The filthy reality of everyday life

I was listening to an old episode of the Strand this morning.

In addition to presenting an interesting South-African novelist Mike Nicol, one of the most interesting cultural events presented was Dirt: the filthy reality of everyday life, an exhibition in London.

Bringing together around 200 artefacts spanning visual art, documentary photography, cultural ephemera, scientific artefacts, film and literature, the exhibition uncovers a rich history of disgust and delight in the grimy truths and dirty secrets of our past, and points to the uncertain future of filth, which poses a significant risk to our health but is also vital to our existence.

Sadly, I heard of it only now, and the exhibition closed on 31st August.

But it sounded fascinating. According to the exhibitions curator (interviewed in the programme, didn’t catch her name), one part of the experience are old videos with people in Dresden, Germany manically wash their hands under water taps. There was an international exhibition of hygiene that took place in 1911 and 1930, with the utopian ideals of bringing hygiene to the masses. During the 30’s, the museum turned into a machine of Nazi propaganda.

Without having seen it myself, it seems the people behind Dirt have somehow made it quite powerful, the transformation from euphoric information-sharing on hygiene – a well-meaning effort to make life better for many people – to the more metaphoric cleansing. If I understood it right, the video ends up with a shot of a poster saying Jews are lice, they cause Typhus. Pheew. Even though I know it’s happening as we speak, in many parts of the world, I don’t understand ethnic segregation and unequal treatment. I just don’t.

The entire exhibition sounds incredibly interesting and thought-provoking. And I’ve gone through Typhus, by the way. The doctor said it probably came from a flea-bite.

♥ In the meantime: Did you know that a massive dumping ground in New York, the world’s largest landfill called Fresh Kills, is being turned into a park three times the size of Central Park? The park will open in 2030.

♦ Song of the day: Prince of Assyria, We as people

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