'Dust Tapes' from the series 'Dust Tapes'

Dust Tapes. Dust and transparent tape. 2020

This work is a site specific response to The Old Soapworks Building , Bristol as part of The Centre of Gravity exhibition held from October to November 2020. Published in the Space Place Practice Publication ‘Place: Soapworks’ for the exhibition.

‘The Dust Tapes’ is also a 16mm film

I am interested in the dust archaeology of the building and set about making tapes of particle residues from surfaces on the fourth floor. This top level of Gardiner Haskins was where the soap was manufactured and more recently was used as storage for washing machines.

I have made film strips by hermetically sealing each dust layer within two strips of tape producing a transparent forensic image. that I magnify and project as a still or moving image. I am drawn to the handmade analogue approach as I am interested in the materiality behind the image.

I was in a way, performing a ‘forensic ritual’ of dust collector walking around the fourth floor of the building examining window sills, walls and crawling on the floor retrieving evidence of the past

Using plain old transparent sticking tape and employing a simple rubbing and peeling technique – bought to my mind the method deployed by the research physicists Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov in 2010 to remove thin layers of graphite from a pencil rubbing, also known as micromechanical cleavage technique. By repeatedly applying and removing transparent sticky tape on this area of graphite until the thinnest possible layer, a single layer of carbon atoms, was achieved leading to the  discovery of ‘graphene’. However, I am using this method as an additive technique, (not a reductive technique). When I applied the tape to the fabric of the building, I peel away particles of debris, dust and sometimes a mere smudge.

The dusty material that sticks to the tape also holds a myriad of particles including pollen that are captured and trapped as air bubbles. I notice that the invisible traces of touch are made into fingerprints by the fine dust, bringing the past and present together.

The Bristol Byzantine style building was built in 1860’s with red bricks which very likely contain coal ash from the Victorian waste heaps. Dust collectors would comb through the debris and the coarser dust was sold to brick manufacturers. These bricks in turn shed dust as the material breaks down in the same as our bodies continually shed our skin. Dust indicates the constant transmutation of material.

Dust to dust