This website showcases the artwork of Suzanne Duncan, artist, sculptor, who currently resides in Cape Town, South Africa.
Dust Imagined: A creative reflection of mortality, anxiety and process.
By reconsidering, altering and curating dust, I produce artworks that allow for a new construction of its meaning. Extracted from my living spaces, the dust consists of fragments of objects that were once useful and contributed to a daily existence. In the form of household dust, they become useless. Through the creation of art objects I rework this substance so that it regains purpose.
At the beginning of the Master’s programme I began the monthly exercise of tipping out the contents of my vacuum cleaner in my studio and examining the objects included in this mound of uncertainty. I have extracted meaning from the dust that I have produced through my lived experience (collected by vacuuming my apartment and studio space). What I refer to as ‘dust’ includes every object (of various size, density and proximity to the body) in which my monthly harvesting of my vacuum cleaner results. Sifting is a process of clarification as things are separated and neatly organised resulting in order through classification: dealing with the little things rather than one large overwhelming mess that contributes to anxiety. Much of my production is constructed through a sense of compulsion. The ‘death anxiety’ that occurs when facing my own mortality through the collection of my dust fuels repetitive gestures and labour intensive production as a means of dealing with this unease. Some of these processes rely on the practice of ballet, where the ideal ballet/feminine is impossible to achieve. Channeling anxiety into an ordered product is one of the ways that I derive significance from this matter without purpose.
Through the subtle altering of this non-matter (the dust), I have produced products that are an experiment in creating something from the non-thing. The material’s original use value is lost in its state as dust, rendering it without purpose – a found material that is always lost.
I view my body as a device for producing art, an instrument for construction as well as a producer of my chosen materials. To collect my dust for two years is to realise the extent that my body is slowly losing itself, slowly transcending from useful matter into useless matter. It is the material evidence of life as it wanes. I peer over my dead body matter in this form and imagine the function of this byproduct of corporeal existence.
Sifting the dust is like panning for gold. Here detritus becomes precious as I seek treasures in the dust and valuable fragments that discretely increase my collection of materials. The dust is sifted and separated into 4 categories: Silt (fine dust), Felt (lint), Large Dust Bits (fragments of objects), and Left Over (matted hair). In a practice of subsistence, my rate of production depends on the rate of the material collecting.
I explore the concerns that shape the way in which I work with this dust: investigating how mortailty is linked to dust and dirt, which are further linked to the feminine body, Matter, Anxiety and the various forms of Process that this anxiety prompts. Tropes of mortality and time appear throughout this study as inextricable from the dust.
To be presented with my own dust is to become aware of the exchange from the living to the dead. The dust grows at the imagined equal rate of deterioration of my body: an hourglass on its side. Clues such as wrinkles and loss of hair reveal the body’s slow decay. These small objects and accretions that contribute to our dust, our loss, lost time. Collecting dust is a direct confrontation with this loss.
The body is in a state of atrophy. Molecule by molecule, in motion so slow that it is barely evident the body slips away, silently; while being gathered incrementally in the form of dust, in a state of accretion on the surfaces of the very living soaces that the body inhabits.
This body of work will intentionally grow and change each time I exhibit it (as the project will continue throughout my lifetime). It is this contingency that allows for an open-endedness in the work. It is a project that lacks a conclusion in its inability to be resolved.
My work centers on the corporeal and the premise of the body as a site of self-healing, renewal and repair as well as inherently possessing an erotic element. At the forefront of my work is the notion of a dichotomy of strength and fragility within the body, both as a structural organism as well as a contributor and indicator of how we experience life. This dichotomy is often explored by testing the integrity of certain materials.
In much of my work I use my own body matter as my material of choice, such as strands of my hair and fingernails, positioning myself in my own work for self-referential effect as well as serving as evidence of my existence.
Much of my work operates around the theme of subsistence, using only what is produced (such as my own body matter) thus the amount produced and the rate of production often prescribe the work.
The work I create rests on a decidedly labor-intensive process, these acts of contrainment and ritual were acquired as a means of channeling nervous energy into an object of desire. As the art takes place during the creation of the work, the finished piece acts as the ultimate record of the process.