In her 1962 book of environmentalism, Silent Spring, Rachel Carson warned readers about the dangers of the chemical industry and the widespread use of pesticides in agriculture. Kirsten Stolle’s art practice follows Carson’s lead in exposing the pervasive misinformation spread by biotechnology corporations from the post-war era to the present.
‘Pesticide Pop’ continues the artist’s research into agrochemical giants like Monsanto—who published a parodic rebuttal of Silent Spring back in the 60s. Stolle’s tactics of redaction, glitch, and appropriation across different media retell the true, toxic narrative of such conglomerates, and trace the connections between corporate interests and public health.
Audio files from 1940–50s US Department of Agriculture videos are extracted and looped; abraded chemical company stock certificates are superimposed with Letraset symbols; recent deceptive ads placed in the NY Times are corrected or blocked out; and a Monsanto TV commercial is turned into a series of lightboxes whose phrases call out the company’s greenwashing. As viewers find words in an oversized word-search puzzle – military – ddt – lawsuits – transgenic – war – the environmental violence of the industry emerges.
While Stolle employs humor – the titular series satirically reframes weed killer as Pop Art – her work hammers home the serious reality of long-lasting toxicity on our bodies, ecosystems, and the environment. With the recent Bayer-Monsanto merger, and landmark lawsuits from cancer patients against the company, the exhibition comes at a crucial moment; one in which, in the words of Carson, “the contamination of man’s total environment with such substances of incredible potential for harm … [goes] to shatter or alter the very material of hereditary upon which life depends.”