THE GLOW OF GRIME


“We do not dislike everything that shines, but we do prefer a pensive luster to a shallow brilliance, a murky light that, whether in a stone or an artifact, bespeaks the sheen of antiquity. ... Of course this ‘sheen of antiquity’ of which we hear so much is in fact the glow of grime.”
- Jun’ichiro Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows


The Glow of Grime explores our cultural fascination with traces of history and our assumptions of the richness and character they embody. What is this illusive character comprised of? How much of a trace is required to serve as a register of a place? Drawing on the current popularity of “ruin porn” within Detroit culture and critique, The Glow of Grime asks us to consider what it means to embark on a tourism in which the primary souvenir is a photograph of someone else’s dirt, though disembodied and reframed to read as a haze of beauty. What can a further the decontextualization of that record illuminate?

The installation took form as a series of paper cones inhabiting the puddles of a disused transmission shop, among gears and grease and forgotten tools, mirroring the ethereal light filtering in through the skylights above. Coated with 90% isopropyl alcohol, the cones were designed to absorb the sludge that was left behind, creating a chromatographic record of each micro-environment over the course of a week. A collaboration with nature rather than a commentary or a dictation of it, the project allowed the dirt to draw its own patterns.

The Glow of Grime posits a new technology for translation, a means by which to take a record not of image, but of darkness. Backlit on a light table, the filters reveal hidden hidden human and chemical stories, as flecks and stains cast shadow and high water marks are edged by the thin luminous line of the float of oil.

Where         Detroit, MI
When          2016
How            Project Team: Elise DeChard