Kepone, 1989

By Billy Rubin
Published in Vox Vernacular
Feb. 25, 2014

The dispersal and transformation of toxins is a central preoccupation within the contemporary psyche. As borders are dissolved or rendered permeable, almost anything can be exploited excessively and has the potential to become toxic. After World War II, the war machines wound down across the globe and their innovations were adapted, notably to peacetime agriculture in the form of pesticides. Yet the sanctioning of "better living through chemistry" ignores the chaotic effects on nature. This story has often been repeated in various contexts where numerous technological "advances" have had disastrous results, most notably in the story of DDT. 

Kepone outlines the effects of one of these "bad actors" in documentary fashion, the typical story of the post- WWII military-industrial machine refitting itself for the agricultural industry. Oursler uses a combination of materials to achieve this. An exemplary 55-gallon drum, stenciled with its chemical name, Kepone, and hand-painted in the early American fracture style, leaks poured glass onto the floor at its side. The shiny black spill becomes a reflecting screen for the videotext and images to appear, as though the chemicals were testifying to their own history.