Nuria Fuster's solo exhibition 'CHRONO–MATTER – Objects are closer than they appear' curated by Sonia Fernàndez Pan, is her second presentation at Efremidis Galery in Berlin.
Nuria Fuster: CHRONO–MATTER – Objects are closer than they appear
Curated by Sonia Fernàndez Pan
September 7, 2019 – November 2, 2019
Efremidis Gallery, Berlin
As I write this text, dust particles accumulate on the keyboard and screen of my computer. My writing process could be measured through this imperceptible matter that settles as this text happens. It does settle on my computer, but also in the space I inhabit right now. I move from time to time through this space, contributing to the displacement of thousands of dust particles. I am also contributing to the disappearance of thousands of bacteria. For a moment, I imagine piles of dust of different sizes showing the temporality that was necessary to write some of the great novels of literature. Fiction paid attention to dust long before theory, sedimenting it in its timeless temporalities. I think of the suffocating environment of the planet Dune; of the sticky sand that never disappears from the house of The Woman in the Dunes; of the synthetic skin made of ashes that covers the world of Ballard’s The Burning World. Is this fictitious dust a wordless oracle of futures that begin to manifest strongly in our present?
I imagine the dust that accumulates in the typewriters that nobody uses anymore, replaced by electronic devices that are born to be replaced soon after being used. Five years doesn’t mean the same thing to a typewriter as it does to a computer or a smart phone. I wonder if it is only our conception of time that changes or if it is time itself that is changing. I also wonder if objects, besides helping us to perceive the passing of time, are capable of perceiving it themselves. For a stone, three thousand years of human history are just a moment. For a human, five minutes can become an eternity. I wonder what five minutes will mean for a clock, which not only shares the various temporalities inscribed on objects, but is also capable of measuring time according to our numerical and fragmented conception of it. The life of objects transcends ours. They bring together human and non-human memory. They carry the meta-temporal scale of matter. Time accumulates in objects thanks to the constant settlement of dust on their surface.
The contact of my hands with the keys displaces again and again the dust particles that try to accumulate in them. Human activity seems to oppose that of matter. It interferes again and again with their movements. It interferes in its becoming, actively participating in lives that do not belong to it. Our imperative to have control over the environment is something that happens simultaneously on several scales. It happens through habits of cleanliness and order in the domestic space, to the different narratives of the configuration of the universe to which we belong. Each movement of the mop on the surface of the floor could be seen as a massacre of organisms that we are not able to perceive with our gaze. A fully-fledged mitecide. The fact that we are not able to perceive or experience something does not mean that this does not exist. However, dust particles do not disappear: they simply move and adhere to another surface. The alterity of matter is its extraordinary ability to transform itself continuously. Being becomes becoming.
As I type this text the image of a nebula appears in one of the tabs of my browser, behind the window of my word processor. The screen contains different layers thanks to multiple windows and tabs opened at the same time at different times. They are digital layers. In fact, my computer is a stratigraphic device, but not so much because of this simultaneity of screens within the same screen, but because of all the geological and extractivist processes that make its existence possible. It’s the same processes that make the existence of this text possible, which make it a geological fragment, as well as the image of the nebula on the Internet. I wonder how it is possible for a two-dimensional surface to be able to produce such a sense of depth. Or how is it possible that I can refer to what happens inside the screen through notions such as “front and back”? “up and down”? or even “inside”? Surfaces are never two-dimensional. Any plane needs a three-dimensional support to exist. This support, moreover, maintains a constant relationship of attraction with those particles that inhabit the world and that are able to penetrate our body without us realizing it. The history of surfaces is the history of dust. It is a story that cannot be told with words. Dust dissolves its form but reveals that of the rest of things. It is not even an object: it is a medium that sticks to objects, that dwells among them. It is a line of narration that condenses temporal and material networks, demonstrating the intimate relationship that exists between abstraction and reality. Wittgenstein says that the inexpressible is [inexpressibly] contained in the expressible. Is the immaterial [immaterially] contained in the material?
