H.M.S. Hydra

What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have yet to be discovered.

                                                    Ralph Waldo Emerson

In summer 2014 I was in New York state near Lake Cazenovia that, along with many of the Finger Lakes, was invaded by Eurasian Milfoil - an aquatic plant species threatening lake health. The villainized milfoil grows as a vine, forming a thick carpet on lake-bottoms, suffocating other species, and disturbing habitat equilibrium. It is commonly proliferated by boat propellers that chop and transport it; the stem fragments grow into new plants. Communities pump millions of dollars towards a solution - from dousing with herbicides, to extracting by hand via scuba divers, to mowing with hybrid weedwacker-boats that bail the harvested weed on deck to be hauled to the city dump by the ton whereupon, after decomposing for a year, it can be used as soil fertilizer.

When I moved to Topeka, Kansas I learned Eurasian Milfoil was invading Lake Shawnee, and herbicides were being used to keep it at bay. With this project I’m proposing an alternative - to treat this menace as something productive. To help clean local water bodies, I’m carefully collecting the weed to be used as a fiber, which, when hermetically sealed in resin, I’ve used to build a flat-bottomed trolling motorboat that runs on distilled milfoil ethanol, produced in consultation with Topeka’s All Grain Brewing Specialists.

Much research shows no permanent solution for milfoil eradication; there will always be sustained conflict. This helps me to reframe this milfoil invasion as a challenging gift that encourages us to think and evolve. Yet my solution is hydra-headed. In constructing a motorboat, I’m potentially making the problem worse by rapid cycling the spread of the species, which, however, will be good for my boat making business. Like our predicament with invasive species, art is a perpetual crisis that forces us to drift into new conformations, and intuit new futures.

Copyright © 2010 - 2017 Marin Abell. info@marinabell.org

marin abell

H.M.S. Hydra installed at the Mulvane Museum of Art in Topeka, KS.

H.M.S. Hydra installed at the Percolator in Lawrence, KS and at I-Park in East Haddam, CT.