The formaldehyde-based resins that bind pressed woods are an overlooked, yet foundational, agent in the homemaking and technological dreamworlds of mid-twentieth century North America. Formaldehyde, an irritant, allergen, neurotoxin, and carcinogen, undergirds much of the comfort, security, and affordability of the modern home. In this talk Nicholas Shapiro tracks formaldehyde from the shale pores from which its precursor is siphoned, to high end green homes that have sacrificed indoor air quality in pursuit for increased energy efficiency. This talk explores what the good life looks like in an engineered world that subsidizes our standard of living while ever so slowly smothering us.
Nicholas Shapiro is the Matter, Materials and Culture Fellow at the Chemical Heritage Foundation, and the Open Air Fellow at Public Lab. He is a critic and practitioner of environmental monitoring and mitigation, collaborating across the social sciences, the natural sciences, and the arts.