I first started thinking about dust when lying on the sofa in my flat, procrastinating on putting together a dissertation proposal. Eyes casting around for things to do other than study, I noticed that an enormous amount of dust had gathered under the table. Where trapped by chair legs it was forming dustbunnies, tangles of an oddly purpleish fuzz and hair that were a prodigious size seeing as I had swept only a couple of days previously. It didn't seem fair. I had to be the one to blame – my previous flat had been excessively dusty too, but that was clearly due to sharing it with two engineering-student boys. Now, living alone, this dust had to be my responsibility – yet I was neither balding nor scrofulous, and my flat's soft furnishings were not becoming threadbare. Where was this material coming from? I was disturbed.
The problem of dust was clearly a more interesting question than any possible dissertation. How frequently did I need to clean in order to prevent dust, daily? But that would be silly. The dust was quite a pleasing colour and safely out-of-the-way, so perhaps I should just leave it? After all, dust wasn't really yucky – it just sat there quietly – and cleaning to avoid my dissertation was clearly procrastination to be discouraged. I had thought I lived in every inch of my tiny flat, yet on reflection dust marked all the spaces in which my presence was absent, the out-of-the-way places my feet didn't tread and my body didn't occupy. Dust sat in corners, under the bed, and on top of the cooker hood, while the rest of the flat acquired discarded clothes and coffee stains, traces instead of use. And paradoxically this dust marking all the places I wasn't was nonetheless made of me, made of my skin and made of hair no more dead than that attached to my head. It suggested a sort of hidden embodiment-apart-from-the-body, dispersed over space and time. The accumulation of dust was like the accumulation of the past, which must at some point become suffocating to the present – housework the only thing preventing the transformation of the home into a nightmarish haunted house. What if dust could be sentient, like the animated soot particles in the film I'd watched recently, Spirited Away? This stuff was weird, intriguingly so.
I decided I wanted to do some serious thinking about dust.
28 September 2008
What I've been working on in these weeks away from this blog - this is the introduction to my Masters dissertation entitled Dust: Disturbing the Domestic: