Born Secret

August 20th, 2019

A mythologized Uranium enrichment facility in Honeywell sets the scene for radioisotopes that are key markers for determining the Anthropocene.

The Anthropocene unites the unlikely combination of Superman and a Kentucky uranium plant through Jeremy Bolen, Brian Holmes, and Brian Kirkbride’s Born Secret project, which chronicles how historical processes of scientific industrialization have left their mark on the planet.

Born Secret begins in Metropolis, Illinois, where the fictional Superman discovered kryptonite, his one fatal weakness. In this sleepy little town on the banks of the Ohio River, a real factory produced uranium hexafluoride gas, which was enriched for use in nuclear bombs at another site just across the water, in Paducah, Kentucky. The two forgotten factories exemplify the science-based production process of our own fatal weakness: the “Great Acceleration” of the Anthropocene, whose geological threshold is marked by fallout particles deposited across the earth during the period of above-ground nuclear testing (1952-1964). The video follows this “Anthropocene mode of production” to its top-secret origin at Oak Ridge Laboratory, where the Manhattan Project drew on hydroelectric power furnished by the river-basin development program of the Tennessee Valley Authority.