Japanese Knotweed (Reynoutria japonica) is an invasive species in Vermont.
Notweed, Rural Noise Ensemble’s interactive sound installation, was a response to the violent language of localism, the semiotics of foreignness and invasion of containment, management, and eradication that quietly trains us to accept xenophobia and racism.
The installation is an immersive soundscape, that changes as it is invaded by a human audience. As people move through the knotweed, hearing the hollow tubes clunk and rattle against their bodies, video tracking maps synthetic computer generated sounds throughout the space. As part of the work, there is an interactive dance performance exploring themes of cohabitation and management with live music based upon the acoustic analysis of the knotweed.
To create the installation, we spent days cutting stalks of knotweed in the Woodbury mountains; crouching in the monoculture it creates as it chokes out native species. We realized that knotweed is not a migrant, contributing to greater biodiversity, but a colonizer, and began to find avenues through this dirty work to interrogate our own identities as tacit participants in a settler-colonial project and the monoculture it creates.
How do the patterns of colonization that create “the rural” mirror the rhizomes of knotweed? How does this reframe our relationship to place? How do we acknowledge the value of knotweed (e.g. as medicinal) alongside the harm it causes—without commodifying it in ways that contribute to its spread? What are the goals of “management” and how is it complicit in the production of invasivity? While there is certainly a role for propagandist ecological art, advocating action in those situations where problems and solutions are clear, our installation does not offer an agenda, merely an opportunity to share space with this plant, to hear its song, and to hear ourselves within it.
Sean Clute – Sound, programming, installation
Otto Muller – Composition, installation
Phillip Robertson – Gallery installation
Thank you to: Northern Vermont University – Johnson Faculty Development Fund
Podcast on Vermont Edition by Jane Lindholm