Past Event

The Story and Ethics of Dust: Linking the Past to the Present through Art and Science

March 7, 2022
5:00 PM - 6:30 PM
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Fayerweather Hall (Room 513), Columbia University, 1180 Amsterdam Avenue, New York

Event Description

Dust is ubiquitous, with a billion tons of dust particles raining down on the Earth each year, and thus a phenomenon of enormous magnitude, and yet it rarely gets any recognition. This event will offer views of dust from an artist’s position and a scientist’s perspective. While seemingly unrelated, both angles are able to illustrate how dust is an important historical and environmental record and how it is so much more than the sum of its unrecognized particles.

The artworks in Jorge Otero-Pailos’ “The Ethics of Dust” series isolate dust and make it tangible by transferring it from the surfaces of buildings to translucent casts. Jorge will present a selection of dust casts taken from buildings around the world, and discuss the unexpected histories that each of them unveils. He will connect the dots between these punctual histories to outline a larger concept they all contribute to, namely that of atmospheric heritage. Taken together, “The Ethics of Dust” challenges the conceptual duality of tangible/intangible heritage, the limits of governmentality, and the politics of belonging.

Complementing this, Gisela Winckler will show how she reconstructs the story of dust over the earth’s history using the tools of science. Dust plays a critical role in the Earth's climate system, as It influences the earth’s radiation budget and is a key pathway for nutrients essential for plant growth on land and in the ocean. Dust links land, air and sea, and has done so for eons. Gisela will connect the dots and trace a path back through the Earth’ past, utilizing ocean sediments and ice cores as diaries of the Earth’s past and highlight dust as an illustration of the interconnected nature of the Earth system. 

Event Speakers

Event Information

Free and open to the public; registration required. Columbia University ID holders may attend in person. Members of the public must attend virtually via Zoom. Please email [email protected] with any questions. 

Part of the Climate and Society series. Hosted by

The Center for Science and Society makes every reasonable effort to accommodate individuals with disabilities. If you require disability accommodations to attend a Center for Science and Society event, please contact us at [email protected] or (212) 853-1612 at least 10 days in advance of the event. For more information, please visit the campus accessibility webpage.