Project dates
October 21, 2021
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Anthropology of a Phytomorphist, screening and conversation with TJ Shin, Neel Ahuja, moderated by Godfre Leung

Friday, October 21st, 12:00 pm MDT 

Please join us for an online screening of TJ Shin’s 2021–’22 video essay Anthropology of a Phytomorphist, which debuted this summer as part of Shin’s exhibition The Vegetarian at The Bows.  A conversation between Shin and theorist Neel Ahuja, author of Planetary Specters: Race, Migration, and Climate Change in the Twenty-First Century, will follow the screening.

Anthropology of a Phytomorphist recounts a material history of mugwort, from its metamorphic properties in the Korean origin myth to turn a bear into the first human, to its use as an anti-malarial agent during the Vietnamese-American War. Woven into this narrative are the stories of John MacCulloch, the Scottish geologist who introduced the word malaria to the English language; Tu Youyou, the Nobel Prize-winning chemist who developed an anti-malarial agent from the annals of Traditional Chinese Medicine; and Yeong-hye, the protagonist of Han Kang’s novel The Vegetarian, who relinquishes her humanity and transforms into a plant. Alongside this poetic meditation on disease, ecology, and the more-than-human, Shin emplots documentation of the transfection of their own DNA into mugwort plant, a process that is part formal lab experiment, part (auto-)science fiction.

This program is in partnership with the SSHRC-funded Genomic Media project, located at the Environmental Media Lab, University of Calgary.

TJ Shin is an interdisciplinary artist based in Los Angeles. Shin has exhibited internationally at the Queens Museum, Lewis Center for the Arts, Roots and Culture Contemporary Art Center, The Bows, Wave Hill, Doosan Gallery, Knockdown Center, and more. Shin was a 2020 New York Community Trust Van Lier Fellow and 2020 Visiting Artist Fellow at UrbanGlass in Brooklyn. 

Neel Ahuja is Professor in the Harriet Tubman Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Maryland-College Park, located on the unceded lands of the Piscataway people. He is the author of Bioinsecurities: Disease Interventions, Empire, and the Government of Species (2016) and Planetary Specters: Race, Migration, and Climate Change in the Twenty-First Century (2021).

Godfre Leung is an art critic and curator. In addition to TJ Shin: The Vegetarian at The Bows (2022), his recent exhibitions include Pao Houa Her: Emplotment (Or Gallery, 2020), Guesthood and Alienhood: Sun Yung Shin, Jinny Yu, Republic of the Other (Hotam Press Gallery, 2021), and Offsite: Christopher K. Ho (Vancouver Art Gallery, 2022). Currently he is the curator at the Contemporary Art Gallery in Vancouver, the unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, and səlilwətaɬ First Nations.