Ethics of dust: visual essay on the artistic works by Jorge Otero-Pailos

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The works of artist and preservation architect Jorge Otero-Pailos on experimental preservation provoke deep reflections about some of the fundamental questions dealing with heritage: temporality of objects, changeability of inscribed cultural values, the greater purpose of architectural preservation as a cultural practice, and the societal role of an architect and preservationist in formulating narratives around heritage. As the artistic installations featured in this visual essay — The Ethics of Dust (2014–2016) and Watershed Moment (2020) — demonstrate, Jorge Otero-Pailos combines various elusive elements, such as water sounds and dust, to conceive meditative and contemplative spaces. His installations invite visitors to pause and reflect on the memories, both personal, social, and environmental, that define each of us; they probe deep into the past and deep into the future.

Since these are some of the issues we wanted to explore in this special issue, ‘Embodiment and Meaning-making: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Heritage Architecture’, we invited various artists and scholars to write a very short caption in reaction to the images provided by the author through one of these three ‘lenses’:

- affect, embodied experience, atmosphere;

- politics of heritage;

- processes of meaning-making.

The results reveal the power of images to provoke imagination through atmospheric and embodied experiences, and the power of experimental heritage work to convey (political) meaning across distance and different analogue or digital media.

This visual essay includes contributions from (in order of appearance): Tenna Doktor Olsen Tvedebrink, Federico De Matteis, Michael Hirschbichler, Jovana Popić, Maria De Piedade Ferreira, Uta Pottgiesser, Marcus Weisen and Brady Wagoner, with an epilogue from Jorge Otero-Pailos.