Tiffany Jaeyeon Shin : Microbial Speculation of Our Gut Feelings

January 9 – February 22, 2020

Due to the process-based nature of the Session program, Microbial Speculation of Our Gut Feelings will undergo constant modifications; the features of this page provide accruing information on the project’s developments.


All events are free and open to the public. Events are subject to change

Perfect Fruit: Dinner & Opening Reception with Sprechgesang Institute
Thursday, January 23rd, 7pm


Spirit Level: Workshop by Guadalupe Maravilla for Recess Assembly participants
Saturday, January 25th, 1 – 4pm

Fermentation as Harm Reduction / Migrating with Microbes: Workshop with Lauren Fournier
Saturday, February 8th, 1 – 4pm


Meet your Gremlin, Make your Gremlin: workshop with Herbhag
Saturday, February 15th, 12-3pm


Closing Reception: Dinner with Spiral Theory Test Kitchen
Monday, February 17th, 7pm

Invitation only

Microbial Speculation of Our Gut Feelings

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. Tiffany Jaeyeon 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. 


Open to the public Tuesday-Saturday, 12-6pm; Thursday, 2-8pm


 About the Artist

Tiffany Jaeyeon Shin explores the porousness of bodily boundaries and the ceaseless movement of living processes, like fermentation, echoing the history of colonialism. Shin is interested in entangling the history of conquest and the literal digestion of material – smells, microbes, and food – into a new system of relations that emerge from a complicated history of entanglement. Shin has shown internationally at Lewis Center for the Arts; Cuchifritos Gallery; Cody Dock; Knockdown Center; AC Institute; Abrons Arts Center; Tiger Strikes Asteroid, among others. Select commissions and fellowships include 2019 Visiting Artist Fellow at UrbanGlass and 2019 Visiting Artist for Col(LAB), Program in American Studies at Princeton University. Shin lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. 


Recess is supported, in part, by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; The National Endowment for the Arts, Art Works; the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in Partnership with the City Council; The Horace Goldsmith Foundation; The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation; Art for Justice Fund, Pinkerton Foundation, ELMA Philanthropies, Laurie M Tisch Illumination Fund, The Salomon Foundation, The Stavros Niarchos Foundation, Prospect Hill Foundation, Powerhouse Environmental Arts Foundation and The Tikkum Olam Foundation. In-kind support is provided by Materials for the Arts.