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Tiffany Jaeyeon Shin: M for Membrane

Glyndor Gallery
Tiffany Jaeyeon Shin 4
Left to right: Untitled (Microscope Slides), 2020. Five microscope glass slides (1. Root bacteria, 2. Lichen, 3. Plasmodesmata, 4. Loose connective tissue, 5. Plant cell), wood 4 x 4 x 4 inches; Untitled (Incubator #2), 2020. Soil from Wave Hill woodland forest, rice, plexiglass, wood, stainless steel plaque, cheesecloth. 44 x 16 x 49 inches (LWH)
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Left to right: Untitled (Gold Nugget), 2020 Indigenous leaf mold, plexiglass, wood, 4 x 4 x 4 inches; Untitled (Incubator #1), 2020. Indigenous microorganism, glass jars, foam cooler, digital thermometer, stainless steel plaque, 26 x 19 x 39 inches (LWH); "Portrait (Red Oak Tree)", 2020. Multi-media collage print, 24 x 36 inches; "Portrait (Black Cherry Tree)", 2020. Multi-media collage print, 24 x 36 inches; "Portrait (American Elm Tree)", 2020. Multi-media collage print, 24 x 36 inches; Portrait (Sugar Maple Tree), 2020. Multi-media collage print, 24 x 36 inches
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Left to right: "M for Memoir", 2020. Single-channel video, 14:00 minutes; Untitled (Incubator #3), 2020. Indigenous microorganism, glass jars, insulation foam, wood, plexiglass, digital thermometer, 26 x 16 x 48 inches (LWH)
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"M for Mother", 2020. Reflective tarp, sandbags, stainless steel plaques. Dimensions variable
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"M for Mother", 2020. Reflective tarp, sandbags, stainless steel plaques. Dimensions variable

The “M” in M-theory that unifies all superstring theory stands for “membrane,” “mystery,” “magic,” and “mother.” With outdoor and indoor multi-media installations, M for Membrane explores the membrane, mystery, and magic of microbial forms, fungi and indigenous mold. The fermenter—the artist—facilitates a community of indigenous leaf mold—created from decomposed leaves—embodying the role of the witch, the scientist, and the alchemist, and from it, looks for possibilities of animacy and deep time.  

In response to the material history and colonial landscape of the Palisades and the Hudson River Valley, M for Membrane forgoes primitive and material accumulation and instead cultivates ephemerality, impermanence, and eventual decay as a viable possibility to restore indigenous land. In the outdoor installation, the fermenter cultivates indigenous leaf mold and propagates billions of microbes by foraging fallen leaves in Wave Hill’s woodlands. The mold feeds on sea salt, sugar, potato, and rice starch to proliferate its numbers. Inspired by JADAM organic farming and embodied ecology, all materials foraged from the land are returned back to the soil as fermented liquid fertilizer, transforming into nutrient-rich humus and supporting the mycorrhizal networks for the plants. 

In the indoor exhibition, a multimedia installation follows a single leaf mold microorganism waking up from dormancy and returning back to the soil, to find a new host, back to its mother. The poetic narrator opens up a new quantum language that destabilizes traditions of Euro-American naturalism and enlightenment. On the wall are portraits of the four remaining pre-estate trees on Wave Hill. Alongside various equipment for fermentation, a DIY incubator cultures leaf mold microorganisms set to optimal humidity and temperature. Instead of being used to cultivate embryonic eggs, petri dishes, or STEM cells, the incubator develops new boundaries of what constitutes productive bodies or generative humanities. 

Tiffany Jaeyeon Shin is Wave Hill’s 2020 New York Community Trust Van Lier Fellow and participated in the 2020 Winter Workspace program. Shin has exhibited internationally at Doosan Gallery, Cuchifritos Gallery, AC Institute, Abrons Arts Center, Tiger Strikes Asteroid, all in New York, NY; Knockdown Center, Queens, NY; and Cody Dock, London, England, among others. Shin recently was an artist-in-residence at Recess in Brooklyn, a Visiting Artist Fellow at UrbanGlass in Brooklyn, and Col(LAB) artist-in-residence at Princeton University in New Jersey. Shin received a BFA from Rhode Island School of Design.

Recorded Live on 10/8/2020

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Dr. Vanessa Agard-Jones is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University, where she also serves on the Executive Council of the Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality and is affiliated with the Institute for Research in African American Studies. Dr. Agard-Jones earned her Ph.D. from the joint program in Anthropology and French Studies at New York University and held a postdoctoral fellowship at Columbia's Society of Fellows in the Humanities. From 2014 to 2016, she was on the faculty at Yale University. She is a member of the Social Text Collective, Scholars for Social Justice, and Dr. Agard-Jones is on the editorial board of PoLAR: the Political and Legal Anthropology Review. She also serves on the Board of Directors of Land to Learn, an organization in New York's Hudson Valley that is growing a movement for food justice and community wellness through garden-based education.

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