301 Cabot Street
Beverly, MA 01915
“The Stambecco is a creature accustomed to the horizons
where the stars are born and die.”
The captivating Alpine ibex transports us to the ridgeline and symbolizes our loftiest aspirations. Historically, folk-healers, shaman and hunters, both exalted and consumed the ibex. They believed that ibex organs held magical, medicinal powers. These superstitions, combined with new firearm technology, caused the mountain goats’ near extinction in the 19 th century. In contrast, modern-day researchers hunt for ways to conserve Alpine ibex and build their genetic diversity, strengthening future generations. Informed by folklore and scientific research, my artwork examines the contemporary plight of Alpine ibex and symbolic reverberations.
The legacy of the ibex’s near extinction is quantified by molecular genotyping. These data reveal diminished genetic diversity in ibex populations, which restricts the species’ ability to adapt to climate change. DNA tells the story of how ibex barely escaped elimination, then squeezed through the narrow bottleneck of reintroduction. Even though ibex are no longer threatened, genetic scars remain. From the beautiful visage of present-day ibex, one would never guess the underlying poverty. My “Genomic Portraits” simultaneously depict the regal countenance of the animal, while laying bare its biological vulnerability.
As a result of the extreme reduction in population size, inbreeding plagues Alpine ibex. Game wardens protect the “purity” of the species, defending them from the introgression of foreign DNA [from domesticated goats]. But the quest for genetic “purity” does not reflect the nuanced twists and turns of evolution. Scientists regularly discover crucial and unexpected links between species. Recently, Dr. Christine Grossen proved that fully half of the Alpine ibex’s genetic diversity at the major histocompatibility complex, (a region that plays a critical role in immune response), originates from domesticated goats. Even Homo sapiens have gained adaptive benefits from the introgression of Neanderthal DNA. Molecular genotyping and evolutionary analyses reveal the foolishness of racial bigotry, ethnic cleansing and genocide.
In the context of art, inbreeding and introgression mutate into philosophical terms. Across time, there exist many interspecies impacts; genetic purity is impossible to define. My performance embodiment “Steinbockovich” blurs the boundaries between race, ethnicity and species. He is simultaneously inbred, introgressed, hybridized and mutated. Amidst today’s trend towards ethnic nationalism, with border walls erected and globalization threatened, Steinbockovich welcomes genetic diversity. An inbreeding equation (from population genetics) emblazons his heart; it quantifies the price of “purity.”
Join us for a special event with Edward Monovich as part of Equilibrio: Art, Science, and the Alpine Ibex.
December 6, 2018
6:00–7:30 pm – Screening and discussion with Dr. Alice Brambilla, Alpine Wildlife Researcher from Italy, Dr. Crispin Weinberg, President of Biomedical Modeling Inc. in Boston.
248 Cabot St, Underground
7:30-7:45 pm –Steinbocklauf Procession to 301 with students from various classes wearing costumes and some local Krampuses!
248 > 301
7:30–9:00 pm – Exhibition Reception
301 Gallery, 301 Cabot St