Dear Interlocutor TX1 (2020)
Xenological Entanglements 001b: Saccular Fount (2020)
While we (humans) refer to potential outer-space life as ‘aliens,’ queer and transgender life on Earth is also, still, often referred to as ‘alien’. Tranxxeno lab by Adriana Knauf addresses the biochemical requirements of transgender persons in outer space, especially their need for hormone replacement medication, by sending such medication to the International Space Station and back - launched on July 3 2020 and returned on July 4 2020 - thus testing their overall resilience through all steps of space travel. No transgender person has been to space, even though they possess somatic knowledges of deep bodily transformations necessary experiences for extraterrestrial environments.
With the TX-1 project Knauf addresses the political question of which bodies (do not) get accepted by established space programs. Meanwhile transgender bodies may teach society at large how all bodies transition through their personal, societal and environmental changes and that all of them require support and care, usually hidden and ignored, for their survival—in space and on Earth.
TX-1 is also the starting point of the three-channel video DEAR INTERLOCUTOR: TX-1, a series of epistolary meditations on alienness, rural life, what we desire from space travel, and queer futurities. The video includes footage shot at and around Kennedy Space Center in Florida, in the US, excerpts from documentation of performances, family archival video, and clips from science fiction film and television. The juxtaposition of the channels allows for non-linear relationships between future, past, and present to be drawn out, a key element of the transfeminine experience.
Third work in the room is Xenological Entanglements 001b: Saccular Fount. It consists of a custom-made Saccular Fount and backpack battery and two pictures of the artist positioned on top of each other like a tarot card. In the top picture she is wearing the Saccular Fount, in the lower one she wears a space helmet and suit.
The Saccular Fount is worn in the center of the torso, between the breasts, and hangs on a custom-made leather harness. This harness both constricts the body and suspends the device, highlighting a particular tension between the molecular jouissance induced by estradiol in transgender bodies as well as the constraints in how these (and other) bodies are seen in society.
Within growth medium saturated with testosterone, testicular Leydig cells convert this hormone to estradiol using the enzyme aromatase. Thus, cells that come from a part of the body associated with masculinity, the testicles, are induced to produce estradiol, which is associated with femininity. These cells additionally grow in two custom-made rotating wall vessels that simulate a microgravity condition, thereby linking the wearer of Saccular Fount to the potential of weightlessness in outer space and the possibility of sourcing hormones for long-duration space missions.
Given challenges in access to hormones for people on various kinds of hormone replacement therapy (including transgender or perimenopausal people), Saccular Fount additionally gestures towards other means of hormone production, separate from pharmaceutical companies. Presented as a speculative wearable device, Saccular Fount suggests a near-term future where personal hormone production is both possible and necessary.
Expert scientific consulting: Kristijan Tkalec, dr. Neža Grgurevi?
Device design: Lovrenc Košenina
Device and harness machining and construction: David Pilipovi?, Jože Zajec
Photo: Andrej Lamut
TX-1 box design and modeling: Felipe Rebolledo
Sojourner2020 images and ISS footage: Xin Liu, MIT Space Exploration Initiative
Launch and orbit footage: NASA
Support and funding by MIT Media Lab Space Exploration Initiative, Amsterdam Fonds voor de Kunst, Art4Med, Galerija Kapelica/Zavod Kersnikova, Creative Europe, the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia and the Municipality of Ljubljana/Department for Culture and Northeastern University
Special thanks: Claudia Pederson, Špela Petri?, Miha Turši?, Lea Aymard, Zavod TransAkcija