On Dust: Memory as Performance and Materiality

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Abstract

The world's "worldliness" is, to a large extent, perceptually constructed through touch, kinaesthetics, and proprioception. Gesture, too, is embedded in sedimentations of the body's prior sensory exchanges with the environment. Materiality is transitive; it triggers sensory landscapes through performance. Consisting of particles of pollen, human and animal skin, hairs, minerals, soil, and burnt meteorites, dust is usually seen as the antithesis of the performative-material nexus. In this paper, I propose a different view: that dust is and acts as a connective tissue. Borrowing from Hélène Cixous's écriture blanche, Quentin Smith's degree presentism, and theorizing nostalgia as a structuring absence, I argue that dust does not numb memory but instead codes it. Activated by embodied acts that bring to light its metaphysical function, dust illuminates the grammar of existence in the spatial, temporal, and affective register.

Original languageEnglish
JournalContemporary Aesthetics
Volume6
Publication statusPublished - 13 Nov 2018

Keywords

  • degree presentism
  • haptic vision
  • memory
  • nostalgia
  • sensory stratigraphy
  • white writing

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