Student Affiliate / Artist

Angie Arsenault is an artist and researcher currently enrolled in the HUMA PhD Program at Concordia University where she focuses on fine art, deindustrialization, social practice and arts-based fieldwork. Angie is from the deindustrialized island of Cape Breton and much of her art practice and research employs memory, material culture and storytelling to examine life in and around ruination utilizing Ann Laura Stoler’s concept of “imperial debris.”

Building on the work I began in Brownfield Noties: Urban foraging in the post-industrial landscape, in which I explored brownfields as powerful sites teeming with edible and medicinal plants, ​The secret lives of weeds​ pays homage to the vegetal lives that emerge in spaces of neglect and ruination. Plants exhibit a powerful resilience in the face of ruination, pollution and contamination. They can break through the human built world, cracking concrete in a show of might that reminds us: plants were here before us and they will remain long after we are gone. In fact, we owe our very lives to their life-giving properties: providing us with clean air, acting as a source of nourishment, providing us with traditional medicines, and even helping regenerate soil that has been contaminated due to human interference. As Anna Tsing notes in The Mushroom at the End of the World and Michael Marder points out in The Chernobyl Herbarium; we have a lot to learn from plants. The secret lives of weeds aims to highlight and celebrate local plant life we would normally view as weeds. These vegetal actors are teeming with agency and value that extends beyond our human-centric view. We need plants to survive, they do not need us. As Jamaica Kincaid keenly observes in ​Among Flowers​, “every weed can be made a treasure under the right circumstances.”