Azuma may not be able to rival the singular beauty of nature, but he does give his flowers alternative lives in improbable places. As part of the “In Bloom” series, which included EXOBIOTANICA II (and its predecessor, EXOBIOTANICA I), he and his team submerged around 100 varieties of blooms deep in Suruga Bay, at the base of Mount Fuji, while a remotely operated vehicle took photographs. “Despite the high water pressure, the flowers largely retained their shapes,” the book notes. “In fact, being underwater actually emphasized their forms. When brought back to the surface, the flowers had intensified in color and hardened like plastic.”
“The strength of flowers is totally beyond our imagination,” Azuma said. “We were always surprised by their possibilities.”
There’s a duality to many of his works: a bouquet in the vacuum of space, where life can’t exist, versus at the bottom of the sea, where life on Earth began. In another pair of projects, Azuma’s team poured streams of water over a several-foot-tall arrangement in an icy peninsula of Hokkaido, turning a floral sculpture into one of ice. He also arranged roughly 10,000 red heliconia flowers on a raft, floating in the ocean. Side by side, images of the sculptures appear like stooped creatures, one of the sea and one of the frost.