A Post-Apocalyptic Picnic

Here's one more bit of art from last semester before I dive back into the course on Monday. I started working on it amidst all the noise from North Korea's missile tests and alongside the apocalyptic vibes of some music I'd been making, so I started to get really interested in the history of nuclear disasters. I ended up binging on documentaries about Chernobyl and Hiroshima and so on, but I also found "Life After People", which speculated about how nature would reclaim urban areas in our absence. And even with nuclear radiation, we see this happening already in abandoned cities such as Pripyat.

So the story behind this artwork is this: a human extinction event has hit suddenly. The family to whom these skulls belong was having tea at the time, just an ordinary day. They didn't expect to die. But many years later, plants now grow from their remains, in their cups, and in the cracks of the broken plate they had gathered around.

The artwork is made up of 7 pieces - the central plate, 3 cups, and 3 skull bottles, all with plants in them. Is it a bit of a nasty joke to make the number 7, when that's supposedly a lucky number in Western society? Anyway, I set the artwork up at uni on the studio floor, because it's the closest amount of messy I could get to having a real post-apocalyptic floor! I also wanted people to be forced to look down on it, for a bit of symbolic moodiness. And because it's arranged like this:

As for some other symbolism:

  • Skull bottles = human remains
  • Water = unshed tears of humanity
  • Cuttings in the water and skull bottles = the resilience of nature against human attempts to contain it, and also the nerve-like look of them makes reference to the intelligence of plants that we're only just starting to understand... plants communicate, but we're so full of ourselves that we dismiss them just because they don't have brains like us! We're so damn arrogant! </minirant>
  • Broken plate = destroying the planet that provides us our sustenance, and also shattered human ambitions
  • Cups = our drinking water drying up or being contaminated, and the fragility of human objects
  • Weeds = humans finally losing the battle against nature that we call "maintenance"
  • Tea party/picnic = our complacency, being so busy with social pleasantries and everyday life that we aren't doing enough to avoid destroying ourselves. Reminiscent of Pompei, Hiroshima, etc., where people were going about their lives, never really expecting death until it was too late, not having enough time to prepare for the end.

Detail shots:

So this was actually presented over a month ago now... and the plants were all in stressful situations. Growing cuttings in water is doable, but usually used for establishing roots before transplanting them into soil. The weeds in the cups were in a slightly better position, having actual soil, though over-watering is always a possible problem. But the weeds in the plate had it the worst - barely any soil, and barely any way to retain water, while also being at threat of over-watering due to lack of drainage.

But I'm pleased to report that, not only have they all survived the past month, they're actually growing pretty well! There are some challenges, especially for the plate, but overall, things are looking good.

Here's what the plate looks like now. It dries out quickly in the current weather, so I give it a good spray at least once a day:

Here are the cups, growing really well! They also need a daily spray, but they're doing so well that I'm just about ready to release them to new homes. I can't really post these in the mail, but if you're a patron in Sydney and want one, let me know. I'm kinda running out of space for plant-based art, so if you think you can handle looking after one of these, we can arrange to meet up some time:

And finally, here are the skull bottles:

The agave is doing well, but it's an easy plant to grow in water. The azalea is surviving nicely, but not really growing yet. The one that really excites me is the Chinese elm! It's actually got new growth! Have a look at the new leaves next to the old, dying ones that I just plucked off it:

On a side note, here's another Chinese elm I had as backup that's doing pretty well also, although it only has strong root growth and hasn't sprouted leaves yet. If it ends up growing well, I might get it a skull bottle too, just coz I can! I've got a few other plants I'm trying to grow in water, but this is the most promising of them apart from the ones in my artwork:

So anyway, long post! But you get the idea. It was pretty fun to make, even if the broken plate was a bit of a puzzle to put back together after smashing it! I'm gonna keep mucking about with these guys, but yeah, if you're a patron in Sydney and want a cup, let me know. I'll also eventually part with the other things, but for the plate I wanna make sure whoever takes it knows what they're doing, and as for the skulls, I wanna make sure the plants are healthy and not just playing me! XD

That's all for now! Next post I'll probably make a patron-only post, for this month's stash of goodies. If there's anything particular you want me to try to pop in there, let me know in the next couple days. じゃ、また!

[Update 2019: giveaway no longer available]

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