With Alter, I attempt to raises awareness of the proliferation of endocrine disruptors—compounds that interfere with sex hormones—in the environment. Alter displays a frog that has been exposed to Atrazine, a herbicide commonly used by American agricultural corporations. Atrazine is a dangerous endocrine disruptor common in the food supply, and it altered the hormone levels in this frog to make it classifiable as “intersex.” Alter highlights the hypocrisy of a corporate system that uses chemicals known to disrupt hormones associated with gender expression, when individuals in those same organizations often espouse right-wing ideologies upholding rigid gender norms by displaying both the nonhuman and the anthropocentric product within the confines of an inverted cross. Frogs are indicator species, meaning they manifest effects of toxic contamination. Thus Alter speculates on a possible future, alerting the audience to potentially profound effects wrought on the body by corporate interests. By using an indicator species to highlight the effects of human activity on the nonhuman, in this case through mutation, I am looking into a speculative future where the profit-centric ideology of the American right operates in opposition to the “traditional” values they espouse. Mutation towards an “intersex” human future, in my speculative imagining, is the result of this internally oppositional ideology. Alter ultimately speculates on a future where co-creation occurs by the interjection of profit-oriented ideals into ecosystems, and, through a twist of irony, a landscape emerges where hybridity and gender nonconformity (in the sense of middle-American politics) are the mainstream modes of identification. An "intersex" future.
What did you create?
Alter is a preserved "intersex" frog, a vial of atrazine (a common and powerful endocrine disruptor), a magnifying lens, an inverted cross, and images of cornfields and a sunrise embedded in the inverted cross. I made it to try and highlight the complex relationship between endocrine disruptors (compounds that affect hormone regulation in bodies, human or otherwise), politics, and ecosystems. The cross references the political and social ideology that underpins the middle-American region in the United States where tolerance of "otherness" and the pursuit of profit come at the cost of the freedoms of those who lie outside the mainstream idea of what is "normal". The "intersex" frog demonstrates the ecological consequences of the use of powerful endocrine disruptors as herbicides.
Why did you make it?
I designed Alter to promote conversation around the complexity of the relationship between politics, science, food production and ecology. It is supposed to promote awareness of the immensely destructive consequences of misusing chemical compounds in pursuit of profitability and to highlight the irony of conservative values of "normal", the desire for higher yields and greater profit and the unintentional result of "otherness" on human and other bodies as represented by the "intersex" frog.
How did you make it?
I produced Alter by preserving and staining an "intersex" frog, and by producing a shrine-like display of the frog, atrazine, and the inverted cross made up of idyllic images of middle America. I sued laboratory techniques to preserve the frog, and a laser cutter to develop the shrine. Furthermore, I used Illustrator to produce the cross, and a CNC machine to cut wood inlays for the shrine.
Your entry’s specification
50cm x 50cm x 50cm, CNC wood inlays, Laser cut acrylic stands, stained and preserved frog, vinyl cross, digital prints, hand-round magnifying glass, and recycled glass armature. The piece weighs 1.5 kg, and is 250 cm2 in area.