A Handful of Dust is David Campany’s speculative history of the last century, and a visual journey through some of its unlikeliest imagery. Let’s suppose the modern era begins in October of 1922. A little French avant-garde journal publishes a photograph of a sheet of glass covered in dust. The photographer is Man Ray, the glass is by Marcel Duchamp. At first they call it a view from an aeroplane. Then they call it Dust Breeding. It’s abstract, it’s realist. It’s an artwork, it’s a document. It’s revolting and compelling. Cameras must be kept away from dust but they find it highly photogenic. The very same month, a little English journal publishes TS Eliot’s poem The Waste Land. “I will show you fear in a handful of dust.”
And what if dust is really the key to the ensuing decades? Why do we dislike it? Is it cosmic? We are stardust, after all. Is it domestic? Inevitable and unruly, dust is the enemy of the modern order, its repressed other, its nemesis. But it has a story to tell from the other side.
The connections range far and wide, from aerial reconnaisance and the American dustbowl to Mussolini’s final car journey and the wars in Iraq. a Handful of Dust accompanied an exhibition of the same name, curated by David Campany for Le Bal, Paris (October 2015- January 2016), with works by Man Ray, John Divola, Sophie Ristelhueber, Mona Kuhn, Xavier Ribas, Nick Waplington and many others, alongside anonymous press photos, postcards, magazine spreads and movies.