Inspired by the work of Professor Michelle Murphy, historian and techno-science scholar at University of Toronto, and her concept of ‘alterlife’ in ‘damaged and damaging worlds’, Feral Theatre made a film using shadow puppetry, original soundscape and text to tell the story of the Round Goby.
The Round Goby is a fish species that was accidentally introduced into the Great Lakes of North America and Canada in ballast from cargo ships from Eastern Europe. The Great Lakes are heavily polluted, the scene of complex ongoing ecological harms due to industrialisation, specifically the manufacture of persistent synthetic chemicals including PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) by Monsanto in the 20th century. The Round Goby is resilient and adaptable, able to tolerate relatively high levels of these chemicals. It has made its way into the region’s ecosystem, flourishing in damaged spaces, eating native and introduced species, and being eaten by native species. It’s classed as an invasive ‘nuisance’ species and is the subject of a control programme.
The Round Goby has multiple genders, changes to which signal its capacity to be altered by chemicals and yet thrive. Through its sexed living being, the Round Goby provides a way to sample and map the presence of endocrine disruptors like PCBs in the disturbed and transitioning Great Lakes. As Murphy puts it, ‘the Round Goby is a trans-animal and a queer survivor’ responding to the complex chemistry and entanglements of the ongoing aftermath of capitalism and colonialism.