Ask a bunch of artists to work with dust, dirt and other filthy stuff and you’ll get a different looking exhibition. Like “Swept Away” at the MAD (Museum of Art and Design, NY). Instead of working with traditional media, like paint, they used materials and substances which are normally considered as detritus.
Smoke and its residue are the discarded products of other materials consumed by flames. Here smoke becomes the medium for refined and elaborate drawings in empty bottles (which are usually also discarded). (see image)
Or smoke is used to make patterns and drawings in the sky. The drawings being as ephemeral as the smoke itself. (see image of Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang’ s explosive gunpowder art)
When we dust our rooms, all we do is collect pollution, our own dead skin particles and dead or living insects. Here a dirty duster is changed into a sculpture of a human skull.
Or pollution becomes image when you leave your table and chinaware too long outside. (see image)
What you find in a vacuum cleaner becomes the velvety surface of classical wallpaper.(see image)
The dryer lint, the soft stuff you find in your clothes dryer, and hair of all the persons who use the machine; it combines beautifully in the patchwork of a quilt. (see image)
A bouquet in unbaked terracotta; its flowers as brittle and transient as the real thing. Of earth it is made. To earth it will return. (see image)
The ashes of burnt books in hourglasslike receptacles; the stories are there, albeit in a different form. But they can never be read again. (see image)
An elegant and intricate carpet of sugar, waiting to be swept away by the swirling moves of waltzers. (see image)
This exhibition didn’t get the media attention nor set-up as any Moma show. But the Museum of Art and Design is never disappointing. Never.
Here we have an exhibition with a different approach, to say the least. It makes you think, from the moment you walk in, till hours after you’ve walked out.
It’s about matter gone by. It’s beautiful things turned into dirt. And dirt into beautiful things.
It’s a different look upon fleetingness. On how things we thought were gone are sticking around. It’s about life and death.
In a society where handsanitizers can be found at every entrance, this exhibition comes as a filthy cold shower. It makes us realize what we seemed to have forgotten: that we cannot escape from our own dirt. That everything we discard stays around. And that one day we, too, will become dirt, ash, trash, smoke, detritus, …call it what you want.