When thinking about “bonsai”, I usually had the image of small scale trees, in small scale containers. However, a couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to visit a bonsai museum in Madrid, and I was totally astonished to find out that the reduced size of those beautiful trees was only just a small part of the Art/technique.
The bonsai techniques ranges from the reduction of the tree, to the shaping in the most amazing forms of the plant, by different means. Seems that the final end of this tradition, is the reproduction of natural scenes at small scales, but what drew my attention is the effects of these techniques on the plants. By means of different proceedures, “… like pruning, root reduction, potting, defoliation, and grafting to produce small trees that mimic the shape and style of mature, full-size trees.” (source: Wikipedia).
It was also shocking to me, to realize that the same culture that celebrates the accidental killing of insects after the sowing of rice, can “torture” this way a living being, just for aesthetic pleasure (no practical end is intended in bonsai).
Seems to me that this art/practice/technique is somehow against the natural evolution of the plant, but even then, that’s not what I dislike the most of it: it’s the fact that all these obstacles the plant comes across in its growth, are being put on purpose, so its’ appearance changes according exclusively, to the bonsai executor wishes.
I don’t know whether the plant suffers or not, but seeing branches twisted by wires, sticks, threads, and all kind of elements put there to mould the small tree, looks quite like a struggle for survival to me. In any case, it’s definitely not the way the plant would grow if left alone. In the end, this shaping of the plant, is ironically a distortion from its’ own natural shape.
So, if you visit a bonsai museum next time, pay attention.
You might feel you are stepping in a Hall of Mirrors.