THE MOON MUSEUM OF DUSTOLOGY,
COPENHAGEN (2013) and SOUTHAMPTON (2017)


 

The Moon Museum of Dustology was devoted to the study of dust.  It opened its doors to the public on 5th of April 2013 but closed on the same evening.  The museum focused on the research on dust from social, political, ethnographic as well as scientific points of views. The chief dustologist Atsuhide Ito resided in the museum, located in Copenhagen's Sankt Kjeld's Kvarter in order to research on dust in the area.  His research outcome was presented to the community of Sankt Kjeld on 5th of April during the museum's opening hours.

As a part of a program called Human Hotel, organized by Wooloo, I began my residency on 23rd of March and was given an accommodation at an apartment which belonged to a local pharmacist in Sankt Kjeld’s Kvarter in Copenhagen.  For two weeks I lived with my host.  I collected dust daily from my host’s apartment as well as residents with whom I became acquainted.  I also put a note in public spaces such as a supermarket notice board, a lamppost, a notice board in a large apartment block and a recycling container on a street.  The note said that I would clean a house or an apartment in exchange for collecting dust.  But nobody called.  I also collected dust from outdoor environments, public buildings. 

            On 5th April, I opened the museum called the Moon Museum of Dustology and I  as a chief dustologist produced a business card, the museum of dustology, the dust diary, a set of photographs and jars of dust collected from Copenhagen.  I have also made two films one of which shows floating dust in the living room.  On the opening occasion of the museum, as a dustlogist I gave a lecture on dustology.  Participants were also asked to scrub their skin and empty dust from their pockets and to throw some dandruff on to a large black board which functioned as painting.  I collected those dust and put it in one of the jars. 

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At seven-thirty in the morning, I looked into the mid air in the room while still lying on the sofa, and saw dust particles floating and slowly moving in the air as the morning light is cast into the room.

I collected dust from local residents. On 29th March Moon and I knocked three doors in the building in which Moon had her apartment, but no one opened their doors. Moon told me she was sure that Andrea was there in her apartment, but understandably she did not open the door. In the afternoon 29th March 2013 I walked around with a dustpan and brush in my hands in the neighbourhood and collected dust from the street. I walked past a closed down locksmith. In the shop window there was a white moth lying dead. White powdery wings were becoming indistinguishable from the dust around the body.

During my stay in Copenhagen I visited my old Danish friend Gitte’s temporary studio in Statens VærkstederFor Kunst (The State Workshop for Art) near the harbour on 26th March 2013. Gitte and I met for the first time in Daugavpils in Latvia during the artist-in-residency program. Gitte updated me with her recent events in her life as we sat on the embankment looking across the bay and ate our sandwiches. I collected dust from the metal and wood workshops and from her studios in where she worked for her next exhibition.

I also put an advertisement with my mobile phone number on super market noticeboards, street light poles to advertise my cleaning service that I offered in exchange for collecting dust.

The exhibition was accompanied with a lecture on dustology

Dust: entanglement of lives and matters, Lecture Performance

Atsuhide Ito

The Moon Museum of Dustology

 

1st slide

Welcome to the Moon Museum of Dustology.  I am the chief dustologist here in this museum.  I would like to thank William, Sixten, Madison and Adam at Wooloo who made my research in Sankt Kjeld’s Kvarter possible and who have been infinitely encouraging. I would also like to thank Sanne Johanssen and Trine Meincke who welcomed me to their private homes and let me collect their dusts.  More than anybody I would like to thank Ann Moon Raagaard who has been hosting me in this museum for the last two weeks. Without her hospitality, the museum could not have opened.  She has been supportive throughout the research.  She has the happiest sounding laughter in the entire universe.

 

2nd slide

In this evening I would like to talk about dustology. Dustology is a new subject area.  Dustology is a cross over area of archaeology and nanotechnology, in other words, it is about old and small matters.  When I was studying at the Royal College of Dustology in London, I learned that the origin of dustology goes back to the Danish physicist Niels Bohr who worked in Copenhagen in Denmark. Today, Niels Bohr institute is situated just across the park from here. So, it is a perfect opportunity to open the first museum of dustology in the world in Copenhagen and in Sankt Kjeld’s Kvarter. 

 

3rd slide

Let us look at this slide.  Is it not amazing? This beautiful carpet of dust accumulated on a bookshelf, which the dustologist calls quite simply shelf dust. You can admire its finely and delicately resting dust almost refusing to be wiped away.

 

Now I will tell you a little bit about the history of dust.  I will try to make it brief but you know how dustologists are like. They tend to be longwinded and dusty.

 

I was yesterday invited for a dinner at a friend’s near the lake.  She and her boyfriend tried hard to teach me how to say dust in Danish.  Støv.  They told me to stop or almost breath in at the end of ø, and not to pronounce v.  The English word dust can be traced to the German word Dunst which means vapor (Amato 4). Dust is a strange and curious word.  In English dust can be a noun but also it can be a verb. To dust can have two opposing meanings.  If you dust, it can mean that you are removing something as in cleaning your apartment.  At the same time if you dust it can also mean to be sprinkling something like a small of portion of powder sugar on to a piece of cake or a pie. 

 

4th slide

In this slide you can see dust accumulated on the edge of the window.  Is it not so lovely to see them all lined up there?

