Editorial 23: Dirt
We are very pleased to present you with our guest editor, the amazing Heather Davis, for this Sept/Oct issue no.23 of NMP. Thank you, Heather!
Thank you also to everyone who helped copy edit and assemble this issue. Comme toujours, all this would be impossible without a collective effort.
Dear readers, we are still and always committed to bringing forward a filthy and scandalous journal bimonthly.
Mél Hogan & M-C MacPhee
Dirt is deep and thick and moist. It is mineral and animal. It is where we will return to and it is the source of organic renewal. It is the most basic component of what we call ‘earth.’
Dirt is what is dirty, perverted, sick, and twisted. It is filthy.
Dirt is rumour and gossip. It is the circulation of desire: a mechanism for fantasy, derision, aggrandizement, and social control.
Dirt is what is pushed out, elided, left to the side, and swept under the rug. It is used to describe those we deem unworthy, undesirable, and as literally below.
Dirt is political. It is the inescapable way in which we become entwined and composed of matter and all those around us. It is what reminds us of the thoroughly relational nature of being. It gets under our fingernails. It forces compromise; it asserts its own presence and bends us to its will.
This issue addresses the complicated and contaminating nature of dirt. We can assign it a proper place, value its capacity for production, or negate our dependence on it, but dirt has a way of getting into everything, whether we like it or not. Dirt can be moulded, moved, manipulated, but stubbornly remains, as in the leftovers of architectural projects captured by Lisa Hirmer. Micah Donovan shows that the mis-placement of dirt can reap interesting results. He explores the productive cross-fertilization that happens when dirt is found in office spaces, in order to re-imagine our relationship with food and the natural world more broadly. Similarly, Jean-Pierre Aubé, in conversation with Nathalie Casemajor, embraces the dirty noises of electromagnetic radiation to transform our understanding of sound. These various expressions of dirt reveal the impossibility of separating off human culture from that which surrounds us, composes us, and sustains us.
Dirt, as expressed through these contributions, is surprisingly animate. Geologist Louis Kamenka suggests that rock itself possesses a kind of mind, one that moves at a very slow pace in comparison to our own brief lives, but whose thoughts, if we could read them, would reveal the transformation of the earth itself. But, dirt remains stubbornly outside, composed of the real, as Elizabeth Grosz asserts. This inability to hear or assimilate matter offers a way to move past the solipsism of the human subject and toward new kinds of feminist philosophy. Dirt offers a way to animate thought. Etienne Turpin links dirt and thought through anal sex, or ‘miraculous’ sexual manipulations of the anus. Philosophy, through his reading of Georges Bataille, is not directed towards its reproduction, and the reproduction of history, knowledge, and power that this entails, but as an all-consuming excess, pleasurable in itself. Dirt is further accumulated and multiplied as a strategy for escape from the control of surveillance, as argued by Zach Blas in his writing on biometrics and a politics of imperceptibility.
There were some surprising convergences of thought and subject in this issue. Kaolin clay, a kind of white dirt found in central Georgia, figures in two of the pieces here. This particular dirt is embedded in histories of the attempted eradication of indigenous peoples from America, discussed in the fictional ad copy by A. Laurie Palmer. Architect Neal Robinson also works with kaolin clay to create incredible structures that entwine colloquial earth, art, and craft to produce “homeopathic design.”
Dirt inevitably gets under the skin, swallowed, excreted, forcing us to delve into the intimacies of our personal lives, as micha cárdenas expresses in her piece on art, feminism, and gardening in Los Angeles. C. Smith uses dirt as a metaphor to explore the intricacies and entanglements of auto-ethnographic writing on drug consumption and addiction research. Dirt is not so easy to brush aside.
There is no way to summarize, contain, or determine what dirt is, but it is remarkably fertile: spawning these interventions of thought, image, and sound.
I am excited and grateful to be able to collect and share the talents of these remarkable contributors – thank you all. I also wish to extend many thanks to M-C, Mél, and the rest of the No More Potlucks team for all their hard work in producing this amazing journal, and for taking care of all the technical details, allowing me to simply play in the dirt. Thank you!