Displaced Garden explores the legacies of botanical exploration, plant-collecting and documentation inherited from colonial scientific expeditions. Taking the form of a photographic book containing 18 cyanotype impressions of plant specimens, the project results from a collaboration with eight refugees from the Middle East and Africa. The participants were invited to ask their families in their home country to mail the artist dried plants native to their land, but categorized as “foreign” and “invasive” in Canada. These “invasive” species are indeed amongst the most common in Canada, bursting through asphalt and thriving in alleys and roadsides.
The series portrays each specimen individually and in the state in which it arrived by mail, showing signs of damage caused by transportation. Featured alongside the blueprints are postage stamps and postcards attesting to the species’ cross-continental journey, and to the inevitable deterioration that results from displacement. The cyanotypes are also accompanied by short texts referring to the histories of war and colonialism that have shaped the countries from which the samples were collected.
Through this work, I reflect on the processes of botanical extraction from colonies around the globe that drove the expansion of Western scientific knowledge and territorial conquest, while at the same time reversing the roles and subverting the colonial gaze. Here, immigrants from once-colonized countries are the ones collecting and transferring plants from their native land to the West.