Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Dirt: The filthy reality of everyday life (at the Wellcome Collection)

The ravages of cholera, a disease of filth,
as seen in Dirt: the filthy reality of everyday life.

The folks at the Wellcome Collection have done it again. Take a totally banal, prosaic subject -- in this case, dirt -- and re-contextualize it by means of drawings, engravings, film, and artifacts. Though all around us in varying ways, dirt is also taboo, in that talking about it and acknowledging its presence is unsettling. Better off ignoring it, according to common wisdom. But Dirt: The filthy reality of everyday life takes all this head-on. The result is an evocative cultural and social history, driven by visually arresting images. Health and medicine are of course at the heart of this story, but often in surprising and intriguing ways. Can’t wait to see it in person this summer. For the meantime, one can get a better idea of the range and character of Dirt from a great sampler of images and objects on the Wellcome Collection website.

Curatorial credit for the exhibition goes to Kate Forde, James Peto, and Lucy Shanahan.

See mention and reviews of Dirt in the Washington Times, the Guardian, and the Montreal Gazette

Jim Edmonson

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