Meanwhile, millions of miles of light, cosmic dust shapes nebulae. Both life and death merge in them. In many nebulae stars are born thanks to the states of aggregation of matter. Others are the result of stars that are already extinct or in the process of extinction. Both terrestrial dust and nebulae share the quality of being matter of matter. In relation to the Universe, the magnitude of the planets and stars resembles that of the dust particles on Earth. The human being is a nebula: we are made of star dust. Cosmic matter is closer than it appears. A dust particle is the smallest recognizable entity of material transformation and circulation. An infinitely dense particle of matter is what gave rise to the Big Bang. And it is even possible that with this first explosion the first mirror was also born through an inverse parallel universe in which time moves backwards and not forwards. The fact that cosmic dust is able to expand in various directions implies that time is also able to do so.
A film of dust covers the surface of a mirror. It is so dense that it invalidates its reflective condition. The ephemeral memory of the mirror is replaced by the memory by dust sedimentation. A mirror that does not return an image to us is still a mirror? Can you imagine that it would be possible to store all the images produced by a mirror? Can you imagine that it would be possible to accumulate them in layers, in a similar way to how the windows and tabs of the computer screen work? Do the mirrors have memory? Perhaps they are the only representational memoryless device that actively participates in the shaping of human identity. Or maybe they have been telling us for many centuries that our commemorative drive, despite all the efforts we put into remembering and recording the past, is a frustrated activity. Our memory is also full of blind spots and dead zones. And yet, I fantasize about the possibility of knowing the first reflection that appeared in a mirror, knowing that this moment is a fiction that never existed. But if there is a parallel universe in which time travels backwards, perhaps there is a mirror in it capable of looking into the past. Is a mirror capable of reflecting all the information contained in the dust particles that rest on it?
I pass my hand over the surface of the mirror. I draw an S. It’s possible to write on the dust, also to draw. The dust gets stuck on the surface of my fingers. Dirtiness is a layer of life and time that covers things. The story of dirt is one of many unwritten stories. It tells us, among many other things, who works cleaning spaces and who works in clean spaces. It is ironic that this story was not written when dirt is inscribed in all things, when it is permanently visible and uncomfortable for the human being. But dust has never been part of the matter that matters. And yet it disturbs the very notion of matter. It cannot be grasped. It continually escapes from us as it becomes part of our own body with each respiratory movement. However, it is also not true that all dust is synonymous with dirt. Aluminium dust is what keeps the screens of our electronic devices bright.
But this sense of cleanliness is an illusion that hides the toxic conditions in which they have been produced. The history of communication is the history of multiple human experiments with matter that, in turn, experiments on the human body through multiple unexpected effects, often unwanted. I pass my hand on the touch screen of my phone. It is an unthinking caress that comes into contact with the violence contained in the history of technology. Although I cannot consciously perceive it, my hand has come into contact with indium, one of the many minerals that make up my smartphone. Like mirrors, it is a device to be seen and to entertain us with our own image. However our digital image also serves to entertain others, to control each other. Control has become a form of entertainment. The intense relationship we have with our smartphones seems to be oriented so that dust does not collect visibly on them. From this perspective, human digital hyper-connectivity could be a strategy used by our electronic devices to always stay clean. Not only for the interior of the human body, for the interior of the technology the dust also poses a danger. But it is precisely when things fail that we begin to notice their complexity. I pass my hand over the keyboard in an attempt to perceive the amount of dust that has accumulated in it since the last time I did so. I look at the dirt stuck to the edge of the keys and those areas that never come into contact with my hands and wonder if we have needed the emergence of digital technology to realize the capacity for action of the tiny, non-human things that stealthily intervene in human affairs. What if dust were the reflection of a future that comes back?
This text has been affected in different ways by Kōbō Abe, J.G. Ballard, Nuria Fuster, Frank Herbert, Regina de Miguel, Jussi Parikka, Jay R. Heald, sedimented theories about objects and matter and many dust particles.
Sonia Fernàndez Pan