The Origins Centre Museum and POOL present the exhibition, The Weight in the Air by collaborating artists Nina Barnett (South Africa) and Jeremy Bolen (United States). Using Johannesburg as a site from which to consider the ecological, the (post)colonial and the cyclical, the exhibition offers a series of immersive, materially complex installations encouraging viewers to consider what is present in the air we inhabit.
Johannesburg is built for (and among sites for) gold extraction. The mines have defined the landscape - giving rise to the architecture and industry built from the extracted wealth, as well as to the apartheid system, the destruction of viable land and clean water, and the yellow mountain-sized piles of dust that mark the skyline. This dust, even when invisible, gives form to a history of colonialism and its destructive local cost. It moves freely through the porous air - settling on surfaces and in lungs. This dust is the catalyst for the exhibition, which considers ways of sensing or knowing matter as particulate in the context of this city. In thinking through Johannesburg’s dust and its physical, symbolic and radioactive impact; the exhibition brings attention to how particles retain a record of where they have come from, and their potential to send material messages between far reaching places.
Barnett and Bolen approach this installation using research and materially investigative methods. In recognition of Top Star Drive-in (an outdoor Johannesburg cinema located on a mine dump), a 16mm film loop of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, marked by mine dust radiation, brings attention to the casual colonialism and plundering popularized by American cinema in the 1980s. A tower of mineral oil (in a form inspired by neutrino particle detectors) holds fragments of heavy metal deposits created by the mining process. These fragments read as strata in rock, or petrified trees, subverting the visual understanding of that which is natural or ancient (and similarly, that which is toxic and contemporary). Suspended rubber curtains and blue gum trees move by means of human activated fans, bringing awareness to the systems that circulate dust around the world and the impact on our bodies of these cycles.