Gina van der Ploeg
“In my search for a pliable, abundant medium that can be woven, the hyacinth presents unique opportunities both from an ecological and a material perspective. The hyacinth is an aggressively invasive aquatic plant originally from the Amazon which was introduced as an exotic pond plant in South Africa in the early 1900s. It can now be found blocking almost every Cape Town waterway, deoxygenating the water and devastating local fauna and flora.
I am interested in the somewhat grotesque bulging, pulling, squishing, knotting, and rubbery nature of the hyacinth. In its dried, woven, and sculptural state, it retains its presence as a matting alien organism that spreads and constricts. As the hyacinth in the river grows endlessly, so the hanging and twisting dried hyacinth sculptures expand and hold the space in an installation reminiscent of a hyacinth forest.
My dad and I built a loom in the first two weeks of lockdown in 2020. Continuing to be in lockdown on and off for over a year now has resulted in a rhythm of loom work. Operating a loom that is bigger than me feels like expanding my body further into space, taking up all the space that I have in my studio rather than being contained and isolated.
I have focused on harvesting hyacinths in the Black River and Princess Vlei, being outdoors growing flax on my pavement, and bringing these materials from the outside world into my studio. In some sense, my loom and my body thus lengthen out to these locations. Rather than feeling stuck in my home or studio, I feel like I have spent this time connecting several sites around Cape Town through my focus on materials. This “extending” and “collecting” has grounded me, brought me sanity, and given me purpose over the last year.”