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A Handful of Dust

A Handful of Dust is David Campany’s speculative history of the last century, and a visual journey through some of its most unlikely 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 title it Dust Breeding. It’s abstract, it’s realist. It’s an artwork, it’s a document. It’s obscure but strangely compelling. Cameras must be kept away from dust but they find it highly photogenic. At the very same time, T.S. Eliot publishes the great modern poem “The Waste Land”: “I will show you fear in a handful of dust.”

The exhibition’s connections range far and wide, from aerial reconnaissance and the American dustbowl to the Middle East via conceptual art, landscape photography, still life imagery, scientific imaging and police files.

A Handful of Dust includes works by Man Ray, John Divola, Walker Evans, Edward Ruscha, Frederick Sommer, Wols, Sophie Ristelhueber, Robert Burley, Jeff Mermelstein, Bruce Nauman, Aaron Siskind, and Jeff Wall.

The exhibition originated at Le Bal, Paris, continues at the Pratt Photography Gallery and then travels to Whitechapel Gallery, London; and the Moderna Museet, Stockholm. MACK Books published a Handful of Dust by David Campany in 2015.