Sam Van Aken
American, born 1972

Sam van Aken uses performance, video, and installation to distort expectations and force critical encounters. “I approach art as a situation, rather than creating an image and having people perceive it,” he has said. Van Aken creates works that are multi-sensory and often large in both scale and ambition. This approach is epitomized in one of his best-known works, Tree of 40 Fruit, in which the artist grafted multiple species of stone fruit onto one tree in hopes of producing new varieties of fruit and a tree that would yield vivid, polychromatic foliage. Contrasting established methods with experimental applications, the speculative work relies on the centuries-old technology of grafting to create new forms of flora and raise issues about ecosystems and biodiversity.