WITH* THE DUST
OF THIS PLANET
SV RANDALL / LEYLA MOZAYEN
because the news is always breaking. because the breaking wheel of your broken heart, or, how events at the macro level become events at the micro level when they're all just notifications on your phone. always a pandemic, always a flood, always the storm of the century looming. always a new villain or affliction to reiterate the arrow of time as an arrow of increasing correlation, barreling forward. an amalgamation forming from where and towards what?
The impetus to collect dust, as a radical inversion of extant use-value metrics (inching ever closer to Hoard), began around the time Daesh (the Islamic State) declared its so-called caliphate. Arriving three years into an already brutal Syrian civil war, the group attempted to legitimate itself through unabashed destruction. Public executions were common practice, for people and artifacts. Embedded in some videos came the tiniest consolation: billowing too easily into clouds of white dust, the objects couldn’t have been ancient originals. Plaster probably. Not stone. Has there ever been a more nefarious weaponization of the multi-part mold?
With three years further elapsed since it began, our understanding of this collection has evolved. There is no more looking for what makes sense, there is only looking for what sense exits in the senselessness. ‘Processing’ has become a far more literal endeavor, with our attempt at organizing detritus falling somewhere between research and performance. In collaboration, a doubling always. Like how parallelism is the primary device for the book of Psalms’ biblical poetry, be it synonymous or antithetic. What it means to obscure that poetry here by foregrounding its installation in braille—the anticipation of blindness, the obfuscation of language. That is to say if you cannot separate the signal from the noise can you ask what the noise itself signals?
As we sorted we wore casts of a pendant once housed in Syria’s Palmyra museum, before it was
destroyed. We developed improvisational strategies and modified found objects into the particular tools we required. While this methodology is ongoing, the microcosm of the gallery became something of a security checkpoint, straddling worlds. Titled after Eugene Thacker’s In the Dust of This Planet with an important distinction—our work, with* the dust of this planet understands, for all its abjection, “dust” as a generative force, as the nebulous raw material for alchemical creation yet to come.
How much dust will it take to save the world this time? And how will we know?