LONDON.- Opening on June 29, The Ethics of Dust is a major temporary site-specific artwork commissioned and produced by Artangel for Westminster Hall, the oldest part of the Houses of Parliament, home of the UKs House of Commons and House of Lords. Created by artist, architect and conservationist Jorge Otero-Pailos, the work is a 50 metre long translucent latex cast of the halls internal east wall, containing hundreds of years of surface pollution and dust.
Suspended from Westminster Halls 28-metre high hammerbeam roof, the latex sheet contains innumerable particles of dust, soot and dirt gently lifted from the wall, the method for sensitively cleaning this UNESCO world heritage site. Artangel and Otero-Pailos have worked in parallel with Parliaments restoration and stone cleaning project over a period of five years, culminating in the artist retrieving the latex used to clean the hall to create The Ethics of Dust.
Previously, Otero-Pailos created a latex cast of the 14th century Doges Palace in Venice. In 2009 he similarly cleaned an interior wall at the palace and created a historical record in the latex produced, then displayed in situ during the 53rd Venice Biennale.
Westminster Hall and the Doges Palace share a history that runs deep in the British and European cultural consciousness: both were seats of governments ruling vast naval empires, threatened with demolition by over-enthusiastic classical architects (Andrea Palladio and Sir John Soane), and ultimately saved by restorations in the original Gothic style.
The Ethics of Dust takes its name from Victorian writer and social thinker John Ruskins 1866 publication The Ethics of The Dust. Ruskins great admiration for these two Gothic structures led him to lay the intellectual foundations of modern conservation. Anticipating concerns over pollution, he recognised its damaging effects on buildings, but argued against cleaning it, fearing 19th century architects would do more damage than good with the blunt instruments available to them at the time. Conservation technology has now advanced to the point where cleaning can be safely carried out as Ruskin would have it, without damaging the stone.
Completed in 1099, Westminster Halls limestone walls may well hold the dust, soot and dirt generated by events including the Second World War blitz and the Great Smog of 1952. Among its many uses, the hall has housed the coronation banquet of King George IV in 1821, the trials of Guy Fawkes in 1606 and King Charles I in 1649. Westminster Hall is still used for public ceremonies and lyings-in-state, most recently the Queen Mamma in 2002.
Caroline Nokes, Chair of the Speakers Advisory Committee on Works of Art, said: Westminster Hall is both the oldest and the most impressive part of the Houses of Parliament. The Ethics of Dust exhibition will give the public a new and unique way to consider the many historic events to which its walls have borne witness.
Michael Morris and James Lingwood, Co-Directors of Artangel, said "The Ethics of Dust is amongst Artangel's most ambitious undertakings, made possible by the goodwill of a great many stakeholders within the Palace of Westminster, brought together by the shared belief in a bold and imaginative idea; an idea at the cusp of contemporary art and architectural conservation. After several years of quiet and careful planning, we are delighted that Jorge Otero-Pailos's latex casting of Westminster Hall's east elevation will be experienced by those who pass through it over the summer."