Martyna Poznańska

Matter In The Wrong Place, 2021

Quantitatively, dust refers to solid particles with diameters of less than five hundred micrometers. A micrometer, also known as a micron, is a millionth of a meter, or of a 0.00009906 cm. Atmospherically transported dust from the Saharan desert provides pulses of biologically important nutrients, including iron, to ocean surface waters.



But despite its physical insignificance, dust has outsized negative connotations. It is an avatar of the unclean. It is the ensign of entropy, of buildings destroyed or neglected, matter without purpose. Dust is what gathers on books that are not read, on cabinets and shelves. It is the figure of the fragment, of division and disintegration, of the unswept, the unloved, the overlooked, and discarded. But dust ain’t all bad. A dust grain can be a world. Everywhere you look, you will find dust, even in the most remote places in the universe. It tells you things about its birth and where it traveled. It records a history. In that sense, it’s really a witness, a very silent one: it penetrates but doesn’t disturb.


It’s possible that some dust in space harbors life. Life, as bacteria, can be extremely hardy and show far more metabolic diversity than all animals and plants combined. It is also possible that solar winds can distribute dust grains containing bacteria across the universe, although they might not survive the cosmic rays. The Greek sage Anaxagoras gave this idea of a cosmos sprinkled with universe-traversing life its name, panspermia, from the Greek for “all seeds.” Panspermia has the power to reinvigorate our notion of dust from a figure of neglect and unimportance to one of essential substance. The research and fascination by this kind of matter emerged from a desire to show the hidden beauty of the unwanted.*





* Some fragments of the text were adapted from the Cabinet Magazine, no. 3, 33,35 and other Internet sources.

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