Every Word Was Once an Animal

Every Word Was Once An Animal

Every Word was Once an Animal is an ongoing collaborative project inspired by research on the gestural and olfactory communication strategies of Western fence lizards.

Merging art, science, dance, music, and olfaction, Every Word explores the overlapping forces of nature and culture between humans, animals, and language.
In collaboration with biologists Dr. Emilia Martins and Dr. Peter Wetherwax, choreographer Darion Smith, and composer Juliet Palmer.
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copyright 2019

Sceloporus

Perfume based on lizard pheromones in handblown perfume bottle, perfume, glass, metal, cloth, 5 ⅜" x 20 ½" x 3 ⅜", 2018

Sceloporus lizards (also known as Western Fence lizards, or blue-bellies) communicate with one another across time and space using pheromones secreted from their thighs, along with physical gestures.

Sceloporus is a surprisingly fresh, yet animalic perfume based on lizard scent compounds that blends with the wearer’s own skin chemistry to create a soft, sheer, more-than-human presence. The primary scent notes, in keeping with scientific research, include pyrizines, also found in wine, citrus, coffee, and chocolate, as well as jasmonates, found in flowers. Participants are invited to sample the perfume while tasting related scent compounds in white wine and grapefruit, coffee, and jasmine flavored chocolates.
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copyright 2019

Lizard Language

Fence lizard head-bob decoder bandana, silkscreened ink on cloth, 22.5” x 21.5”, 2018

Besides scents, fence lizards use head-bob and push-up displays to communicate with one another across distances. These movements involve culturally learned patterns of movements, exhibit regional dialects, and contain syntax. In the process of working with lizards in the field, Martins discovered that fence lizards will respond with species-identification displays to finger bob movements that correctly mimic their head-bob patterns. This hikers bandana playfully pairs Martins notational system for the lizard’s gestural language with a human gestural language - American Sign Language. The blue, black, and white bandanas, worn around the neck to mimic the lizard’s neck patches, function as a handy reference for humans wishing to attempt interspecies communication with a lizard.
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copyright 2019

Lizard Language

Fence lizard head-bob decoder bandana, silkscreened ink on cloth, 22.5” x 21.5”, 2018

Instructions for interspecies communication: Find a fence lizard. Bob your finger in a rapid up and down motion, following the graph at the top of the bandana. The horizontal axis = duration, the vertical axis = height of the head at the top of the movement.
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copyright 2019

The Heat of the Rock for the Lizard

Video projection still, 2014-15

A video projection of a woman enacting lizard territorial displays is projected onto a rock. Heidegger uses the lizard’s relationship to the rock on which it suns and displays itself as an example of the difference between humans and animals. Here the rock is reinterpreted as a site for cultural performance.
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copyright 2019

Lizard Mirror

Handblown mirrored glass rocks, 2015-ongoing

Lizards will display to their own reflections. These mirrored rocks blend into their surroundings and perform as site interventions in lizard territory, evoking a response from lizards.
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copyright 2019

Lizard Mirror

Handblown mirrored glass rocks, 2018​

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copyright 2019