Rebecca Chesney: On being out of place


The Invaders Archive by Rebecca Chesney

I have written a short piece about the art work of the excellent Rebecca Chesney for The Double Negative website.
Below is an extract and you can read the full article here

According to a formulation by the eminent anthropologist Mary Douglas, dirt can be defined as “matter out of place”. The material properties of that “matter” are in some ways inconsequential, it’s the location which is key. Certain things belong in certain places: crumbs are fine on the plate, but on the floor they become a mess; soil is acceptable in the garden, but in the kitchen it is a health hazard; blood is useful stuff, as long as it stays inside our bodies. Sensitivity to things being in or out of place is a strategy that we use in order to make sense of the world in which we live.

Places and their boundaries, be they bodies, homes, streets or nations, make up our personal geographies and form an often unnoticed background for everyday life. However, it is when things appear in places they should not be — when they transgress these boundaries and become out of place — we notice that we have constructed these apparently strict categories about what belongs where.

Taking a Sunday walk in a nearby wood, I happen upon a pile of rubbish, broken breezeblocks, old carpet, plastic bottles, and a solitary stiletto shoe. I feel unsettled, a little anxious, a little angry. Who dumped this stuff here? At best, they were environmentally irresponsible; at worst criminal, are they still here? And what happened to the other shoe and its wearer…?

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