Revisiting the past can be as simple as a trip down nostalgia lane, but for the many survivors of the Vietnam War and their children—as with any war—the past haunts their present. During the infamous war that lasted 16 years, 90 million gallons of Agent Orange were sprayed across South Vietnam in what was dubbed herbicidal warfare—a form of warfare with the objective of destroying the ecosystem of an area in order to disrupt agricultural food production or vegetation providing enemy cover. What wasn’t known at the time was the effect the chemical would have on humans. What is known now is visible in the many survivors exposed to Agent Orange and their children. The UCR/California Museum of Photography recently launched an exhibit, aptly titled Agent Orange, dedicated to those affected by dioxin—the carcinogen that is the primary active toxin in the herbicide—and shared their stories through a mix of mediums mainly but not limited to photography. One of the most remarkable and creative installations was the grotesque and intriguing display of Damaged Gene by Dinh Q. Lê, a collection of double-headed baby dolls, a set of knits intended for those babies and pacifiers made for three—all emphasizing the genetic defects that could result from exposure to dioxin. Other moving pieces by Goro Nakamura, Doan Duc Minh and Binh Danh involve real-life stories that at times seemed too macabre to be authentic.
Agent Orange at UCR/California Museum of Photography, 3824 Main St., Riverside, (951) 287-4787; www.cmp.ucr.edu; Tues-Sat, Noon-5PM. Thru Aug. 29.