Dust imagined : a creative reflection on mortality, anxiety and process

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Why do skin, hair and fingernails that are desirable objects, belonging to a whole body and adding to its decoration, cause disgust and become markers of mortality when they are no longer part of the living body? When disembodied and separated into single strands, skin cells and nail clippings they repulse. In this project, by reconsidering, altering and curating dust, I produce artworks that allow for a new construction of its meaning. Extracted from my living spaces, the dust consists of fragments of objects that were once useful and contributed to a daily existence. In the form of household dust, they become useless. Through the creation of art objects I rework this substance so that it regains purpose. I view my body as a device for producing art, an instrument for construction as well as a producer of my chosen materials. I consider dust through the lens of various dualities: attraction and repulsion, fragility and strength, public and private, clean and dirty, order and chaos and presence and absence. As in all dualities, the potency of the one cannot fully function without the contrast of the other. Through the subtle altering of this non-matter (the dust), I have produced mark-making instruments, made use of it as props to aid performances and mediated its form through video pieces and photography. These products are an experiment in creating something from the non-thing. The material’s original use value is lost in its state as dust, rendering it without purpose - a found material that is always lost.

Includes bibliographical references.