2023

Interstitial Lives 間隙生命 is a community-oriented project that attempts to cultivate cross-species kinship between residents in the Boston Chinatown neighborhood, passersby, and their ruderal plant neighbors—ones that grow in interstitial spaces, between buildings, highways, and fences. The project focuses on one of the ruderal plants, Ailanthus altissima (commonly known as “tree of heaven"), and proposes them as living monuments. They witness, commemorate, and reactivate moments of self-organized resistance and embody multiple cultural, familial, and personal memories that challenge neoliberal urbanization.

Ailanthus altissima is a tree originally from East Asia. It was listed in multiple ancient Mandarin glossaries and medical texts for its curative ability. The roots, leaves, and bark are used as a herbal remedy for diarrhea, asthma, cramps, epilepsy, fast heart rate, gonorrhea, and other conditions. It is also used as a host plant to feed silkworms of the moth Samia cynthia, which produces silk that is stronger and cheaper than mulberry silk. The tree was first imported to Europe in the 1740s and to the Americas in the 1780s, when chinoiserie was dominating European arts. And it was initially hailed as a precious specimen for private gardens. Its reputation shifted over the ensuing centuries as the trees took root in new habitats, mostly environmentally disturbed areas. They are now regarded as an invasive species, weeds endemic to urban environments. The twisted histories and oscillating roles of the tree provide us with a lens through which we can unpack the ways foreign bodies are mobilized and immobilized based on their relationship with property. And those histories taught us tactics to imagine new social relationships.

The two-week-long project features presentations, panel discussions, workshops, a walk tour, a massage session, and a temporary exhibition. Through these commingling events, citizens came together to vibrate with plants, to be massaged, to move alongside others, and to collectively ponder the question: how to live an entangled and interstitial life?

Read an introductory essay written by CoCo Tin.



Participants

Darrah Cole
Anqi Gu
Baoyi Huang
Yuqiong He
Jiatong Jiang
Chen Luo
Kathy Liang
Patte Loper
dp patrick
Banu Subramaniam
CoCo Tin
Bella Tuo
Hyperion Çacatzin Yvaire


In collaboration with

Rose Kennedy Greenway
Pao Arts Center
Boston Public Library Chinatown Branch


Interstitial Lives was made possible with funding from the New England Foundation for the Arts' Public Art for Spatial Justice program, with generous support from the Barr Foundation.

The public programming was made possible with funding from the Collective Futures Fund Grant administered by the Tufts University Art Galleries with generous support from the Regional Regranting Program of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.






Project identity designed by Chen Luo.

  Attuning: Sonic Vibration, Touch and, Mindful Drawing in Public

What am I surrounded by? A Plant Walktour and Movement Workshop

Exhibition: Interstitial Lives at Pao Arts Center

Rustling Room: Lecture Conversations at Boston Public Library