In 1876, the United States government introduced the Japanese vine kudzu to Mississippi. The state was in danger of being lost entirely to widespread soil erosion brought about by the extensive cultivation of cotton by chattel slaves, and the vine—already notorious for the speed at which it grew—was deployed as a weapon intended to fortify the ground soil. Instead, kudzu—now thousands of miles away from its home in Japan—became monstrous, consuming everything in its vicinity and earning the epithet “the vine that ate the south.” The word kudzu has meanwhile become a metonymy for the threat of invasive species everywhere. Its specific history as a failed remedy for the monumental toll that slavery took on the ecological system of the American South has been largely forgotten. The story of kudzu is written in the same language that objectifies both human beings and nature, and produces violence, oppression and individuation. To this day, kudzu remains a foundational substructure of the American South, which—if the plant were removed—would return to a state of erosion. In fact, its cultivation has been declared a crime.
The artist and poet Precious Okoyomon (b. 1993) allows this transhistorical realm to enter the museum. The exhibition space becomes a habitat of constant change that finds new form in being-like subjects. The exhibition’s title is taken from a fictional religion in Octavia E. Butler’s books Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents. Its central contention is that the Earth’s seed can be transplanted anywhere and, through adaptation, will survive. It asks us to consider a theology of mutation, flux, and motion.
Precious Okoyomon: Reading to Plants
Jesse Darling, Rindon Johnson, and Precious Okoyomon read new poems in Precious Okoyomons exhibition Earthseed, including the ones written in conjunction with the exhibition. Jesse Darling and Rindon Johnson joined the event from Berlin.