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Art Opinion

Technology Killed the Bonsai Show Star

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By Will Heath

Not very long ago in order to display, view, judge, or compare bonsai you had to attend a show. At these shows or showings the bonsai were displayed at their best, neatly trimmed, pruned, polished, and slicked for maximum appearance and palatability. Soil was brushed, pots oiled, accents groomed and scrolls dusted. One could walk from one display to the next, all at their Sunday best. It was hard to hide flaws or imperfections in this environment of "touching close" observation, the best bonsai shone in their glory.

Enter the Internet and you have bonsai displayed worldwide, seedlings, flawed, mallsai, potensai, artful and the dead all available at the mere click of a few buttons. We can view hundreds of bonsai an hour; create slideshows, screensavers, send electronic greeting cards, and print the masterpieces that we could never before even know about, let alone view.

Now that the internet has found a home for bonsai, we as artists are learning a new form of display, one never before possible, one that could very well change the way we look at online bonsai. In our quest for perfection we have found the advantage of expert photography, photo editing, and image manipulation.

We no longer need the environment or intimacy of "touching close" displays, instead we view through a monitor and we set up our bonsai accordingly. We can hide flaws; find the perfect light to display a particular bonsai in and even cast a shadow if needed. We can enhance the lighting, crop the picture, remove a flaw, even move the elements if necessary. Soon the tools to add branches, foliage, and pots will be seamless, undetectable.

Is it possible that we have and are creating Cyber Bonsai that look better, that display better, that shows the art better than they ever could in person. Are we creating gallery upon gallery of airbrushed centerfolds for the world to view? Will it reach a point where creating artistic bonsai will be replaced with simply representing artistic bonsai? If so will we be able to tell the difference?

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