22 JUNE – 29 SEPTEMBER 2024

Tue Greenfort abstracts and translates three growth stages of a plant into sculptural forms: from the first asparagus-like tips, through the formation of the first rolled-up leaves, to the development of the inflorescences. At night, the sculptures, which are mixed with light-storing pigments, glow softly. They are fixed in a shallow urban fountain with concrete foundations in which a sprawling root network is cast. This fountain and the steps leading down to the Chemnitz River give Seeberplatz something of an ancient theater. But instead of actors, we see the river and its banks. There, for some time, the plant that interests Tue Greenfort has been spreading: the Japanese knotweed.

Tue Greenfort, A BOTANICAL THEATRE, 2024 © Courtesy of the artist

Knotweed has a bad reputation in this country because it can spread rapidly due to its incredibly fast growth and adaptability. Its sprawling, densely vegetated branches steal light from smaller plants, hindering their growth, which is particularly problematic in biotopes. Knotweed is particularly found on riverbanks like those of the Chemnitz, not because it requires a lot of moisture, but because it thrives almost anywhere with simple substrate. The numerous demolition and construction projects after reunification, where construction pits were filled with unverified material, often brought pieces of the rhizome with them. Today, islands of knotweed can be found on underutilized land, next to train tracks, and elsewhere. In cities like Chemnitz, efforts to completely eradicate knotweed have long been abandoned, focusing instead on weakening it semi-annually by cutting and mowing the above-ground parts. This biomass must then be disposed of like hazardous waste.

However, the rapidly spreading knotweed in Europe and the USA also has unexpected capabilities. Its young shoots are edible and can be prepared like asparagus, with a taste said to resemble rhubarb. The highly concentrated resveratrol in the plant is of interest to medical research for its potential to inhibit cancer cells. As a rapidly growing biomass, it could become an energy source of the future. Additionally, it could be used in furniture making, earthquake-resistant housing, and effective CO₂ binding.

Tue Greenfort, A BOTANICAL THEATRE, 2024 © Courtesy of the artist

Once introduced to Europe around 1820 by nobles and their supported researchers as an ornamental plant, Japanese knotweed was a status symbol in the power struggles of those who divided the world among themselves. Biological collections and gardens with exotic plants were another arena of competition, alongside scientific expeditions and violent colonial policies. Later, it was spread for economic reasons by beekeepers as a practical bee pasture and farmers as livestock fodder.

The contradictory role of Japanese knotweed, connected to global politics and history, interests Tue Greenfort. With its example, discussions about native and foreign, endangered and invasive, good and bad species arise. These originally scientific terms are now also applied to human societies in debates about migration policy and population development. The introduction and spread of knotweed in Europe coincided with the time when Charles Darwin developed his evolutionary theories, which later, misunderstood, led to Social Darwinism and the survival of the fittest. These connections and parallels reveal our deeply ideological view of nature for Greenfort.

Tue Greenfort, A BOTANICAL THEATRE, 2024 © Courtesy of the artist
Instead of working with living plants themselves, Greenfort translates parts of their formal language into 3D-printed sculptures. Plastic, a non-sustainable material like knotweed, contaminates even the most remote parts of our planet. Here, however, bio-plastic is used as filament, a bio-based, degradable plastic made from polylactic acid (PLA) derived from plant starch. The continuous growth of plants follows a deeply mathematical logic, mirrored in the similarly slow process of thin layers in 3D printing. The rhizome of the living plant, cited in Greenfort's concrete foundations, resembles the visualization of a formula. What is nature, what is culture? This distinction becomes blurred.



Tue Greenfort (b. 1973 in Holbaek, Denmark) lives and works in Horbelev, Denmark.

Tue Greenfort’s interdisciplinary practice deals with issues such as the public and private realms, nature, and culture. Interweaving these subjects with the language of art he formulates a multi-faceted critique of today's dominant economical and scientific production. Intrigued by the dynamics in the natural world, Greenfort’s work often evolves around ecology and its history, including the environment, social relations, and human subjectivity.

The roots of his practice lie in the art movements of the 1960s and 1970s, such as Land Art and research...
Read more