Tara Huveneers

Clean Knotweed & the Strange Entanglements of Policies and Nature

An Interview with Artist Yoshinari Nishiki

I had the pleasure of interviewing artist Yoshinari Nishiki for Mediamatic's Japanese Knotweed festival. Yoshinari had just returned from Brussels, where he had spoken with European policymakers. This may seem an unlikely setting for an artist, but I soon discovered that it is typical of Yoshinari's approach to Japanese Knotweed, a plant that represents the entanglement of policies and nature.

During our conversation, Yoshinari explained how he became interested in Japanese Knotweed and how the plant embodies many contradictions in the Dutch context.


Yoshinari Nishiki harvesting -

Unpolluted & invasive

It is important to note that Yoshinari has only worked with unpolluted Japanese Knotweed so far. This means the plant is grown in areas where chemicals are not used, resulting in clean groundwater. However, Japanese Knotweed is also labeled an invasive species and therefore the European government wants to eradicate it. This is what intrigued Yoshinari about the plant, as it is both invasive and unpolluted.

"Because the Japanese Knotweed is invasive, you are never allowed to farm it, but then it’s also unpolluted. Then you get a similar level of cleanness as you get from organic farm products. At the same time the Japanese Knotweed is a form of waste, because it’s invasive. So you can get it for free, it’s something that naturally grows. This makes it also some sort of utopian resource for me, without making any effort."

Yoshinari learned about clean knotweed through his connections with Staatsbosbeheer and Waternet. He went on expeditions with a friend to gather batches of unpolluted knotweed, with which he continued experimenting at home.


FSC certified knotweed

Another interesting point Yoshinari made was that Japanese Knotweed can also be FSC certified, which indicates how sustainable the wood sourcing used in the product was. FSC certifications can be found anywhere, including on the carton tea package from which Yoshinari and I drank our tea that day.

“The interesting thing is that when working with de Staatsbosbeheer, all the plants in their fields are automatically FSC certified, including Japanese Knotweed. This creates a sustainable version of the typically invasive plant. It is surprising because one would expect it to be unsustainable and require eradication. However, with this certification, I held FSC certified Japanese Knotweed and felt a sense of amazement."


FSC sustainable wood source certifications - Made by FSC, taken from Sourceful.

Political positioning

Yoshinari's Japanese heritage presents another contradiction, as he tries to eradicate a Japanese plant. However, according to Yoshinari, this activates a self-disruptive energy and a political position that makes both right and left-wing people happy.

"People really like my position. I heard from this friend of mine who works as a ranger, asking when I am coming again to the field. He said to me: ‘all my colleagues are waiting for you.’ It’s not making so much sense for them, but they somehow find it a bit funny. This Japanese person, controlling Japanese Knotweed. I like playing with all these man-made concepts entangled with nature and then acting as an Asian sort of to grab the most strange thing in this mess. You can make it a beautiful mess."


Concluding thoughts

Yoshinari wants people to know that it is impossible to eradicate Japanese Knotweed. The only option is to live with it. Japanese Knotweed is not blacklisted in the Netherlands, unlike in the UK, due to the prevailing belief that eradicating it is already an impossible task. Yoshinari's work with Japanese Knotweed is not only an artistic pursuit but also a political project.


Japanese Knotweed harvest Yoshinari Nishiki - Made by Yoshinari Nishiki , taken from The Grey Space in the Middle .



Invasive Energy Harvesting: EROI Drink

Yoshinari Nishiki's upcoming exhibition titled Invasive Energy Harvesting: EROI Drink, will be on show from April 14th to June 25th, 2023 at Mediamatic, located at Dijksgracht 6. The exhibition is open Tuesday to Sunday from 12:00-21:00 and admission is free.

Yoshinari Nishiki has created a unique energy drink as a by-product of his efforts to control Japanese Knotweed. In this exhibition, visitors will have the opportunity to bottle their own EROI energy drink and explore artifacts from Yoshinari's harvesting expeditions.