Rian Ciela Visscher Hammond



Rian Hammond (b. 1988 USA) is a transdisciplinary artist and researcher. Their work explores the myth of scientific objectivity by focusing on the often unseen interplay between scientific advancement and cultural production, technological progress and desire. In 2015 Rian got involved at a DIY//DIWO biohack space called the Baltimore Underground Science Space where their practice shifted from working primarily with digital media to performing interventions in biological media and living organisms. It was here that their current long term project, Open Source Gendercodes began. OSG focuses on the intersection of gender variation and technoscience, tracing histories of steroid hormones, and performing science within them. By developing novel hormone production technologies, OSG attempts to queer current regimes of ownership and bio-power. The project has been presented in a series of public talks and online publications. Most notably OSG was featured in Morehshin Allahyari and Daniel Rourke’s “Additivist Cookbook,” in a talk at the 2016 Creative Time Summit in Washington DC, in an edition of the magazine Ecocore curated by the Institute for Queer Ecology, as well as having been presented through public talks at the Baltimore Underground Science Space, MassArt, and MICA, HANGAR Barcelona, and Hallwalls of Buffalo NY.

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old work

Becoming with Fungi

Gender Hacking in Der Raumstation

Drawing on the research and techniques Mary Maggic, Paula Pin and I developed while in residence at Prototyp_ome -- this workshop focused on the fungi Schizophyllum Commune and Pleurotus Ostreatus (Oyster) and their abilities to degrade endocrine disrupting petrochemicals (EDC's). In the first half of the workshop we discussed the socio-political side of hormones and EDC's and reviewed the science. We then set out to extract EDC's from plastics, urine, and personal care products brought in by workshop participants. We diluted cosmetics, shampoos, lotions, and fragrances and used cheap peristaltic pumps and silicone tubing to pump these solutions through C18 columns. These columns contain a filtration substrate designed to catch hormonally active molecules such as testosterone, estradiol, hydrocortisone, BPA, and Nonylphenol. We also extracted toxins from plastic bottles by cutting them up into small bits and boiling them in water. This fluid was passed through the C18 filters as well as the urine of workshop participants as it's been well documented that the urine of people all around the world contains the EDC's that are now ubiquitous in environments worldwide. Once the filters were saturated with the extracted chemicals, we used a small amount of methanol to "elute" the chemicals off the filter and into a glass cup. This process is called Solid Phase Extraction or SPE. The cup was heated to speed up evaporation of the methanol, leaving only the EDC's which we could then feed to our fungi friends. Working off of this paper, we hypothesized that the presence of endocrine disruptors could enhance lignocellulosic enzyme production by the fungi. By feeding this pollutant concoction to the fungi, the workshops act as crude "directed evolution" experiments ~ a practice of becoming with these fungi in a toxic world. For more details about the scientific background, check out the details of the Prototyp_ome Residency.

Becoming with Schizophyllum Commune Zine Files [English and Spanish Versions]

Prototyp_ome Residency

The Prototyp_ome residency is a collaboratory formed by HANGAR (an arts space in Barcelona with emphasis on use of open source tools), the Barcelona Biomedical Research Park (PRBB), and Pechblenda lab run by Paula Pin. While in residence my work was focused into two areas: the first was to use funds to design and synthesize genes involved in steroid hormone synthesis, and generate a library of DNA plasmids for "Open Source Gendercodes" experiments. The second focus was on developing new work in collaboration with Paula Pin and Mary Maggic to work with the organism Schizophyllum Commune, and it's various entanglements with endocrine disrupting petrochemicals and hormones. This new work, we are calling "Becoming with Schizophyllum Commune" had these three goals:

1 ~ Reasearch and digest the scientific literature on Schizophyllum Commune and it's various interactions with hormones and endocrine disrupting petrochemical pollutants. S.Commune is one of many "white and brown rot" fungi with the ability to break down hormonal and endocrine disrupting pollution. These fungi feed off of trees by excreting "lignocellulosic" enzymes from their networked bodies or "mycelia" and the enzymes are able to break down the cellulose and lignin that trees are made of. Because of structural similarities between cellulose, lignin, and EDS' / Hormones like Atrazine, BPA, Estradiol, Diethylstilbestrol, and Nonylphenols, the "lignocellulosic" enzymes secreted by the fungi can also break down a wide variety of toxicants. In addition to this, S.Commune produces immunostimulating polysaccharides that are helpful as cancer preventatives and treatments (Approved in Japan for treatment of cervical cancers), can enhance phytoestrogenic properties of certain plants through fermentation, can be used in place of rennet and lactobacilius in cheesemaking processes, and produce thrombin clot dissolving enzymes (useful in treating thrombosis). Strangely, these same "beta-glucans" that can be extracted with boiling water as cancer treatments and immunostimulants, are also used by the petroleum industry to enhance oil yields, tying S.Commune in a bizaar feedback loop to the production of the endocrine disrupting petrochemicals it is able to degrade and remediate.

2 ~ Develop DIY and DIWO (do it with others) protocols that simplify these recipies for working with EDC's and fungi to translate codified scientific knowledge into a language that is more accessible. Use these recipies for education, for questioning, for resistance to molecular colonizations, and creating new narratives about multispecies becomings and our collective mutagenesis.

3 ~ Challenge the dominant cisheteronormative, queerphobic discourse surrounding endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC's). To quote Malin Ah-King and Eva Hayward's scholarship on the issues, "Many news outlets are reporting these frightening endocrine tales from our backyards. In an effort to foreground these issues—as we will describe in the following—media has gaslighted a Frankenstein metamorphosis that threatens sex and sexuality. Rather than addressing the many other health risks associated with toxic exposure, the most sensational and polemical issues stand in for debate and critical response. It raises questions: Why is sex more central than cancer, auto-immune disease, and even death? What cultural nerves (many of which are globalized), are triggered? And, for those of us with feminist concerns, how do we reorient the debate away from essentialism, sexism, and heteronormativity?" (Toxic Sexes).

Schizophyllum Commune is a unique "white rot fungi" in that it has been found to have over 28,000 genetic sexes. This adaptation, many theorize, has enabled the incredible genetic diversity of this species which exists on every continent around the world except Antarctica. We wanted to celebrate the beautiful sexual multiplicity of this organism as one example of the queerness of biology. The dominant discourse surrounding EDC's in the media, and even from environmental activists focuses heavily on unscientific narratives, that these molecules cause certain sexualities or genders that our society pathologizes, labels non-normative, and often seeks to eliminate or avoid. Not only is the sex-panicked, queer phobic focus of public outcry about EDC's scientifically unrealistic (hormones and endocrine disruptors do not make people queer or trans) but it is ignoring all of the devastatingly real effects that we can link to EDC's: obesity, thyroid disorders, certain cancers, among other health risks.

Documentation from the process of: producing a library of genetic mutants for further experiments, and verifying proper integration of genes. The last two images are the first yeast transformants producing enzymes envolved in steroid hormone synthesis ~ created at the Barcelona Biomedical Research Park.