 

5th slide

Let us look at the next slide.  This beautiful dust on the lock shows its glory of the intimate and inseparable relationship between lock and the key who obviously have been together tightly like a good old couple.  As the dusologist can tell from the dust, the key has not been turned for a long time.

 

Because dust is small its history is related to the history of looking closely.  In this sense we should note that a microscope was invented by the Dutch spectacle maker named Zacharias Jansen in 1590, or Galileo claimed to have invented in 1610 (Amato 59).  Glass had been available for a long time but good quality lenses came about around this time.  As well as technological innovations, the consciousness about cleanliness, that is to remove dust and dirt from you body also developed in the nineteenth century.  For instance, companies which make soap bars such as Colgate-Palmolive started in 1806, Procter & Gamble began in 1837, Johnson and Johnson in 1882 and 1886, The Avon Corporation in 1888, the company which produces shaving forms and razor, The Gillette Corporation came about in 1895.  In general the interest in cleanliness and hygiene quickly developed around this time.  The interests in small matters developed in science too.  For instance, Wilhelm Roentgen discovered X-ray in 1895 and A. H. Becquerel’s discovered radioactivity in uranium in 1897.

 

6th slide and 7th slide

Let us move to the next slide.  Are you excited? What do you think what this is.  Yes.  This type of dust is called lampshade dust in dustology.  We like plain expressions instead of using Latin names.  Is it so beautiful to see all those dust resting as if they are having a rest on the lamp shade.

 

Before the nineteenth century dust meant more of old skin and dirt from soil which was carried on shoes and clothes. However, in the nineteenth century especially in England as the industrial revolution brought about a drastic change ever seen in history, more dusts were generated through industrial production and they became visible and the pollution made people became more conscious of dust as they started to suspect that dust was harmful. Inexplicable cases of illness were blamed in operations in undetectable level of dust.  Not only in England but in many new nation states began to regulate dust as a cause of main illnesses. And of course the major change occurred when electric light was introduced and people started to see how dusty their houses and streets were.  Eyeglasses also became more available in the late nineteenth and the early twentieth century and that helped people to see more dust.

 

8th slide

Today dust can be thought of as a wide range of matters. Dust can be environmental pollution, nuclear radiation, lice, residue of human skin, hair, crumbled parts of a book or a table or nanotechnologically produced invisible materials. Dust is in a way a matter which borders itself with non-matter which is invisible, like a ghost.

 

9th slide

I like this story of Michlet, the French historian who used to go to an archive to find out other people’s lives which were buried in the books in an archive.  In those days, the books were bound with tanned leather. As leather broke down to pieces and crumbled and floated in the air of the reading room, the historian Michlet inhaled the small and invisible particles which used to be the covers of the books he was studying and developed a fever, an illness particular to historians.  This illness is called the archive fever, the archive illness.  In order to recover and retell the stories of others the historian had to suffer, similar to the career of the dustologist.

 

10th slide

When I was collecting samples of dust in this area, I was most excited when I discovered the dust in radiators.  This is so far the major breakthrough in our research.  Please have a look at the fine woolen quality of dust.  They begin to form a cloud shapes though a process of an entanglement.  I am considering to write an article about this new discovery in the journal of Dustology in this year.  The kind of cloudy dust can be called could dust as I said earlier we like to avoid Latin expressions and prefer simple ones.

 

 

Although buildings deteriorate, and objects break down and dust appears like a ghost of things obliterated.  Niels Bohr, the Danish physicist who studied matters so small and invisible developed quantum physics.  I am not going to pretend to understand his theory. But from an ordinary dustologist’s point of view, it is interesting that he talked about how an observer influences the object which is studied.  Like some of dust captured and caught like a painter captures the nature in landscape panting, the dustologist captures dust and makes dust visible.  But the dustologist has a job to do only when there is dust.  To translate this into my stay in Sankt Kjeld’s Kvarter, without the hospitality of the people in Sankt Kjeld’s Kvarter, the dust would not have been made visible.

 

 

It has become clear to me at least what those jars of dust may be about.  The jars embody the notion of entanglement which Karen Barrad talks about.  The jars illuminate the entanglement of matters from human bodies, objects, insects, which all have social and political implications.  As human hair falls and deteriorates into small matters and a chipped part of a table falls on to a floor, they become equal as dust.  The hierarchy which is produced and generated by a complex network of meanings and histories become nullified among dust.  On a floor or a corner of a room, they rest equal as dust although social significations do not disappear.  They still carry the memories and histories of what they have been.  When collected in the jar, they become entangled as if they illuminate how organic and inorganic matters, the physical and the social signification, the private fragments of hair or skin become entangled with others’ old skins and hair which no longer belong to the old owners.

3rd April 2013

 

Trine welcomed me into her apartment.  Her son C. was at home as there was a teachers’ strike and schools were closed.  C. was about 6 or 7.  He had tidied his room as he heard that I was coming today.  He was a sweet boy who carefully left dust for me to collect but lined up his toy monsters on a chest of drawers.  Trine, her son and I had tea and coconut cakes.  At eleven, the grandmother came and sat with us. 

            I began collecting dust by sweeping the surfaces of furniture as if I was making brushstrokes to make invisible paintings.  C. and his grandmother were watching a video while I made invisible paintings with dust.

Installation View at the Museum of Dustology, The Spark, Solent University, 2017

Details of dust in the petri dishes, 2017