Americana: Guam

The Savior of All
March 06, 2012 to March 24, 2012

Fifty years from now, Guam will no longer be a forgotten island in the Pacific. Immigration to Guam will increase by fifty percent per year and the military bases will gradually disappear. There will only be room for scientific-laboratories and research cells, and the beaches will transform into healing and recovery resorts.

In 1904, a mysterious fatal brain disease named ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), better known as the Lytico-Bodig disease, erupted in Guam. This disease was considered the leading cause of death between 1940 and 1956 on the island. It was observed that the symptoms of ALS were extremely similar to both Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s—neurological diseases which cause gradual paralysis and dementia. Several theories were put forrth regarding the causes of ALS. One hypothesis suggested that the “flying fox,” a type of bat, was the source for the epidemic, since the animal was a major component in the diet of the Chamorros, the natives of Guam. Over time, the bat became extinct due to over hunting and no conclusions were made as research continued with contradiction and controversy.

According to John Q. Trojanowski, director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Center at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, “Solve Guam, and you have the road map to solve all other gene and environmental interactions leading to neurodegenerative disease.” After sixty years of research and millions of dollars spent to reveal the cause of this disease, ninety-five year old Samai—a practicing Suruhana (traditional healer) from Guam—solved the mystery behind the disease and discovered a cure. Not only will Guam no longer be an isolated spot in the ocean, Guam will become the reason why we will no longer repeat our mistakes.

This display marks the end of the story and announces the launch of Guamifix, the pill that cures Lytico-Bodig disease, and celebrates Guam as the savior of all. The pill, produced by a pharmaceutical company, symbolizes how those in power, whether it be countries, companies or individuals, decide what is to be erased from memory and what is to be kept; or rather fabricated, ultimately shaping what we believe as “history.”

Ola El-Khalidi

Design and drawings by Corinne Matesich

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