Microbial Speculation of Our Gut Feelings
January 9 – February 22, 2020

Microbial Speculation of Our Gut Feelings uses the gut’s microbes as a way of looking deeply into immigrant health and resisting processes of colonization. Shin’s Session at Recess illuminates the vibrant materiality of immigrant bodies by transforming the gallery space into an immersive DIY indoor garden and micro-brewery. Shin will home-brew lactic acid and use it to facilitate plant growth and seed germination, a tradition used in a Korean natural farming called JADAM. In the spirit of JADAM, which translates to “people that resemble nature,” Shin will harvest plants, herbs, and fungi, all of which will be foraged for a final, microbial dinner feast.

The gut’s microbial composition governs many of our bodily systems: the skin, neurotransmitters, immunity, metabolism, mental health, and digestion. Microbial Speculation of Our Gut Feelings responds to research published in 2018 in the scientific journal Cell that shows that immigrants lose their native gastrointestinal microbes within six to nine months after arriving in the United States. These native microbes are then replaced with microbes more common in European-American people, a process that makes immigrants more vulnerable to metabolic diseases. Given this, how might immigrants resist the literal and material Westernization of their bodies?

Taking ecology as subject and methodology, Microbial Speculation of Our Gut Feelings dives into Shin’s research on lactic acid bacteria (LAB). When consumed, LAB can fortify the gastric lining, improving metabolization and immunity. LAB is also a natural probiotic that inputs microbes into the soil, cultivating complex, indigenous microbial communities. Shin considers these ferments as a vital material that suggests possibilities for common survival, inter-species symbiosis, and care.

Shin’s home-brewed lactic acid and indoor garden provide an opportunity to reimagine the ecological composition of the human body as a speculative and animated site for microbial transformation. 

Photos in courtesy of Mary Kang

Perfect Fruit: Dinner & Opening Reception with Sprechgesang Institute
Spirit Level: Workshop by Guadalupe Maravilla for Recess Assembly participants
Fermentation as Harm Reduction / Migrating with Microbes: Workshop with Lauren Fournier
Meet your Gremlin, Make your Gremlin: workshop with Herbhag
Closing Reception: Dinner with Spiral Theory Test Kitchen

Apollo Magazine
Brooklyn Rail
Cornelia Magazine
Recess Critical Writing by Ana Iwataki

Perpetual Care, 7 course dinner with Spiral Theory Test Kitchen & Tiffany Jaeyeon Shin

Custom glassware