent the next year experimenting with terrariums in all types of glass vessels, apothecary jars, kitchenware, tiny perfume bottles, gum ball machines, giant handblown pieces, chemistry flasks, and any odd glass object found on one of their epic antiquing adventures across the country. Each Twig creation contains something special – a snapshot in miniature of one’s daily life or passions; a brief moment of urban living amongst the mosses; a bucolic scene of a yogi by a waterfall; grazing sheep on rolling hills. Twig is about perspective and perception, creating lush backdrops for whimsical, ironic, and natural scenes.’ — twig terrariums.com
p.s. Hey. ** Tosh Berman, Hi, Tosh. The Alan Bernheimer/ Philippe Soupault event sounds really great. Do you normally do the events upstairs in that, I guess, gallery(-like?) space where Jamie Stewart did his event a few months ago? I was there for that and really liked the set up. I like Crevel a lot too. I did a post on him here ages ago. I should restore it or do a new one. I think I really need to get that ‘Lost Profiles’ book. I’ll check around over here. It seems like something that would be imported and stocked at Shakespeare & Co, etc. Thanks very much for the report, T. I really appreciate it. ** Jamie, Hey, hey, hey, Jamie! Yeah, I think I’ve managed to all but escape the lag apart from a thin layer of thought fuzz. Great news about the cartoon project’s green-lighting! Wow, very cool. Let me know what you care to share about the meeting with the animation company. I’m curious about how all of that works. Whoa, you’re pitching a novel to an agent? Man, you’re fiery right now. It’s so cool. Well, re: advice about the agent meeting, I would say the main thing is to try your best not to be too intimidated by the situation. Try to seem relaxed, pleasant, confident, and calmly enthusiastic about your novel idea. Pretty basic stuff. Basically, an agent is looking for these things: a proposal that seems to have something unique about it and also some kind of appeal that he or she can sell, a proposal that he or she is confident that the proposer has the ability to write, and a nice person that he or she feels he or she can work with comfortably and pleasurably on a personal level. It’s in interesting relationship: author and agent. It’s collaborative, in a way, and it can be almost kind of familial, in my experience. So, I don’t know if that helps. I’m happy to give more thoughts or advice if need be. And I’ll toss your question to any others. Everyone, D.l. Jamie is looking for any advice that any of you in the know might have to offer him. Please pass along your thoughts, if you will. Here he is: ‘On Thursday I have a meeting with a literary agent, where I have to pitch a novel idea to them. It’s kind of my idea of hell, which is partly why I’m doing it, to hopefully get over the fear. I was actually wondering if you, or any of the talented folks that visit this blog have any advice on such a thing? Any and all tips will be gratefully received.’ You do have an exciting week! Mine got slightly less exciting because the decision on the TV series has been delayed until December 20th, ugh. But I have other stuff. Gisele and I are reviving our most popular ever collab. theater work ‘Jerk’ after a few years off, and we’ll be rehearsing it on Thursday and Friday. And Dazed & Confused is interviewing me on Friday about ‘Zac’s Freight Elevator’, and that’s exciting. And some work. How was Tuesday? Love boomerang, Dennis. ** Dóra Grőber, Hi! Thanks, pal. No, as I just told Jamie, the decision on the TV series just got delayed until late December, which really sucks. Oh well. Acting, interesting. What kind of acting are you looking to do? By which I guess I mean live in performance or in theater or on film or both or what? That’s exciting! I guess actors look for opportunities to audition and show up and try? I don’t know. I totally encourage you to go for it, for sure. And I’m curious to hear how that starts. I don’t think I know ‘Eyewitness’. I’m really weak on TV. I almost never watch TV for no good reason. I’ll see what I can see of it. My jet lag seems to have taken it very easy on me, so I think I’m good to go. I just need to figure how to use my relative clarity today. Hm. I hope your Tuesday was fun and/or productive. Tell me, please. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. Oh my God, awesome about that shitty UK Xmas attraction. It’ll end up in a post here for sure. Thank you! You know how I love that stuff. And giant yay that your YnY proposal was accepted! Dude, sweet! Congrats! ** David Ehrenstein, Hi, D. I always envy that you get to catch up on films at year’s end via voter DVDs. Don’t think I’ll bother with ‘Jackie’. Well, maybe on a flight. Shame about the Woody Allen and moreso about the Stillman. I did really want to see the latter and still do, I guess. Thanks for passing along your eminent opinions! ** H, Hi. Oh, whew, I was hoping that someone here would actually talk about the book in the post. Yes, she’s an extremely good writer. That book and the trilogy it’s part of are marvelous. Have a fine day, my friend! ** Misanthrope, Hi, G. Another mentioner of the spotlit book, cool, thanks. Well, yes, the cp thing is absurd. And in the case of the place that rejected the interview, which I know the name of but can’t share, it’s kind of shocking. Weird times right now. Things could get very scary on a lot of fronts. We’ll see. I can’t remember the last time I thought a baby was cute. I always just think they look like humanoid blobs. It does seem like everything has been done, but I’m constantly surprised to have an idea and find out that it hasn’t been fleshed out anywhere before. How could that be? ‘Closet Monster’ just played at the Paris festival where ‘LCTG’ played, but I was in NYC. Don’t know of ‘Valerian’. I’ll look for the trailer. I guess people are all hot and bothered about this new sci-fi film ‘Arrival’? I haven’t seen it, but Zac saw it and thought it was pretty crappy, and I almost always agree with him about stuff. Bon day, bud. ** Okay. What’s today … oh, terrariums. Can you get into it? I did, and I guess I’m gambling that you might. See you tomorrow.