In The Vegetarian, their first solo exhibition in Canada, TJ Shin transfects their DNA into mugwort, a perennial plant categorized as an invasive species in North America and used to treat malaria in various parts of the world. Supported by the University at Buffalo, Shin induces changes to the plant’s genome by blasting their DNA particles onto foraged mugwort using a gene gun commonly used for agricultural engineering. The multisensory exhibition features herbarium collages, digital prints, and video, all derived from fluorescent microscope scans tracing the genealogy of the plant transformation.
At the exhibition’s centre is a large-scale sculptural scentscape: a vascular system made from the transfected mugwort, to be burned at regular intervals throughout the exhibition in a practice inspired by Korean shamanistic ritual. The organic matter on display, neither plant nor animal, native nor invasive, living nor dying, presents a transmutative subject that troubles the vertical hierarchy of life and echoes what Mel Y. Chen calls “transplantimalities,” a human subject taking a “tranimal” turn. In transfusing with mugwort and becoming both a toxic poison and a miracle cure, Shin draws out the pestilence and persistence of insurgent sociality, survival, and death.
The Vegetarian explores how the figure of the “pest,” which threatens the economy of settler-colonial ownership and property, gives rise to disease management, imperial expansion, and extractive economies. Expanding on the philosophy and critical theory of pharmakon, which triangulates the epidemiology of remedy, poison, and scapegoat, The Vegetarian unpacks how medicine, botany, and science coalesce through the administration of landscapes, plants, and animals. In turn, Shin considers how pestiferous or “malarial” subjects come to constitute the biopolitical networks of “disease ecologies” and the racial regime of “vegetated” life, revealing colonialism to be the source of, rather than the solution to, disease epidemics.
Please be advised that this exhibition is not an odour-neutral environment. During the course of the exhibition, we are offering three low-sensory days (in which the gallery will be kept odour-neutral and the video work will be set at a low volume). For dates, please see the accessibility info downscreen.
TJ Shin is a Korean-Canadian interdisciplinary artist based in Los Angeles. Inspired by decentralized ecologies and queer sociality, they create living installations and imagine an ever-expanding self that exists beyond the boundaries of one's skin. Shin was a 2020 New York Community Trust Van Lier Fellow and 2020 Visiting Artist Fellow at UrbanGlass in Brooklyn. Shin has exhibited internationally at the Queens Museum, Lewis Center for the Arts, Wave Hill, Recess, Doosan Gallery, Klaus Von Nichtssagend Gallery, Cuchifritos Gallery, Knockdown Center, and Cody Dock, London.
* The exhibition’s title is borrowed from Han Kang’s The Vegetarian, a novel whose protagonist becomes a tree.
image: TJ Shin, Untitled (Self Portrait 1), 2022
Due to the multisensory ambitions of this exhibition, masking is optional in the gallery space. Please be aware that you may be sharing the small enclosed gallery space with people not wearing masks.
We ask that visitors continue to wear masks in all other parts of the premises, including the office, restrooms, and waiting in line to enter the gallery space. Anyone in need of a mask will be provided one.
Visitors in the gallery are limited to 4 at a time.
– sensitivities –
Please be advised that this exhibition is not an odour-neutral environment. As well, at certain times there may be a small amount of smoke in the gallery space behind the curtain. We advise those with odour and smoke sensitivities to exercise caution when engaging with the exhibition.
People who normally experience respiratory issues when around incense are advised to refrain from entering the gallery space.
– accessibility –
Upon request, the video installation can be made available for viewers on a desktop computer and headphones in our office space.
Please also ask gallery staff if you’d like seating while viewing the video installation.
– low-sensory and masked days –
On Thursday August 4, Friday August 19, and Saturday September 3, we will offer low-sensory days, on which viewers can experience the exhibition in a low scent and low-volume state.
Friday August 12 and Saturday August 27 will be mask-mandatory days.
Opening Reception: Friday, July 22, 6 – 8 PM