The Ethics of Dust at the Palace of Westminster 19.07.16

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An installation by Jorge Otero-Pailos is Westminster’s catharsis amid Britain’s current political uncertainty, says Vishanka Gandhi

Every few years, Westminster Hall is subject to a catharsis, a cleansing of the dense layers of soot and dust that have collected on its surfaces over the years. As part of a series titled The Ethics of Dust – named after an 1866 publication by social thinker John Ruskin – Madrid-born architect Jorge Otero-Pailos has employed his expertise in preservation to create an installation in the medieval hall – the oldest surviving element of the Palace of Westminster – out of this process.

The temporary, site-specific artwork, unveiled on 29 June, responds to the building’s surface and Ruskin’s concerns about sensitive conservation. Latex was applied to the eastern wall and allowed to dry to create a 50m-long translucent cast. The resulting screen was then reinforced with fabric, peeled off and suspended from the 28m-high hammerbeam roof.

 

Words

Vishanka Gandhi

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The artwork casts an ethereal glow across the hall, reminiscent of the light filtering through its glass windows, while reflecting the cracks, dents and protrusions of the original wall. Each layer of dust and soot corresponds to a historical event, from the Second World War blitz to the Great Smog of 1952.

Produced by Artangel, The Ethics of Dust is a bold statement in balancing the dense permanence of the robust Gothic hall with its tangible softness, where each wrinkle is a cue to contemplate the events that the limestone walls have witnessed since their completion in 1099.

The Ethics of Dust can be viewed at Westminster Hall, Palace of Westminster, London until 1 September 2016

   
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