JENNY YURSHANSKY                                                                  






This project investigates the distinction between native versus invasive species as determined by Artsdatabanken (The Species Database), a Norwegian scientific organization. In 2012 Artsdatabanken published an updated edition of the Black List. This list names nearly 2,500 species of flora and fauna as invasive in Norway and categorizes their threat levels from Very High to Unknown. The cultural bias that plays into the scientific criteria and discourse around how, why, and by whom these plants are considered to be invasive are the project’s focus.

Semantically the use of such terms as invasive and native are loaded. The direct correlation between human population shifts that occur at politically determined borders, rather than those determined by biomes, and the introduction vectors of these species is an area that warrants illumination. The reasons for identifying alien species vary from their being unwelcome because of their competitiveness with native flora and fauna or those cultivated for commercial or aesthetic purposes.

I culled the list down to 18 insects and animals that have been introduced to Norway. Using these animals I reworked the children's song, There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, written by Rose Bonne and composed by Alan Mills. The revised song is a darkly comic take on the not so unusual snowball effect that comes with introduced species, especially when one is brought in to solve the problems created by another, often with unforeseen and detrimental results. However, in the case of the species named in the Black List it is clear that cultural ideas about these fauna play a critical role on which ones do and do not appear on the list.

The Wild Boar, Sus scrofa, is one example.  Native in Norway until the 1500's, they were wiped out by hunters. They made a reappearance in Norway after the boar was purposefully repopulated in Sweden in the 1980's and the animals simply crossed the countries’ shared land border.  Now this nuisance to farmers, has a place on the Black List. The song becomes the equivalent of raising a darkly comic hyperbolic alarm.

This work, when performed, is sung and accompanied by a local fiddle player. Along with playing the melody of the original song, the fiddler incorporates local folk melodies in the breaks between each stanza of the song, thereby creating a tension between the native and invasive.


Blacklisted: A Planted Allegory (Anthem)




Wood frame, glass, paper, offset print


42” x 33” x 3” and 17 minute performance

Works            CV             Current            About