Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life. –Pablo Picasso
The inspiration of today’s post comes from the dusty corners of the Museum of Ridiculously Intersting Things…dust. Dust itself, it would seem, is a ridiculously UNinteresting matter. The word ‘dusty’ is even used to describe things that are dry, outdated, dull. But I was recently struck by the ubiquity of this humble material as a medium in contemporary art, and began to pay closer attention to its make up and its potential as an artistic symbol. Turns out dust can be ridiculously interesting.
Vienna-based artist Klaus Pichler, for example, spent two years from 2008-2010 working on a series of photographs of dust collected from different places in Vienna. From dressmaking shops, to museums, to soccer clubs, each image is a tiny microcosm of the place it was collected in.
The photographs are surprisingly compelling, with expressive detail and bold hints of color that seem to be the real life equivalent of an Abstract Expressionist painting.
This series, I think, captures a very particular type of dust. It is dust that is primarily the remnants of human activity and contemporary culture, mixed with microscopic bits of the world that are beyond our control and our manufactured environments. In this way, each little dust pile captured by Pichler is like a metaphor for the museum, which scrapes together the remnants of human activity and attempts to present them in a way that tells a story about its original context. Somehow, though, I find Pichler’s photographs of dust even more successful in this pursuit than museums. Each image genuinely inspires me to think hard about the place it was found in, to imagine the people and objects that are found there, in a way that museums aspire to but rarely achieves. Who knew that all this time, the key to overcoming the “dusty museum syndrome” was in the dust itself!
What would the dust in your home or work say about the people, objects and activities in that space?
// See part two of the “From the dusty corner of the museum…” series on Cornelia Parker here.
// Images via Klaus Pichler.
Elsewhere on the Museum of Ridiculously Interesting Things:
- Cornelia Parker’s dust earplugs
- Embroidered toast by Judith Klausner
- Beautiful bird guts by Jane Howarth
- Vintage ads for medical leeches