Synopses & Reviews
Petrochemical America offers an in-depth analysis of the causes of sustained environmental abuse along the largest river system in North America. It combines Richard Misrach's haunting photographs of Louisiana's Chemical Corridor with landscape architect Kate Orff's Ecological Atlas--a series of speculative drawings developed through intensive research and mapping of data from the region. Misrach and Orff's joint effort depicts and unpacks the complex cultural, physical and economic ecologies of a particular region along 150 miles of the Mississippi River, from Baton Rouge to New Orleans--an area of intense chemical production that became known as Cancer Alley when unusually high occurrences of the disease were discovered in the region. This revelatory collaboration has resulted in a complex document and an extensively researched guidebook to the ways in which the petrochemical industry has permeated every facet of contemporary life. However complicated by the region's own histories and particularities, Cancer Alley may well be an apt metaphor for the global impact of petrochemicals on the human landscape as a whole.
Richard Misrach (born 1949) has a longstanding association with the American south. His previous monograph, Destroy This Memory, offered a record of hurricane-inspired graffiti left on houses and cars in New Orleans in the wake of Katrina. On the Beach and Violent Legacies addressed contamination of desert and beach areas.
Kate Orff (born 1971) is an assistant professor at Columbia University and founder of SCAPE, a landscape architecture studio in Manhattan. Her work weaves together sustainable development, design for biodiversity and community-based change. Orff's recent exhibition at MoMA, Oyster-tecture, imagined the future of the polluted Gowanus Canal as part of a ground-up community process and an ecologically revitalized New York harbor.