Nina Katchadourian: Dust Gathering

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Artist Nina Katchadourian watches the dusting of the helicopter. Shown: Arthur Young. Bell-47D1 Helicopter. 1945. Aluminum, steel, and acrylic plastic. Manufactured by Bell Helicopter Inc., Buffalo, NY. Marshall Cogan Purchase Fund. Photo: Manuel Martagon. © 2016 The Museum of Modern Art

Dusting of the helicopter

Artist, Nina Katchadourian: Hello, I’m Nina Katchadourian. I’m an artist, and two years ago, MoMA invited me to develop a project for Artists Experiment, a collaboration with the department of education. This allowed me access to people in parts of the museum I’d never gotten to visit before, and I spent a few months simply talking with museum staff about their work. And for reasons that this audio tour will reveal to you, I got interested in dust.

Dust consists of material from both inside and outside, from earth as well as from space, from places very high and very low—and at MoMA, it’s literally an intermingling of different visitors from around the world. Here’s a sonic illustration of what I mean...

That’s the word “dust,” in English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Mandarin, Hebrew, Dutch, Swedish, and Arabic, the most commonly spoken languages of MoMA visitors. In a very direct sense, we all come together in dust. And dust is also a common symbol of transience, so it’s interesting to contemplate inside a museum, where enormous efforts are made to preserve objects from our past and present so that they may live into the future.

This tour will introduce you to many museum staff with very different kinds of skills, it will take you behind the scenes of some extreme dusting situations, and it will reveal some intriguing things about locations you’d usually walk right by. Working on this project fundamentally changed my experience of this museum as an institution, as a building, and as a social space. I hope you’ll enjoy discovering some of MoMA’s dustiest highlights.