Japanese Knotweed Festival
Mediamatic organized a three-week festival around Japanese knotweed, a fast-growing plant known in Europe for its intrusive properties. What many do not know, however, is that this plant species has a host of positive properties. During the festival, we will explore how to live in harmony with this controversial plant.
The festival started with a symposium where creatives and researchers from multiple fields discussed Japanese knotweed. Apart from the exciting new insights that came as a result of the symposium, we also found that collaboration and interaction between different disciplines can be a great stepping stone for a more holistic approach to dealing with knotweed.
The Japanese Knotweed Festival holds a series of exhibitions dissecting the aesthetic qualities of the plant and displaying its value in society. Viewers immersed themselves in the world of knotweed through photographic storytelling, installations, and interactive exhibitions.
This exhibition is an adaptation of Kristof Vrancken & Niek Kosten's photography book ‘Not In My Backyard!’. The book collects a wide array of experimental work that explores various visual and imaginative strategies to relate to the issue of invasives. During the festival, their complete book was showcased in the Sluisdeurenloods (Barn).
Yoshinari Nishiki’s showcased EROI (Energy Return on Investment), an energy drink made from invasive Japanese Knotweed harvested in the Netherlands. The Drink is a by-product of controlling an invasive plant. Nishiki prepared ingredients for the Amsterdam edition of EROI Drink, allowing the audience members to create their energy drinks within the exhibition space. Besides this, Nishiki displayed tools that were used in his attempt to eradicate the invasive Japanese Knotweed.
On the brick wall in the restaurant of Mediamatic ETEN, we put an adaptation of Alaa Abu Asad’s ongoing project 'The Dog Chased Its Tail To Bite It Off'. Struck by the intensity of the language used around the plant, Abu Asad has spent five years compiling a list of nearly 400 words that are used to refer to the Japanese knotweed. The violent nature of the terms bears resemblance to the insulting language often directed toward human migrants.
The open studio of designer Virgile Durando showed an array of different applications of Japanese Knotweed stems. From weaves to joints and from marquetry to complete furniture, these diverse applications show the versatility of the material. On selected days Virgile presented in the studio to answer questions and share his knowledge. Virgile also conducted a workshop, providing participants with the opportunity to create their own marquetry using Japanese Knotweed.
A series of events were organized to celebrate the Japanese Knotweed.
While governments fight the war on knotweed with prevention and eradication strategies, The Under the Counter Burek Shop promotes eating this abundant plant instead. Since it is illegal to exchange the plant for money, we invited guests to negotiate its value by offering us a small act in return. If the negotiation was successful, the guests would receive a burek. The burek was made by Krater, an emerging production space near the city center of Ljubljana.
Mediamatic organized a Freedom meal to celebrate the 5th of May. The 4-course menu was set up by Aslı Hatipoğlu & Uno Fujisawa. The dinner was led by Alaa Abu Asad, who guided guests through three acts of storytelling that explored the journey of the Japanese knotweed into Dutch territories, the legal implications and connotations surrounding the plant, and the possibility of its liberation as a future companion. Meanwhile, artist Uno Fujisawa showcased the beauty of the Japanese knotweed through ikebana, the traditional Japanese flower arrangement.
Combining storytelling with poetry and education, Marc Lemonnier presents his show 'The Invention of Music'. This family-oriented show is a musical journey from an introduction to the first natural sounds, materials, and percussion, to the crafting of the first prehistoric instruments. Marc will craft his natural instruments in front of everyone's eyes out of Japanese knotweed. Besides this performance, Marc hosted an interactive workshop where participants made a pan flute from Japanese Knotweed.
In collaboration with various artists, we organized several workshops, all focusing on different aspects of the Japanese Knotweed. Through these workshops, participants were able to learn how to embrace the plant rather than fear it.
During the workshop, participants learned to dye wool from Dutch sheep using the rhizome (root structure) of Japanese knotweed—a plant commonly grazed on by sheep. Under the guidance of Lucie Havel, they experimented with several techniques to create a diverse palette of 8 to 15 colors.