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Rian Ciela Hammond

Rian Ciela Hammond

American, born 1988

The artist and biologist Rian Ciela Hammond (they/them/theirs) creates media-expansive artworks that invite people to examine the interactions between technology, power, and ways of knowing and being a body. Hammond’s work can be found in the online publication PUSH/PULL: Trans Family Archive (2020) and has been exhibited at El Museo, Buffalo, NY (2020) and Gas, a mobile gallery in Los Angeles, CA (2019). Hammond is based in Lenapehoking (Jersey City, NJ).

See more of Hammond's work at their website:

As a trans person, I feel like art is, is therapy for me, and it's also a way for me to create my own narratives and find my way through all of these complicated messages that I'm told and I have internalized.

Rian Hammond

Rian Ciela Hammond (American, born 1988). Root Picker, 2021. Screenshot of digital video (color, sound) from installation. Courtesy of the artist.

Root Picker, 2021

Digital video (color, sound) displayed on monitor; bioreactor containing soil fungi transforming wild yam extract into steroid hormones
Narration by Gabriela Cordoba Vivas
Running time: 8 minutes, 5 seconds, looped
Courtesy of the artist

“I’m thinking about coloniality as an ongoing process and a structure that we’re all embedded in, rather than a historical period. And through that, I’m thinking about hormone pharmaceuticals and gender as technologies of coloniality. I really want to open a space for people to think about this and to ask, ‘How can we hack this? How can we glitch this, together?’”
—Rian Hammond

Rian Hammond (they/them/theirs) is a self-described “transfeminist” bioartist. Their practice involves hacking the production of the hormone estrogen, which is commonly used in birth control and gender transitioning. They also teach public workshops about their methods, challenging pharmaceutical companies’ monopoly on this science.

Estrogen is derived from the steroid diosgenin that is found in the wild yams of eastern North America, where Indigenous communities have used them to treat menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause. Hammond’s installation Root Picker includes a bioreactor that is actively transforming diosgenin into the steroids progesterone and androstenedione, which are precursors of estrogen and testosterone. In the accompanying video, Hammond explores what they call the “inherent queerness” of the yam, as well as the history and politics of the industrial production of estrogen. By combining footage of the yam’s wild habitat, a digital graphic representing the metabolic pathway of diosgenin, and a narration that explains the role of colonialism in hormone manufacturing, the video suggests that gender itself is a kind of code that is simultaneously programmed by organic, technological, and social systems.

Support for Rian Hammond’s work was provided by Coalesce: Center for Biological Art at the University at Buffalo, the University at Buffalo Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, and the UB Center for the Arts.

  • Cover of Land Acknowledgment

    Territorial Land Acknowledgment

    Accompanying their work for Difference Machines Hammond and collaborator Moira Williams offer a land acknowledgment.

    View Here (PDF)
    Learn More

Molecular Female

"Molecular Female is a virtual exhibition and tentacle of Open Source Gendercodes, a research project started by Hammond in 2015 to pursue collaborative experiments with biotechnology and steroid hormones."

Explore the exhibition here.

I am not trained as a scientist—I am really pushing my mind to do this work because I love the idea and I want to see if flourish. I enjoy the challenge, and the process has been very transformative for me. Scientific research takes a long time, and is inherently uncertain—especially when dealing with the complexity of biological systems.

Rian Hammond to Lee Pivnik

Open Source Gendercodes

Interview by Lee Pivnik

Hammond discusses their project Open Source Gendercodes with Lee Pivnik for a special issue of ECOCORE.

Read the full interview here

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