Seeing the Invisible is an unprecedented Augmented Reality Exhibition to premiere at Kirstenbosch in September 2021 as one of 12 participating gardens across six countries.

Renowned as the most beautiful botanical garden in Africa – Kirstenbosch will become the backdrop to the most expansive exhibition to date of contemporary artworks created with augmented reality (AR) technology. This will be the first exhibition of its kind to be developed as a collaboration among botanical gardens around the world.

Seeing the Invisible features works by thirteen international artists such as Ai Weiwei, Refik Anadol, Isaac Julien CBE, Mohammed Kazem, Sigalit Landau, Sarah Meyohas, Pamela Rosenkranz, and Timur Si-Qin—including several artists’ first work in AR. Among the artists is El Anatsui a Ghanaian sculptor who is one of the most highly acclaimed artists in African history and foremost contemporary artists in the world.

Visitors will engage with Seeing the Invisible via an app designed for the exhibition downloadable to smartphones and tablets. Forging new links between botanical gardens located in diverse biomes around the globe, the exhibition fosters collaboration between institutions, artists, and audiences, highlighting the power of art to connect people around the world.

Seeing the Invisible artists

  • Ai Weiwei (b. 1957, Beijing, China; lives and works in Berlin Tempelhof Airport, Germany)
  • Refik Anadol (b. 1985, Istanbul, Turkey; lives and works in Los Angeles, USA)
  • El Anatsui (b. 1944, Anyako, Ghana; lives and works in Nigeria)
  • Ori Gersht (b. 1967, Tel Aviv, Israel; lives and works in London, UK)
  • Isaac Julien CBE (b.1960, London, UK; lives and works in London, UK)
  • Mohammed Kazem (b. 1969, Dubai, UAE; lives and works in Dubai, UAE)
  • Sigalit Landau (b. 1969, Jerusalem, Israel; lives and works in Tel Aviv, Israel)
  • Daito Manabe (b. 1976, Tokyo, Japan; lives and works in Tokyo, Japan)
  • Sarah Meyohas (b. 1991, New York City, USA; lives and works in New York City, USA)
  • Mel O’Callaghan (b. 1975, Sydney, Australia; lives and works in Paris, France)
  • Pamela Rosenkranz (b. 1979, Switzerland; lives and works in Zurich, Switzerland)
  • Timur Si-Qin (b. 1984; lives and works in New York City, USA)
  • Jakob Kudsk Steensen (b. 1987, Denmark; lives and works in Berlin, Germany)

Seeing the Invisible collaborating gardens

  • Denver Botanic Gardens (Denver, Colorado, USA)
  • Eden Project (Cornwall, England)
  • Jerusalem Botanical Gardens (Jerusalem, Israel)
  • Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden (Cape Town, South Africa)
  • Marie Selby Botanical Gardens (Sarasota, Florida, USA)
  • Massachusetts Horticultural Society (Wellesley, Massachusetts, USA)
  • Royal Botanical Gardens (Ontario, Canada)
  • Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (Edinburgh, Scotland)
  • Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Cranbourne Gardens (Cranbourne, Australia)
  • Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Melbourne Gardens (Melbourne, Australia)
  • San Diego Botanic Garden (San Diego, California, USA)
  • Tucson Botanical Gardens (Tucson, Arizona, USA)

What to expect

Seeing the Invisible will place the same group of artworks across analogous locations in 12 outdoor settings situated in different biomes all around the world, creating parallels and contrasts between them. For example, the same artwork might be staged within the historical tree lane of Kirstenbosch Camphor Avenue and among a lush forest of giant redwoods in Edinburgh. The AR nature of the exhibition allows for the creation of expansive, immersive works that engage with existing features of the natural landscape in beyond the boundaries of what is possible with physical artworks, and many of the works created for the exhibition will address related themes around nature, environment, sustainability, and the intersection of the physical world with the digital one.

Werner Voigt, Kirstenbosch Curator said, “it’s an honour for Kirstenbosch to be included in the Seeing the Invisible global exhibition, it will be a first of its kind in a SANBI Botanical Garden. We’re also pleased that it is an environmentally friendly exhibition, it will require no artworks to be shipped; no electronic hardware or structures to be set up in the garden – resulting in no disruption to the garden and no wastage of materials.”

“This exhibition allows artists who have not previously worked in AR to expand on ideas that are central to their practice in entirely new ways,” said Seeing the Invisible Co-Curator Hadas Maor. “In doing so, the exhibition aims not only to present cutting-edge contemporary art but also to acquaint the viewers with a wide array of technical experiences that are related to this emerging medium.”

“The interplay of these augmented reality works in vibrant natural settings breaks down the binary between what is often considered ‘natural’ versus ‘digital’, and in this way provides an exhibition experience that is much more connected to the way we live today,” added Seeing the Invisible Co-Curator Tal Michael Haring. “Coming out of the pandemic when outdoor experiences and nature have taken on a new meaning and gravity in our lives, this exhibition represents a fresh way for people to engage with art and nature simultaneously.”

Seeing the Invisible Collaboration

Seeing the Invisible was born out of a collaboration during the pandemic with the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens that opened our eyes to the incredible opportunities for creating an entirely new kind of contemporary art experience within the setting of a botanical garden,” said Outset Contemporary Art Fund Co-Founder Candida Gertler OBE and Outset Contemporary Art Fund Israel Director Mirav Katri. “We are thrilled to be partnering with exceptional gardens from all across the world on this exhibition bridging the physical and digital worlds to create a new phygital model, bringing their expert knowledge of their field together with the most cutting-edge technology in contemporary art to develop a new exhibition format beyond the typical museum or gallery space.”

“There is exceptional potential for botanical gardens, with their deep expertise in engaging diverse audiences in their complex work, to lead the way in creating new models for visitor experiences of contemporary art,” added Jerusalem Botanical Gardens Executive Director Hannah Rendell. “We are deeply gratified for the opportunity to forge new connections with partner gardens all across the globe, paving the way for what we hope will be many future collaborations.”

Curators and Founding Partners

Seeing the Invisible is co-curated by Hadas Maor and Tal Michael Haring, and organized by Jerusalem Botanical Gardens and Outset Contemporary Art Fund. This project has been made possible in partnership with The Jerusalem Foundation.

Exhibition Details

Visitors will be able to access the Seeing the Invisible exhibition at Kirstenbosch via a smartphone or tablet through the unique Seeing the Invisible app; whereby augmented reality artworks will emerge on locations within a route inside Kirstenbosch.

The Seeing the Invisible exhibition will run from September 2021 until August 2022 and will be held inside Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, Rhodes Drive, Newlands, Cape Town. Kirstenbosch and the exhibition will be open every day. Entry to the exhibition is free but garden entry fees apply; BotSoc members with membership cards will gain free access to the garden and exhibition.