Active Ingredient are in full effect, well there’s two of us here now so we’re now kind of a force in Rio Today’s journey took us from the lush green hillsides of Santa Teresa across Guanabara bay to Niteroi where we were to meet up with an old friend and associate on the project, Bruno Rezende, botanist from the Botanical Gardens in Rio, who lives and works with the Mata Atlantica (Atlantic Forest).
We managed to jump on board one of the old open air ferries, which I’m informed is a much more pleasant experience than the new enclosed ones that service passengers on a weekday. The expanse of city against jungle is awe inspiring and being out in the bay you can really get a sense of the scale and shape of Rio De Janeiro and it’s huge green nobbly landscape, from the lego bricked communities to the shimmer of the city skyline.
Bruno rolled up and swaggered over from his jeep and we made haste over to his farm, new family home and what we were about to discover was an eden for flora and fauna from all over the world, side by side. He explained energetically en route about his passion as a plant collector and a botanist, detailing the many species he has on the farm. Such is his passion that we even stopped off to pick up a plant from a friend. Bruno is also an artist, experimenting with plantlife and man-made materials, planting germinating bromeliads into glass and cement structures and documenting the seemingly impossible manner in which plants adapt to their new plastic prefabricated environment and as their new home for growth. Some of his creations seemed to mimic the structures they encompass, like the vines growing down against gravity from three showerheads arranged on the exterior wall of his house; Or the huge metal sheeted sculpture which has become home to smaller clusters of plantlife winding their way up the white fragments to the sun and nutrients. There’s a real surreal, Dali-esque quality to the work, but it also stands as solid botanical research and a document to Bruno’s belief in a second nature.
This phase of the project is all about conversations, not between trees but between us and the people who work with the trees and the Mata Atlantica. Bruno has a strong belief that nature can be advanced by technology, he says… “ Technology can make a second nature possible, a balance between what’s been here for millions of years and what’s moving up really fast. There’s lots of technology within my work too, look at the irrigation systems in my sculptures, they’re dealing with engineering problems, self compensating water emissions and pressure rates. Technology can make human life and second nature possible and sustainable.”
The irrigation systems he refers to are there in his latest project, a huge conical cement and marble structure built from found materials on the streets of Rio and plants he has been given or found through his networks. He calls it his nuclear reactor under construction.
We were treated to a delicious lunch spicy shrimps, rice and the traditional manioc sweet fried potatoes I’ve come to know and love. Hats off to the chef (Obrigada Anette.)
It was only when we were invited to take a guided walk through his incredible extensive collection of plantlife and around his sculpture gardens that I realised just how site specific his work is. He has started a life-long piece of work setting up the stage for this diverse range of plantlife and discarded man-made products to flourish in hamony together side by side. He sees his work as nature performing for him and it is very much one huge experiment where he is kind of curating his land and laying the foundations for nature to take root and it truly is a land art installation. It is something that would take 100’s of years in the temperate UK climate, but here in Brazil, such an intense, bright and humid place, you can already begin to see these sculptures come to life. I can see a link to our work on A Conversation Between Trees, as we set up the parameters for our sets of data, if the humidity rises, the image becomes more blurred or if the temperature rises more red hues etc. But we didn’t know what was going to happen when the data from the trees and its surrounding environment slowly fed into the system. It is very much nature performing for us too.