Invasive Species: The Vegetables

(Video documentation of the installation)

Invasive Species: The Vegetables

Installation: Text Animation (duration: 4’03”), Photo, Light Box, LED and Controller, Power Adapter

Dimension variable, 2010

I took photos of different vegetables at night time - they were planted by people in one of residential com- pounds in Shanghai. This was illegal and caused lots of trouble between the neighbors and the compound management. I turned these photos into flashing LED light boxes which were governed by program which turned them on and off. At the same time, I made up a series of fictive “conversations” about how the vegetables had evolved with different abilities or super powers to protect themselves. This dialogue was shown on a big screen under the guise of a scientific log. I.e. the conversations from the vegetables were captured by a “high-tech device” which analyzed their “biological signals.” The rhythm of the dialogues were synchronized in time with the flashing light boxes... so when one plant was “talking”, it’s particular light box would light up.


The Foreword

The phenomena of planting vegetables the public green spaces of residential compounds is getting more and more popular - maybe it’s because of inflation, people want to reduce their living costs; or they can have an organic life without worrying about pesticide-tainted vegetables. Or maybe it’s about the idea of going back to farming as an essential part of human nature. At the same time this urban gardening keeps the city people entertained and even reduces the manpower and time required of the groundskeepers for keeping the gardens growing. This should be seen as a win-win situation for both the property management and the residents. But something weird has been happening inside the compounds: some vegetables have been spreading really fast, even taking over the other plants in the public green space. They are as follows: Taro, Towel Gourd, Arrowhead, Eggplant, Hyacinth Bean, Pepper, Water Spinach, Red Been, Carrot and Bok Choi. Of the original plants that grow beside these vegetables, some have withered and died; some have suffered from overcrowding from other vegetables and some have even disappeared completely ... After an inspection by the “related departments”, they were defined as “invasive species”, and this official statement was issued to the public:

Ecosystems are formed through a long evolution of species over centuries, thousands of years of competition, exclusion, mutual adaptation and mutual benefit. After the introduction of an alien species, they original species cannot adapt to the new environment therefore they are excluded from the system. Sometimes invasive species actually struggle and must be helped by human beings to survive; but often, due to the fact that there are no competitors in the new environment, they can be very aggressive, and become true invaders, tipping the balance and altering the local ecological system. These species are brought by human activities to places where they would not normally be, that’s why we see these species as “harmful”. In fact, this is being rather unfair - these species through no fault of their own ended up in the wrong place. These mistakes are often caused by the irresponsible activities of humans towards the ecological environment.

During the inspection, the related departments even monitored some “conversations” between these rogue vegetables, and amplified their analog biological signals.


The “Conversations” Of The Vegetables(sample)

<<Analog Biological Signals Data Log>> 

<Log Date: 2010, 09,15, 21:00:33>

 <Location: Huma New Estate, Shanghai, China>

 <Code: 8384-9494>

[Taro]: Hey! Towel Gourd! Hot damn! You growing damn so quickly! 

[Towel Gourd]: Heh Heh! My genes have already mutated: don’t need anything no cow shit to grow. I grow wherever I can and I wipe out everything else ;-) 

[Arrowhead]: Yeah man, this guy is everywhere. Did you see how he strangled that tree to death! 

[Towel Gourd]: Damn! Arrowhead, well you’re not so bad yourself, even got yourself creeping under the sewer. 

[Arrowhead]: Staying alive is the most important thing these days, you know. And we’re really well fertilized down here :-) 

[Eggplant]: Yeah, this public green space is a whole lot better than the god-damn vegetable patch, my master feeds me manure everyday. Damn tasty. I says. ;-) 

(a chorus of loud voices)...