Aliens in Green with Waag Open Wetlab @ Border Sessions festival, The Hague (NL), June 28, 2017
Aliens in Green (AiG) is an investigative laboratory and tactical performance group that will introduce the toxic impact of endocrine disrupting molecules on the hormonal system and the dominant understanding of who and what is defined as normal and natural. Participants will engage in a hormone gastronomy cooking show while AiG facilitates a discussion about what it means to be alien in light of biochemical xeno-forces, such as the omnipresent plastics in every aspect of our queering ecology.
Participants: Ewen Chardronnet, Mary Maggic, Špela Petrič
The body’s endocrine system is the way by which cells can communicate to each other across long distances through various hormones. Hormones have a diverse array of functions. Their secretions are a tightly controlled process that varies throughout your life, sometimes daily, monthly or yearly. Some hormones affect your growth, your sexual development and libido (estrogen and testosterone), your menstrual cycle (FSH and LH), and your stress levels (ACTH and cortisol). Most importantly, hormones maintain the body’s metabolism and homeostasis, which is why so many diseases and illnesses can be caused by hormonal imbalances.
Being among the most ancient interspecies signaling molecules, the hormonal role of foods has been a key element of our nutrition regimes. Phytoestrogens can be found in various plants such as soy, peanuts or hops. They can mimic endo-estrogens, consequently re-aligning our internal production of hormones. Cruciferous veggies, berries and grapes, as well as citrus are known to inhibit the aromatase, the enzyme responsible for the conversion of androgens like testosterone into estrogens. Other foods contain nutrients known to stimulate the production of testosterone. The hormonal balance of our bodies is a complex, highly sensitive and responsive system and nutrition plays a role in its steady state.
The industrial chemical model in the last century has introduced aliens conditions, disrupting the endocrine system of human and non-human species, and causing cancers and all kinds of physical stresses and mutations. From agricultural pesticides, to plasticizers used in food packaging or plastic bottles; from various chemicals used in industry such as biocides, coolants, fire retardants or surfactants in tap water; from synthetic hormones ingested for contraception, sex transition, body-building or other synthetic hormonal therapies and treatments: all are contributing to the semiosphere of our hormone-signalling system though foreign and alien, capable of disrupting what we believe to be normal and natural. Despite all the warnings about the toxic impacts of endocrine disruptors, the lobbying of the petro-chemical, agricultural, and pharmaceutical industries continue to influence regulatory institutions and consequently EDCs are ubiquitous in the food supply. Fish are being described as « feminized », especially in the North Sea. In the meat market, testosterone has become a very profitable chemical tool for raising adult chickens within six weeks, or for implanting in cows to build muscular mass.
Aliens in Green proposes to the participants an introduction to « hormonal xeno-gastronomy,” that each one of our diets is in fact, a xeno-diet. Anti-estrogenic nutrition diets are practiced by women and men for medical reasons (menopause, breast cancer, uterus cancer, prostate cancer, obesity, etc.) but also for fitness, performance, and vanity purposes. Meanwhile, these foods along with the plethora of other EDC’s found in daily life can still cause those same cancers as well as other queering effects, many of which are unavoidable in our present toxic landscape. Therefore, Aliens in Green question terms like “abnormal” or “disruptor” which are at the center of most environmental and critical discourses, focusing the main arguments on sex-panic, gender ambiguity, and threats to reproductive futurism. These arguments reinforce a politics of purity that reflects our prescribed eco-hetero-normative value system. What is “normal” and “natural”? Do queers and our alien kin have no future in our increasingly toxic landscape?
The AiG xeno-hormone gastronomy workshop proposes to reveal all the queer aspects of the human diet and to reflect in its hormonal complexity. In generating “a crisis of the body” inevitably leads to non-prescriptive subjectivities, offering a kind of alien resilience. After all, estrogen signalling and binding to estrogen receptors is an evolutionarily ancient mechanism that has been retained in a number of chemicals, and was even required for symbiosis between plants and bacteria. If the AiG are to disseminate a perspective that goes beyond the so-called Anthropocene, environmental endocrine science could provide a new context in which to examine the informational content of ecosystem-wide communication networks.