I read with interest my first Back to Back. John Dixon and Will Heath devend their opposing views very well, I wish I had the master of the english they show.
I feel they both are right. But before they cruxify me in the e-debate crossfire that might develop, I will try to explain my point.
John Dixon states clearly that instant bonsai is an oximoron. Since Bonsai is a tree in a shallow container, and as stated by Will, the container is not considered in the contest, then ... We lack the relationship between pot and tree that is part of the composition of a bonsai. It takes time to adapt a tree to a shallow container. As stated by several posts, survival without changing the tree from the pot is in question. So, they are trees that have the initial work to become beautiful bonsai. They lack the pot, hence, no bonsai yet.
Also, John points out (maybe an overkill from me) none will show the fullness that only time gives to a mature bonsai. They will exhibit curves and gin, and plants that have been tortured or are just barely surviving. Few will reflect the majesty of a formal erect.
We say in Puerto Rico "Trabaja un ?rbol para que tus nietos gozen un bonsai" (Work a tree so your grandchildren enjoy a bonsai). I have to agree with John that "Instant Bonsai" is like comparing an expresso with instant coffee. Not the real thing. An oximoron.
But the defense Will Heath shows is right in one aspect. The benefits of this contests. The critical tasks of selecting from stock the best within a budget constraint, then choosing the front and the style to work are critical skills and each one alone is an art.
We start with the stock selection. John indicated that the shape of the trunk and roots is something that takes time. But that is the importance of the selection process, to find the work already done by nature, hidden in a nursery stock, mountain's side, or forest. Remember that is only raw material, still not a bonsai. Here is where the artist's eye come into play.
The ability to take a stock and shape it, creating something we communicate with, that moves us is the difference between an artist and just a "practicante" (a practitioner, someone that have the moves but not the talent).
The third skill, presentation is a double edge sword. I am sure that by trying to create an image with impact some creators may hamper the survival of their creations. I don.t see how this might help the Art of Bonsai. But I am still a Bonsai student.
So the defense of Will Heath is valid and is summarized in his closing statement:
I think that "instant bonsai", and the contests that create them, have many educational advantages that greatly outweigh any disadvantages they may present. As you can see from the examples I have posted above, "instant bonsai" do not have to yield poor results; they do not have to die; they can in fact be a fantastic tool for teaching and learning.
Will, the only problem I see is with the term "instant bonsai". It is a publicity stunt.