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Oophaga Vicentei x Oophaga Pumilio

A daring Swedish art student questioning race and identity by breeding a hybrid frog

by Richard Prime in Culture on 12 May 2010

Ostrand_hybrid_frog.jpg

As Stockholm's art and design schools prepare to open their doors for annual graduation shows, there are already ripples of exciting suggesting that this year holds many delights for the viewer. Last year the city was outraged at the work of Konstfack student Anna Odell, whose video work documented her own fake suicide attempt.

This year however, much of the buzz is as a result of clever thinking instead of hyperbole. Linda Shamma Östrand is a student at Konstfack whose cerebral work takes in an exploration of mixed cultural identity or, in her words, the notions of being a hybrid. The vehicle demonstrating her chosen topic is her self-bred hybrid frog (pictured top), Oophaga vicentei x Oophaga pumilio (pictured below left and right). The frog's scientific name contains the "x" to indicate that it is a hybrid variety with the names on either side denoting the species of its origin.

Vicentei_frog.jpg Pumilio_frog.jpg

"As a child of parents from different countries, I am always compelled to describe my parents' origin instead of my own when people ask me where I come from," Östrand explains on her mini-site. "It led me to wonder whether I am bearing a seemingly unknown problem. By breeding a hybrid fertile frog and simultaneously writing a diary of reflections in my everyday life, I am exploring hybrid disciplines in an attempt to understand the hybrid concept," she clarifies.

Some critics argue that emerging students are losing their poignancy and relevance due to aspirations of grandeur and ego-driven projects. Through her unique frog and inward-looking questioning of identity, Östrand has given reason for the viewer to talk about her conceptual, didactic art without damning its visual medium.

Photo of Oophaga vicentei by Thomas Ostrowski; Oophaga pumilio by Steven M. Whitfield

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