Matthew Battles, “The Feral Trees” (Umeå, 11 january 2016)

Matthew Battles – “The Feral Trees: Ailanthus Altissima and the City”

Lecture recorded in Umeå, 11 January 2016.

An uninvited guest; an intractable weed unleashed from its native Chinese forests; the embodiment of a failure to properly police vegetal immigration—Ailanthus altissima, or the Tree of Heaven, is perhaps the example par excellence of the invasive urban tree. And yet Ailanthus also makes for a compelling example of a species adapted to city life, flourishing as a knee-level weed and vaulting up to match the oaks and beeches of the proper, approved urban forest. This talk will follow Ailanthus as a nonhuman actor through urban landscape and history, suggesting a unique perspective on weedy flourishing in the city.

Matthew Battles is the associate director of metaLAB at Harvard University, a knowledge-design studio exploring technology’s roles in the arts and sciences through a shifting variety of media and methods. He is the author of six books, including the forthcoming TREE (for Bloomsbury’s Object Lessons series), which explores the tree as an object in art, science, and society.

An event arranged by the New Natures Foundry; Umeå Studies in Science, Technology, and Environment; and Department of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies.