Sunday, June 2, 2013

Dust Is A Contemporary Witness

by Drew Martin
I grew up in a very tidy and clean house, and yet when I used to sit by a window with sunlight streaming through it,  I would marvel at how the air seemed to be filled with dust; tiny fragments, which floated about like plankton, unaffected by the laws of gravity observed by everything else in my room.

I just watched an interesting German documentary, Dust, which examines house dust (made up of our hair and skin), industrial dust (coal, limestone, asbestos, etc.), land dust that gets kicked up and travels thousands of miles across continents and makes clouds possible, and stardust, which yields new planets and stars.

The film features candid but emotionless interviews with a number of scientists, industrial workers and even a house-proud homemaker who goes so far as to dismantle her television so she can soak the back panel in the tub while she continues cleaning inside it.

The arts are featured as well. The film shows art restorers who clean precious antique statues. There are a couple scenes of dust being cleaned from museum spaces, sculptures and paintings. Two artists collaborate and feature dust as a theme of their paintings and other art projects. My favorite was a third artist who set up her studio as a laboratory and morphologically arranged dust samples by the Linnaeus system used by biologists. Some of her quixotic comments include:

Dust and science both belong together, and they don't. Dust is a kind of interface. There's something philosophical about it. It has a scientific side to it but also an everyday side. To me, dust is a kind of proto-matter. It is a phantom particle. It exists out of the public eye. Yet it essentially has the potential to create matter.

Dust is a contemporary witness. We are always emitting dust. It is essentially the "personal cloud" around us.

Dust needs people. Man, culture creates dust, the dust we know at home. but on the other hand dust needs our absence in order to collect and grow. It's always going back and forth. It is like Leibniz said, like a herd where something is added and something is taken away. And the herd needs interaction between man and his environment, and between men themselves. Dust is a partner. We shouldn't forget. It belongs to us. Man wants to keep the dust out, but it's one of his very own mediums in a certain sense. Dust is the sediment of Creation so to speak.

Click here to watch the trailer for Dust.