Where Does the Dust Itself Collect? is an installation by artist Xu Bing made of dust collected from the streets of lower Manhattan in the aftermath of September 11th, nearly 12 years ago. The scattered soot appears like a ghostly mist on the ground with a message that happens to be an excerpt from a Zen Buddhist poem. It reads: “As there is nothing from the first, Where does the dust itself collect?”
The powerful piece has been installed in various spaces since 2004 in an attempt to address and understand “the gravity and implications of that event” while also reflecting on the significance of the physical material used. The stenciled message presents a haunting idea that forces the viewer to contemplate the origins of the whitish-gray dust.
The renowned Chinese contemporary artist, who is known for assembling intricate installations with social and political significance, uses his gathered fine, powdery material to serve as the abstract negative space for his resonating typography. With the floor as his canvas, Xu has proceeded to apply the preserved dust with a leaf blower, allowing it to settle for 24 hours.