with* the dust of this planet
L E Y L A M O Z A Y E N / S T E V E N R A N D A L L
09/01/2017 - 09/17/2017
A limited edition catalog will be available for purchase through our online store and at the gallery after September 24th, 2017
because the news is always breaking. because the breaking wheel of your broken heart, or, how events at the macro level become events at the micro level when they're all just notifications on your phone. always a pandemic, always a flood, always the storm of the century looming. always a new villain or affliction to reiterate the arrow of time as an arrow of increasing correlation, barreling forward. an amalgamation forming from where and towards what?
The impetus to collect dust, as a radical inversion of extant use value metrics (inching ever closer to Hoard), began around the time Daesh (the Islamic State) declared its so-called caliphate. Arriving three years into an already brutal Syrian civil war, the group attempted to legitimate itself through unabashed destruction. Public executions were common practice, for people and artifacts. Embedded in some videos came the tiniest consolation: billowing too easily into clouds of white dust, the objects couldn’t have been ancient originals. Plaster probably. Not stone. Has there ever been a more nefarious weaponization of the multi-part mold?
With three years further elapsed since it began, our understanding of this collection has evolved. There is no more looking for what makes sense, there is only looking for what sense exits in the senselessness. ‘Processing’ has become a far more literal endeavor, with our attempt at organizing detritus falling somewhere between research and performance. In collaboration, a doubling always. Like how parallelism is the primary device for the book of Psalms’ biblical poetry, be it synonymous or antithetic. What it means to obscure that poetry here by foregrounding its installation in braille—the anticipation of blindness, the obfuscation of language. That is to say if you cannot separate the signal from the noise can you ask what the noise itself signals?
As we sorted we wore casts of a pendant once housed in Syria’s Palmyra museum, before it was destroyed. We developed improvisational strategies and modified found objects into the particular tools we required. While this methodology is ongoing, the microcosm of the gallery became something of a security checkpoint, straddling worlds. Titled after Eugene Thacker’s In the Dust of This Planet with an important distinction—our work, with* the dust of this planet understands, for all its abjection, “dust” as a generative force, as the nebulous raw material for alchemical creation yet to come. From dust and to dust, in Christianity and Islam both.
The year Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein had no summer, dust from a volcanic eruption blocked the sun for weeks, lowering temperatures across the globe. Despite the fact this year began with La Niña conditions, which tend to temporarily cool the planet, July 2017 was the hottest month on record. All compelling evidence suggests anthropogenic climate change is picking up speed. How much dust will it take to save the world this time? And how will we know?
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LEYLA MOZAYEN is an artist sometimes known by her chosen Caliph name, Lala Dimashq, though her jurisdiction in that capacity is not widely recognized. Her process engages autoethnography, failure, and material constructions of power, with whatever legitimation is conferred by Bachelor’s degrees in Literature and Studio Art from Bard College. Additional [pre revolution] study at the University of Damascus proved formative to an interdisciplinary body of work spanning writing, performativity and site-specific installation. Queering furniture transgresses the domesticity proscriptive to interior design, while “weaponized” objects enact violence in service of the same social upheaval. The position between complicity and resistance occupied by these sculptures is animated by a rigorous studio practice and the motley-assortment of institutions, non-profits, galleries, exhibition spaces, craigslist schemes, and unsanctioned street performances which have lent and are still lending their generous support.
STEVEN RANDALL is an interdisciplinary artist working with sculpture, photography and installation to examine the relationship between consumer, commodity, and transformation. Within a culture of feverish consumption and retinal impatience he often re-creates overlooked objects rendered in symbolic materials. His work has been shown both nationally and internationally. Steven is the recipient of the Toby Devin Lewis Fellowship Award, a Sculpture Fellowship through the Virginia Commission for the Arts, and a Visiting Artist Grant through the Institute for Electronic Arts. Since graduating from Alfred University in 2010, he has worked as an art handler, screen printer, visiting artist, art educator, and research assistant at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He recently received his MFA in Sculpture + Extended Media from Virginia Commonwealth University.