Life Cycle of a Common Weed

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by Caitlin Berrigan

Blood, even if infected with human diseases, can be  useful to plants.  “I am enamoured of blood as a substance and as a symbol of vitality,” writes Berrigan. “But as a lifelong carrier of the hepatitis C virus, my own blood carries with it the sinister potential of seeding another person with disease.”

Life Cycle of a Common Weed is a performance that stages encounters between plants and humans. These encounters involve the exchange of nutrients. Dandelion is a popular medicinal plant used to treat diseases impacting on the liver, like hepatitis C. Nitrogen, a compound found in blood, is a key plant nutrient. Berrigan’s artwork invites participants to feed dandelion plants with their own blood in exchange for dandelion root tea and dandelion sprouts.

In an auto-ethnographic essay about this artwork, Berrigan asserts: “Fear-inducing and xenophobic language used to describe disease frightens people away from learning how to safely and intentionally coexist with microbes.” Gestures of reciprocity, involving weedy plants and blood potentially infected with viral particles, offer a way of disrupting codes of taboo that regulate bodies and their microbial companions.

Read Chapter Four: Life Cycle of a Common Weed on Google Books.

Caitlin Berrigan works across performance, video, sculpture, text and participatory public interventions to engage with the intimate social dimensions of power and politics. Berrigan has created special commissions for the Whitney Museum, Harvard Carpenter Center, and the deCordova Museum. Her work has shown at Storefront for Art & Architecture, Hammer Museum, Gallery 400 Chicago, Anthology Film Archives, LACMA, Lugar a Dudas Colombia, 0047 Gallery Oslo, Grimm Museum Berlin, among others. She is the recipient of a Chancellor Fellowship from the Humboldt Foundation, a Sculpture Fellowship from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and the Agnes Gund Fellowship from Skowhegan. Invited residencies include PROGRAM for Art & Architecture Berlin, Fountainhead Miami, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and The Wassaic Project. Berrigan attended the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture, holds a Master’s in visual art from MIT and a B.A. from Hampshire College.

Caitlin Berrigan: Official Website
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a companion to the book