DRHA 2017: Data Ache
21st International Conference on Digital Research in the Humanities and Arts
The Arts Institute, University of Plymouth, 10 to 13 September 2017
Film of Dust: (Im)material days and the matter of history
Joint paper with Stuart Moore
This paper is a critical reflection on the creative potential of accepting the inevitable presence of dust in moving image production, by two artist-researchers whose practice originates in the analogue film and video production methods of the last century and which now fully embraces the digital technologies of the 21st.

Our film-making evolved through a range of video and audio tape formats and gauges of photochemical film. Our archive of physical and virtual media is stored in boxes, decaying hard drives, and obsolete optical media, dusted with environmental dirt - the detritus and data of the past.

In ‘professional’ film-making, every stage of production is as dust-free as possible - the ‘professional’ expects the recording of the view in front of their camera to be unsullied by the presence of environmental dirt. For analogue film media, considerable control and management measures are taken to exclude dust throughout the production workflow - either from settling on the unexposed film, collecting in the camera gate, or accreting during processing, editing, and archiving.

However, in our film-making, dust infiltrates throughout the process of production and beyond. Can we accept that dust is an integral part of our practice? In her 2002 work, Dust: The Archive and Cultural History, Carolyn Steedman argues the past is always present in an archive, which is the repository of “that which will not go away” - suggesting just like dust, the “matter of history” can never go away or be erased. This presentation explores the creative potential of dust as data - if we accept the presence of dust in the world, what potential new ways of thinking about data may be afforded by a ‘material turn to dust’?

Keywords: archive, digital, dust, materiality, moving image