INVASIVE MAP. 2019. Handmade paper from Bromus Tectorum (cheatgrass). 350 x 310 cm.

Cheatgrass is a ruderal grass species, which means that it thrives on disturbance. Ruderal species fill in the cracks and empty spaces created by human and non-human intervention alike. Cheatgrass is an aggressively invasive species that was imported to the United States from Eurasia in the 1800s, and has since thoroughly entrenched itself into the continent.

The title of this work, “Invasive Map,” refers to both the invasive nature of cheatgrass and the military origins of modern cartography. It implies a process of strategizing for the purposes of conquest, and a penetration of extant geopolitical boundaries. In this case, however, the invasion has already happened.

Invasive Map functions cartographically, but not in any traditional sense. The paper itself is a map, showing the spread of an invasive species across a continent, paralleling the spread of human activity—agriculture, road and rail construction, as well as the grazing of animals. It is not a map in the sense that it enables precise navigation; rather, it tells the story of a body’s passage across, and encounter with, a landscape. It shows the connection between human activity, ecology, and perception, and reveals a tension between the ways that we imagine and experience space. 

Invasive Map traces the convergence of several occurrences: wildfires, cheatgrass, and my own body—across the landscape of the western United States. It emerges from an exploration of the ruderal: of species that thrive on upheaval, of the creative potential of disruption, and of disturbance as an artistic methodology.