Public Space: Fights and Fictions


Cooking Sections, 2016

In the no-man's land along the Berlin Wall, amongst the concrete debris of post-World War II, a newcomer managed to settle where nobody else did. Japanese knotweed, a ‘non-native’ ‘invasive’ plant that thrives in anthropogenic soils, colonised the isolated urban wastelands of the strip. Even today, humans classify natural species into those that belong to a certain place and those that do not. Some plants or animals which are ‘non-native’ to a specific location and rapidly spread are believed to cause severe damage to the local environment, economy or human health. These are often described as ‘aliens’, ‘invaders’, or ‘pests’. Increasingly since the 1950s, many human and non-human migration discourses have used the figure of the ‘non-native’ or the ‘alien’ as a negative input for ‘native’ contexts. Scaremongering, deflation of property value, and the refusal to grant mortgages to homeowners that have found Japanese knotweed on their premises are processes which have generated a growing market of expensive eradication programmes. As perceptions of ‘native’, ‘alien’, and ‘invasive’ species profoundly change over time, this raises the question of what a pristine landscape is and who defines it. Expect drinks.