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Collapsing Clouds of Gas and Dust

Collapsing Clouds of Gas and Dust is comprised of works made from the dust collected in an abandoned photo studio located in the Barakat Building. The Barakat Building, now “Beit Beirut”,is a historical landmark, and the site of a future museum for the history and memory of the city.

The first work, from which the exhibition takes its title, is a series of crystals created from this dust. In reconstructing imperceptible biological debris, such as microscopic hair and skin particles found in the dust, into physical objects, dust figures as ‘remains’ – as a material index of human and non-human activity that is continuously accumulating on objects and in spaces. In this sense, the act of memorialization is proposed primarily as an act of delineating the very space of remains. Monumentality, in this sense, inheres not in the scale of the structure or in acts of ‘museification’, but in the material and historical weight that has accumulated and settledover time.

Suspended Silver is a photographic series made from silver particles collected from found film debris. Over time, damaged film negatives had lost some of their light-sensitive silver crystals on which the image is formed. By finding and printing these silver particles – the material equivalent of pixels – the composition of information that produced the original photographs is reshaped into opaque remains that bear the physical and formal traces of the original photographs, all the while rendering them remote and cryptic relics.

The iteration of the project presented here features two sets of works that deploy chemical procedures that synthesize archaeological and narrative strands of information ossified in biological debris into artifacts. The crystals are produced by creating conditions for chemical elements found in the dust to form compounds, which in turn are stimulated to form crystals. The process utilizes the natural tendency for certain elements to form objects; objects that have a predetermined shape and color, yet which are ‘interrupted’ by impurities found in the dust mixture. Silver particles were separated to form the material base for the photographic series. The light-sensitive silver particles that were once the medium on which photographic information was inscribed, are considered inscriptions in their own right and are printed as photographs. 

Collapsing Clouds of Gas and Dust is not an exhumation, nor an excavation. It is an almost technological exploration in fabricating objects that embody the scripts solidified in matter. It proposes an ‘original’ understanding of memory as a physical, yet impersonal trace, as well as a form waiting to be decoded and re-inscribed.