The Vegetarian- TJ Shin

CMagazine | ONLINE REVIEW | December 20, 2022

TJ Shin, video still from Anthropology of a Phytomorphist, 2021-2022

“Here, this transfection is a kind of transing—scholar Mel Chen’s term for the destabilization of constructed divisions between gender, race, and species. Shin combines their DNA with mugwort to speculate about other ways of life outside of the colonial, racist, and capitalist systems that organize the world, queering boundaries between the human, non-human, and more-than-human; the living, dead, and reanimated; remedy, pest, and cure.

Now dried and dead, the mugwort is combined with incense that burns during most mornings the gallery is open. Traced into white earth, the incense is shaped into the form of a nervous system, evoking mycelia and river systems. Breathing deeply, I try to parse out the scent from the burned incense: woody, balsamic, and warm with top notes that are sweet and musky. The smell of the incense clings to my hair as I leave the gallery and lingers with me for the rest of the day. As the scent wafts with me, I imagine my lungs continuing to metabolize and reanimate the transfection between Shin and the mugwort, even after the lab’s attempt to contain the live plant within their walls.”