A review of Kate Heartfield’s “Bonsaiships of Venus” in Lackington’s issue 4 (
By Derek Newman-Stille
When most envision the space-faring future, they tend to picture sleek space ships that are ideal forms of symmetry. This is why it is so refreshing to see Kate Heartfield’s notion of bonsaiships, space vehicles that are trimmed like bonsai trees over time toward an aesthetic not based in symmetry, but in an organic growth.
Kate explores ships that are not just functional, but rather constantly evolving works of art, taking on nuances of beauty one subtle snip at a time. The constant in these ships is change, lending the ships a notion of organic growth rather than a stable form that will approach obsolescence. In a society that tends to view technology as disposable and tends to throw out objects rather than revitalize them, it is refreshing to see a vision of the future in which constant change in technology is considered beautiful, and even necessary. Her bonsaiships wear down unless they are constantly trimmed and pruned to keep them alive. But this is also a risky business since the ships are fragile and if too much is cut, the ship can be pierced and jeopardize the lives of everyone within it. Heartfield captures an aesthetic edge that is sharp as death.
Rather than devaluing art and viewing it as an indulgence of the artist as our society often does, the society of the future that Heartfield captures depends on their art for survival, both to refresh and renew the ships to keep them from decay and also to renew the scientists within the ship, who daily watch the artist trim the ship in order to become revitalized.
Kate Heartfield creates a text of renewal, both for the ships that are constantly being reshaped and reformed and for the artist who has lost his husband and is going through his own process of change as he accommodates to the loss in his life.
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Derek Newman-Stille

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