Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden presents: Seeing the Invisible – an augmented reality (AR) art exhibition. The exhibition opens as one of 12 participating gardens across six countries.

Phygital – bridging the physical and digital world

The ground-breaking exhibition will allow Kirstenbosch visitors to observe 13 contemporary artworks from internationally acclaimed artists by means of a technology-mediated experience. The Seeing the Invisible app will use physical locations in Kirstenbosch and augment the real world with virtual artworks. The exhibition will be featured simultaneously in 12 other biomes all around the world. For example, the shimmering tapestry from artist El Anatsui may appear on your phone in the area of the famous Kirstenbosch concert lawn while a visitor to the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh will discover the same artwork among giant redwoods.

“The AR technology is the first of its kind to be used in an exhibition at a SANBI Botanical Garden,” says Sarah Struys, Events and Tourism Manager at Kirstenbosch. “Kirstenbosch visitors will be able to engage with global artists masterpieces. You’ll be able to walk around or through some of the pieces and even hear sound effects. AR creates an entertaining experience in ways that would not be possible with a conventional exhibition.”

Each artwork explores the boundaries and connections between art, technology and nature, some with thought-provoking perspectives.

Among the artists is El Anatsui, a sculptor from Western Africa, whose iconic recycled bottle-top installations shimmer gently as though moved by a soft wind. It’s a first for El Anatsui’s art to be adapted to AR. Other exhibits include new work by Sigalit Landau, which marks the artist’s first foray into AR, offers the viewer endless routes of investigation both around and inside the hidden creeks of a work inspired by the natural formation of a salt stalagmite. Also new, work by Jakob Kudsk Steensen revolves around the organic shape of a dried branch of cacti, furthering Steensen’s re-examination of the desert as omens of life, rather than symbols of death. In addition, the exhibition includes a meticulous translation of Ai Weiwei’s Gilded Cage into AR, and addresses issues related to power structures, habitats, borders, confinement, and restriction, but also caregiving, preservation, and nurturing.


Photo Title:  El Anatsui, AG + BA (AR) 2014/2021, Kirstenbosch

Seeing the Invisible collaboration

Seeing the Invisible was developed as a collaboration of botanical gardens around the world. It was initiated by the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens and Outset Contemporary Art Fund, with the support of The Jerusalem Foundation. It is co-curated by Hadas Maor and Tal Michael Haring.

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,” says a joint statement by 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 across the world on this exhibition. It bridges the physical and digital worlds to create a new ‘phygital’ model, pairing 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,” adds 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.”


Photo Title: Mohammed Kazem, Directions (Zero), 2010/2021, Kirstenbosch

Exhibition details

Visitors will be able to access the 13 Seeing the Invisible artworks at Kirstenbosch via a smartphone or tablet through the Seeing the Invisible app. The app is available for free to download from the Google Play or App Store.

Tips for your visit:

  • The Seeing the Invisible app works on Android and iPhones not older than three years.
  • We recommend visitors download the app at home.
  • Complimentary wifi will be available from the Visitor Centre (Gate 1) to download the app, but there is no wifi along the art route. Visitors must use their own data to use the app.
  • Bring earphones/headphones to experience the exhibition with all your senses.
  • Make sure your phone is fully charged before you start.
  • Be mindful of other visitors’ private space as well as the plant beds and installations.

The Seeing the Invisible exhibition runs from 22 September 2021 to August 2022. It will be held inside Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden off Rhodes Drive, Newlands in Cape Town. Kirstenbosch and the exhibition will be open every day. Entry to the exhibition is free but garden entry fees apply; Botanical Society (BotSoc) members with membership cards will gain free access to the garden and exhibition.

For additional information about the exhibition at Kirstenbosch, visit seeing the invisible. Follow #SeeingTheInvisible on social media for further updates.


Photo Title: Ori Gersht, Forget me not, Kirstenbosch

Featured Artists

Seeing the Invisible will feature AR works by the following 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)
  • 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)

Further details on the artworks and additional artists will be announced at a later stage.

Collaborating Gardens

Seeing the Invisible will simultaneously premiere at:

  • 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)

Or keep an eye on this page and follow #SeeingTheInvisible on social media for further updates

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