Wen-hao Tien has spent countless hours looking for traces of wilderness in the city, namely, plants that normally go unnoticed—or, if noticed, are usually pulled out or mowed over. She transplanted what many consider unsightly weeds from across New England, combining them into a living sculpture--a weed island.
The seeds of these plants, transported by wind and birds, flourished in a wealth of unexpected habitats—the wall of a canal lock, a sidewalk, the unseen edge of a landscaped garden. During outings with a “weed-mobile” that she built, she encountered curiosity and varying perspectives from neighbors and strangers. One person’s discarded plant is another’s crucial ingredient in a recipe, she learned.
In the audio recording, she draws attention to what she calls “weed words” in various languages in order to surface linguistic habits that align with the treatment of weeds. What are “pure” words and plant species, versus “invasive”? How do powerful forces such as migration, rejection and assimilation affect the norms of culture as well as natural world?
Tien’s work asks us to contemplate ideas of wantedness and unwantedness, control and letting go, alienation and belonging, and fundamentally, the tension between wholeness and persistent transformation within our society.
Viewers are invited to interact with the weed island by weeding-out or weeding-in plants.