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Dust as art: donors required

1 November 2010

Artist Serena Korda is making an unusual request. She has asked the public to donate dust, collected from their houses, workplaces or other locations, to form an artwork that will be displayed at Wellcome Collection as part of the spring 2011 exhibition, ‘Dirt: The filthy reality of everyday life’.

Korda's work is inspired by the commercialisation of waste in Victorian London, particularly the vast dust heaps which dominated the skylines at the top of Gray's Inn Road. Immortalised by Charles Dickens in 'Our Mutual Friend', the dust heaps supported a wide range of industries, including the making of bricks. Mud from the brick fields of Somers Town was mixed with the ash, cinders and rubbish from the dust heaps, and transformed the discarded, detritus and dirt of London into the material from which the expanding city was built.

The artwork, called 'Laid to Rest', will consist of 500 commemorative bricks made from dust given to the artist by the public. Anyone can contribute and each brick will carry an inscription with details about the dust from which it is made.

Serena Korda says: "I need people's dust, from the tops of their book shelves to the corners of their bedrooms. Let's face it, you don't have to look far to find a pile of dust gathering somewhere: I want people to collect it for me, pop it into a special dust collection envelope and become part of this time capsule. Watch as I transform the almost invisible into the palpable: a brick."

Ken Arnold, Head of Public Programmes at Wellcome Collection says: "Our relationship with dirt is fascinatingly ambivalent, and one we often choose to shy away from. Serena Korda's 'Laid to Rest' reminds us that dirt has always been part of daily life. By asking people to help make bricks from the dust of their surroundings, she is encouraging people to see that their surroundings are built from dust."

The growing stack of dust-made bricks will be exhibited as part of the Dirt exhibition at Wellcome Collection. While on display a series of events will celebrate and ritualise them, and the project will culminate in the burial of the bricks, returning them to the earth.

Image: London: The great dust-heap. Credit: E. H. Dixon, 1837. Wellcome Images.

About Dirt


'Dirt: The filthy reality of everyday life' runs from 24 March to 31 August 2011. The exhibition is part of Wellcome Collection‘s Dirt season, which will see events at selected dirty locations including music festivals and visitor attractions, as well as online.

About Serena Korda


Born in 1979, Serena Korda lives and works in London. She studied fine art at Middlesex University and printmaking at the Royal College of Art. Since 2004 she has been making public works based on encounters, conversations and the research of abandoned histories. Her works regularly encourage audiences to participate in events and performances that subvert everyday experiences.
'Laid to Rest' has been commissioned by the Wellcome Trust in association with UP projects, as part of the Dirt season.

About UP Projects


UP Projects believes in challenging perceptions of what public art can be. Operating as if a gallery without walls, UP is inspired by the complexities of the public realm to create a programme of artists' commissions, projects, strategies and multi-disciplinary events for a broad public audience. Since their first project in 2002, their work has consistently attracted considerable public attention.

Wellcome Trust, Gibbs Building, 215 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE, UK T:+44 (0)20 7611 8888