DUST VR @ New Media Gallery, New Westminster, Canada | 2023

DUST VR @ New Media Gallery, New Westminster, Canada | 2023

“dust carries wisdom; data captures knowledge” – GodNode

“…the twenty first century (is) the century of dust…” – Jussi Parikka

New Media Gallery, New Westminster, Canada: 1 gallery, 2 screens, 4 VR stations, 8µg/m³ PM2.5, 12µg/m³ PM10, 57 community labs, 80 countries, 12000 sensors

June 3 – August 13, 2023

photo by patrickjohnstone.ca

Michael Saup & Matevž Kolenc

4 Module VR Installation with video projection

DUST VR by Michael Saup makes use of virtual reality (VR) to represent, explore and confront the great scourge of urban particulate matter on earth. Using software programmed by the artist, the artwork technology is used to interpret and connect particulate emissions from 10 separate dust sensors installed throughout New Westminster, as well as show us emission-landscapes from sensors dotted throughout the world. Using a VR Head-set, the visitor to the gallery is able to enter the space of each sensor location. We are dropped into an uncanny, landscape, integrated from open-source street locations and real-time (citizen-collected) data, representing the real-time, movements and levels of dust air pollution at that spot. It is an aestheticized experience; at once captivating and horrifying . The score by Matevž Kolenc haunts this liminal, performance-private space, reminiscent of dystopian sci-fi; underlining the real-world threat of particulate dust on future lives and future cities.

opening night, photo courtesy of NMG


777 Columbia St, New Westminster, Metro Vancouver, British Columbia, BC V3M 5V2, Canada

Dust VR by Michael Saup is a fascinating installation. Someone at the opening last Saturday enthused at the way Saup has been able to organize layers of complex data in a way that is so intuitively clear….as well as creating a visually and conceptually compelling work of art. Dust VR uses levels of dust around the world…gathered in real-time by tiny sensors at each location, all hooked to the internet. We enter each location using VR. The internal VR geography and structures are re-created by Saup from open-source information. Saup also sends virtual ‘agents’ into each location to move the dust data around so we can witness predicted behaviour from things like cars, people, bikes, wind. Although you cannot see these agents, you do see how they disturb the dust and you’re able to witness amazing causal effects; waves, flights, ripples.
Every day over 12,000 active sensors around the world are hooked up, actively reading dust (smoke, pollen, particulate dust from all sources). Dust levels are shown in real time as digital particles. Each sensor is installed by a ‘citizen-scientist’. Saup has made 69 sensor locations available to us (Russia, New Zealand, Kenya, Pakistan, Australia, Philippines, Brazil, Germany…etc); Seven are those we’ve installed around New West.
On a hot, dusty day, take a short reprieve in the cool, dark gallery with Michael Saup’s Dust VR.

Sarah Joyce | Director/Curator | New Media Gallery
article by Dorothy Woodend

…Like many of the previous exhibitions offered at the gallery, the individual works that make up the show are each fascinating and fully realized in their own right. But when the convergence of the different ideas act in concert and merge into a greater whole, it’s a whole other thing.
In the case of Dust, the giant cloud of connections and correlations that whirls forth doesn’t obliterate or obscure, making it harder to see. Just the opposite. Dust reveals things that we rarely consider: the plain and the mundane, the nitty and the gritty. Somewhere in the midst of this melange of motes, the sublime filters in.
…Michael Saup’s installation Dust VR (2018-23) takes a somewhat different approach to dust, expanding up and out to offer a global perspective. In a variety of locations around the world, the work’s software collects information from sensors installed in the different locations. The technical complexity of the work is considerable. Saup uses VR to demonstrate how particulate emissions accumulate to dangerous levels in different locations.
…To be frank, there is something about VR that has always felt slightly oppressive and claustrophobic. But in Dust VR, this ominous feeling is balanced by the sheer loveliness of light and movement.
It was deeply pleasurable to simply sit and watch for a long time, as the different sites around the planet come up and reveal just how much junk is in the atmosphere. The streets and buildings shimmer, fairy-like. And when you look down with the VR headset, mandala-shaped openings are hovering just below your feet. Matevž Kolenc’s score adds another layer of beauty.
Art can change the nature of perception, allow you to see things anew or at least differently for a time. And in this fleeting, fragmented moment, other realities slide in sideways.
But aside from the most overt interpretations — including the famous Biblical quote “For you are dust, and to dust you shall return” — what else does Dust offer?
There is an attendant mournfulness that infuses the exhibition. Mortality, dissolution, entropy, the end of all things is there. But that’s where the most precious stuff also comes from, in the moments when the beauty emerges, shines out and then fades away.
Riding home on the SkyTrain after seeing the show, I watched the people getting on and off, the unfurling ribbons of trees, sky, landscape. Passing through New West, I saw a lot of graveyards. A clarity of vision stole over me. We’re only here for such a brief instant, then we disappear. But dust is forever.

Dorothy Woodend, https://thetyee.ca/Culture/2023/06/28/Existential-Journey-Fine-Particulate/
DUST, 2018-2023, introduction. ...Day 2 is amorphous...Tag #2 ist ohne Gestalt