what used to be
2019
audio/visual installation


The installation was meant to discuss how invasive species and colonialism intertwin and how they share many similarities through destruction of land. To represent how the two are similar I created a plant that had characteristics of colonialism (based off of mustard garlic and dog strangling vine), the plant itself in this hypothetical future was created from a government project to colonize more land for profit inspired loosely off of American government conspiracies. The final installation was based around someone who took part in this project and was regretful after witnessing what the plant did but wants to undo his sins. Presenting articles of clothing from the person and an audio recording of their story being told was meant to create a melancholic feeling within the viewer and to think about the reality of how this is applicable to our present lives with the rapid destruction of our planet.


(Transcript at the end of page)





(Transcript)
Creaking open the back door I see my grandma already looking out onto the field, watching grandpa walking towards the vine forest. She pats the spot next to her and I take up her invitation to relax with her in silence before a question pops up in my mind,

    “This may be weird to ask but… does grandpa hate me? Every time I see him he always looks so… sad, did I do something to him?”

Grandma looks at me slightly taken back from my question, but she then she starts to laugh “No! He loves you dearly! He’s just a stubborn old man”

    It was my turn to be taken back by her response, “Stubborn enough to give me a cold shoulder every time I visit?”

    Grandma turns toward the field pointing ahead of grandpa at the forest. “Everyday he goes out to chop away at those vines to try and get rid of as much as he can.”

   I looked back to where grandma is pointing, as I watch grandpa disappear into the viney forest  “Every time I come to visit it feels like there's even more than before… why bother trying to to get rid of them at this point”

    “It may seem pointless, but he’s so invested in destroying them he’ll still be chopping at those vines in the afterlife. Do you wanna know why he’s so invested in getting rid of those vines?” Without hesitation, I nodded my head, eager to know why.

“Your grandpa was the one who put ___ in the forest. He was a part of a government project that was supposed to help farmers and give us more crops, he grew it out back in the forest and they gave him some money for his troubles.” Grandma’s face quickly turned to sorrow as she told the story,  “He was hesitant when they pitched it to him, but he needed the money so he bit the bullet and went for it. He always told me about how the forest used to be beautiful, brimming with life of plants and animals in every corner of it. Things turned sour so quickly though. The plant was growing at a faster rate than he expected. It took on a life of its own, turning the dirt floor of the forest to a green mat and crawling up trees seeking more sunlight choking out anything that tried to get into its way. Nothing could compete with it, the forest was starved under the dictatorship of ___.”

     Hearing this all took me by surprise, looking back at the forest now trying to picture it without all the vines was difficult. All I ever knew were these vines, the forest seemed alien to me without them. “What about those in charge of the project? Did they know it would get this much out of control?”

    “I’m not sure when your grandpa saw the signs of the plant destroying the forest, he tried calling them as much as he could. He called them every single darn day trying to tell them what was happening, hoping they could help before it got worse, but they were cowards. They never picked up.  He called others who were in the project too, they got the same response. Those cowards ran away from their own creation and left us to fight it ourselves. When he realized he was on his own, your grandpa began to feel the guilt set in for what he had done to the forest. He lived in shame of it for ages, he only told me about what he did around the time  you were born, he broke down in front of me confessing what had happened between sobs. He was haunted by what he destroyed permanently, all for some petty cash.”

    “So then why does go into the forest every day?” I asked

    “He’s trying to change what he’s done. Every time he sees you he's reminded of how you and your children, and your children’s children will be dealing with his mistake, how you’ll never get to hear the crunch of the leaves under your feet, or listen to the little chick a dee’s singing. He’s mournful about destroying the forest, he hopes that him trying to take down the plant will help bring the forest back to life, to what used to be.”


Mark