Kiyan Williams | Indisposable: Tactics for Care and Mourning

Kiyan Williams, In Defense of Weeds, 2022, Amaranth, LED grow light, mirror-polished stainless steel, MDF, Dimensions variable

Click the button below for the audio and text of the VISUAL DESCRIPTION for Kiyan Williams, In Defense of Weeds:

In Defense of Weeds features a plant called an Amaranth. The Amaranth is positioned on top of a mirror-polished stainless-steel planter that seamlessly rests on a black pedestal. Hovering above is a grow light that illuminates the Amaranth and pedestal while providing heat and light so that the plant may continue to grow in the gallery. The Amaranth is characterized by numerous green leaves and each plant will produce flowers at the end of tall reddish stems. The colors of the flowers are usually burgundy, red, pink, or salmon. Many horticulturists in the United States consider Amaranth a weed but in India, South Asia, and South America it has been grown for centuries as a spice and favorite ingredient in a variety of dishes and drinks. Here in the gallery it is as a precious object to be protected.
Kiyan Williams, “In Defense of Weeds”, 2022, Amaranths, pedestal, and grow light. Dimensions variable

Kiyan Williams (they/them) is a visual artist and writer who works fluidly across performance, sculpture, video, and 2d realms. Rooted in a process-driven practice, they are attracted to quotidian, unconventional materials and methods that evoke the historical, political, and ecological forces that shape individual and collective bodies. 

Williams’s In Defense of Weeds is an installation that quite literally grew out of one of the artist’s public art sculptures. Amaranths grew at the base of the sculpture but were removed over the objections of the artist because they were considered weeds by the groundskeepers. What is traditionally worthy and unworthy of our attention within horticultural norms becomes a powerful metaphor in this installation. Plants defined in another context as weeds are now situated within the gallery atop a pedestal. Within the gallery, the plants are now treated with care that contributes to what Williams terms the plant’s survivance (a neologism formed out of survival + resistance). As Williams writes, “In Defense of Weeds is a small intervention to the protocols of disposability, and an attempt to intervene on what (or who) gets cared for (cultivated), and what (or who) gets thrown away.” Despite the artist’s utopian hopes, they consider that the conditions of a gallery might not be the most hospitable for life to flourish, and that these plants might meet their original fate. Care, therefore, might be more than offering them a new home but also shifting the culture by which they are rendered disposable.

For Chapter 6 of Indisposable: Structures of Support after the ADA, Williams created Piecing Myself Back Together After The World Has Ended, a new video in a series of works which furthers the artist’s aesthetic and conceptual exploration of Blackness, ecology, and trans/gressive subjectivity; wherein bodies are in process, oscillate in legibility, and blur the boundaries between self and other forms of sentient life. 

Instagram: @kiyanwilliams