Dirt

Installation with scent. 2009, at ArtSpace New Haven, New Haven, CT

Installed at ArtSpace New Haven, Dirt occupied Gallery 5, which was scented with a synthetic perfume that smells like dirt. A soundtrack of Walter de Maria performing the drum solo “Cricket Music” played in the evenly-lit but otherwise empty gallery.

Dirt references both Walter de Maria’s “Earth Room” installations (1968 – 1977) and Robert Morris’ Dirt (1968), two seminal pieces that engage anti-formal and conceptual strategies in a critique of Modernist aesthetics and a shift away from the mathematical rigidity associated with Minimalism.

Exploiting the contradiction inherent in a clean white room smelling like dirt, Dirt makes visitors aware of that they are engaging in the process of smell and explores the link between immediate perception and existing mental models. Because a “dirty” clean white room is considered anomalous, the installation implies the question “What is dirty?” What is it that we name “dirty” and what is it that we feel is “dirty.”

Moreover, the installation asks about the meaning and function of smell in a world where odors are synthesized, while challenging the hegemony of vision in current art practice.