Exhibition 7 July - 13 August
“The very idea of a weed is a cultural one, not biological. A weed is simply an undesirable plant,” says artist and designer Heath Killen. “What I’d like to understand is what leads us to view a particular plant as a pest, and what could change that perception.”
In Katoomba, the lines between urban and wild areas are often blurred to the point of being non-existent. Early in its history, much of Katoomba’s landscape was altered to give the place some European flavour, which was considered to be a more palatable and familiar style of mountain region to settlers and their descendants. Native trees such as eucalypts were replaced with various imported conifers, many of which still stand today. More recently, local and state governments have worked to try and reverse this trend, creating management policies for private gardens and regeneration programs for much of the forest that surrounds the town.
“If you see a tree with a pink tag tied around it, that means it has been deemed to be threatening to the environment in some way, and marked for removal,” says Heath. “Most gardens in Katoomba contain non-native species, many of which could be categorised as ecologically harmful - so what is it that compels us to cultivate one and eradicate another?”
These questions are at the heart of Heath’s upcoming Platform exhibition, which, through a series of surveys and studies, will observe and document what he calls ‘Noxious Meadows’ - spaces that are unplanned collaborations between people and nature, generated by time and disuse. These forgotten and overlooked spaces often contain thriving colonies of all the imported plants that locals are trying to erradicate. According to Heath, they are a “wilderness within a wilderness.”
“The recent desire to turn back the clock on the arboreal character of Katoomba shows the way interact with the landscape is constantly changing. I want to invite people to reconsider the history, meaning, and value of plants that we usually seek to destroy.”
Heath's work is available for purchase in store or via the links below: