Robot geese, toilets for birds, luxury housing for bats: in her new series of experiments, artist and activist Natalie Jeremijenko explores the human/animal interface. These and other projects will fall under the aegis of Ooz (“zoo” spelled backward), a corporation Jeremijenko will form. A defining difference between this and other corporations: this one will have Hudson River fish on its board. The logic behind this hinges on an 1886 Supreme Court decision, Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, which granted corporations the same rights and legal protections as people–i.e.”corporate personhood.” With fish as corporate shareholders, they can have a stake in their increasingly polluted habitat. An excellent Salon profile describes some of her work:
She cracks open her laptop and displays an image of 100 polycarbonate tubes or “buoys” that she’s engineered to glow when fish swim through them in the Hudson River. Yes, she really has government approval to position the buoys in the river. Given her day job as a professor, she convinced state environmental officials her project was all about science. But never mind that. Did you know the fish were on Zoloft? All the antidepressants that New Yorkers take are flushed through their urine into sewage treatment plants, which overflow into the river. You doubt her? Go to the Whitney Museum and see one of her drawings hanging on a wall by a bathroom. It features a woman’s bottom, her pants below her knees, on a toilet seat. It asks, “Why are the Hudson River fish and frogs on antidepressants?” Printed on it in tiny letters are actual studies that attest to the chemical drug compounds in the waterway consumed by the unsuspecting bass, sturgeon and crabs.
Anyway, when the buoys light up, you can feed the fish food treated with chelating agents to help cleanse the PCBs from their blood, planted there from decades of General Electric dumping waste into the river. The fish food, in fact, will not be much different from the energy bars we’re always eating on hiking trails. “The idea that we eat the same stuff is a visceral demonstration that we live in the same system,” Jeremijenko says. “Eating together is the most intimate form of kinship. By scripting a work where we share the same kind of food with fish, I’m scripting our interrelationship with them.”
For more on Jeremijenko, visit the Bureau of Inverse Technology, her art collective.