Mutant Corn was a collaborative agricultural project between The Dacha Project (Freeville, NY) and ArtCodex (Brooklyn, NY). The project itself was composed of four triangular plots of corn, three planted with colorful heirloom varieties and the center with genetically modified maize (GMM). During the course of the season, we detasseled the center triangle so that the GMM would be unable to either cross or self-pollinate, and would be hybridized by the heirloom varieties instead.
Early on in the development of this project, we were lucky enough to work with corn geneticists, who were able to guide us through the science of breeding corn, while also challenging some of our assumptions about genetic modification. More recently, as we sent out a call for collaborators announcing the start of this project, we met with a concerned neighbor to talk about about inadvertent cross-contamination between our plot and his field. Even while engrossed with the practicalities of planning and constructing the plots, we have had discussions amongst ourselves and helpful volunteers about the reproductive biology of corn, the patenting of seed, the workings of various pesticides and how they function, and as well as radical alternatives to agriculture such as permaculture.
The project culminated with a harvest festival, where we examined the cobs to see the hybridization between the different varieties. Additionally there were a variety of activities, including a choreographed performance of three masked dancers enacting three mythological corn origin stories, a punny corn-themed puppet show, and a participatory music performance with the audience performing with combs, sticks and plastic bags to re-create the rhythms of nature. Throughout the event, we invited people to share their thoughts on genetic modification and the politics of food.