Luca School of Arts & KU Leuven Belgium
A Thousand Knots
We are surrounded by traces of the past, a veritable garden of ghosts.
Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet, 2017
In my garden, colonial legacies reside in the hydrangeas and japonicas. They were originally brought back from Japan by Philipp Franz von Siebold who worked for the Dutch East India Company. An Acanthus mollis, whose leaves characterise Corinthian columns, continues to spread through a network of subterranean rhizomes. Abortifacients, such as Bishop’s weed, artemisia, and woodruff, are present too. These, amongst other plants, connect my allotment to once clandestine knowledge amongst midwives and witches. And a conifer, now struggling to thrive, reflects the impact of climate change.
This body of research proposes a close reading of my small urban garden to excavate stories, histories, and knowledge embedded within a relatively few square meters of soil. By combining experimental forms of online writing and mixed media, the past, present, and potential futures will be interwoven. Driving the research are these questions: how might each narrative node, or knot, offer a transhistorical perspective into this unassuming plot of land, is it possible to represent the site in its densities of entanglement, what is my position as a narrator, woman, artist and gardener embedded and invested in this landscape, and finally, if my garden no longer exists due to encroaching urban sprawl, how might this work bear witness to what has been lost? Overarching the project as a whole is the question: if one can address the environmental ecologies of a particular place, can one also attest to the presence of narrative ecologies?
Illustration: Reynoutria japonica, Cesare Davolio & Renée Turner (2020)