Simon Starling
‘Island For Weeds’

Installation view 'Radical Nature, Art & Architecture for a Changing Planet, 1969-2009', Barbican Art Gallery, London, 2009
Soil, rhododendrons, water, plastic, metal, self regulating pressure system.
243.8 x 365.8 x 609.6 cm

Originally conceived to float on Loch Lomond, Scotland within the newly established Scottish National Park, Island for Weeds is a support structure designed to sustain and contain a small number of Rhododendron ponticum plants. It is part of a body of work by Starling that focuses on the introduction and subsequent demonisation of this hardy shrub. While admired for its flamboyant spring blooms and still featured in many a picturesque image of the Scottish landscape, Rhododendron ponticum has become a major problem
for landowners and conservationists alike. Its presence in the National Park poses fundamental questions in relation to the nature and make-up of the country’s landscape–questions finally considered to be too contentious to be addressed by a public art work. Island for Weeds is designed around a number of plastic pipes of the type most commonly used for gas mains under the road. Due to their fatigue-
resistant characteristics they are also increasingly deployed in marine engineering and fisheries. The system is designed in such a way that it can regulate its own height in the water using compressed air stored in the dark blue pipes and varying amounts of water stored in the yellow pipes below. If the soil on the island becomes too heavy from excessive rain, a switch is triggered by a depth gauge and water is blown out of the yellow tanks causing the island to rise back to the correct level. The system is maintained from time to time by topping up the dark blue pressurised pipes with a scuba tank.