It is time once again for our annual house cleaning. When my beautiful wife went back to work full-time and left me here to type away on this computer and forage the cupboards for midmorning snacks, I promised her I would handle all the cleaning.
Looking back on it, I think she probably figured I would keep the same cleaning schedule she had been maintaining. She obviously figured wrong.
We’ve had lengthy discussions on this topic, and piecing together all the information I’ve received from her over the years, I think her philosophy is that you’re supposed to clean things almost on a daily basis, so as to keep the house clean.
That makes no sense to me. If you clean every day, the house will never be dirty. Where’s the sense of accomplishment in that plan? That’s like being a cop in a town where no one ever breaks the law. Bo-ring! I don’t want to be Sheriff Andy Taylor from the sleepy little town of Mayberry. I want to be Dirty Harry Callahan from the mean streets of San Francisco. I want the house to become filthy, so when I clean it up, people actually notice.
My wife, bless her heart, doesn’t understand the Dirty Harry movies.
Even though she fails to see the brilliance of Clint Eastwood, she tends to emulate some of his scarier character traits when the house gets a little too dusty, or “disgustingly filthy,” as she calls it. Let’s just say this time of year, when the holidays approach and house guests are imminent, I am glad she’s not armed.
So, the time is upon us once again for the annual deep cleaning. It’s time for this Dirty Harry to send the filthy dirt packing, just in time for the family Thanksgiving week.
At least, it was time, until my entire house cleaning philosophy was turned upside down yesterday by an article on an art exhibit in New York City. A plucky young journalist named Kyle Chayka on a blog called The Paris Review wrote a piece about something called The Earth Room.
Foolishly, I had been concentrating all these years on removing the dirt from my house. I am an idiot. What I apparently need to do is bring more dirt in. A lot more. If I can cover the second floor of my home in a twenty-two-inch deep layer of dirt, I’m in business. If I can do that, my wife and I will never have to work again, the kids will be taken care of, and we can even hire someone to look after it for us.
How so, you ask? Simple. Fill up a second-floor home with dirt, never clean it out, and invite the public to come check it out. Duh.
Here’s a few snippets from Kyle’s column:
On SoHo’s cobblestoned Wooster Street, tucked above North Face and Lululemon boutiques stocked with neon athleisure, there is an otherwise empty, white, second-floor thirty-six-hundred-square-foot loft filled with 140 tons of dirt. It’s open to visitors from Wednesday through Sunday, noon to six P.M.
This is The New York Earth Room, an installation by the New York–based artist and musician Walter De Maria
In October 1977, the German art dealer Heiner Friedrich hosted The Earth Room as an exhibition at his gallery, which then occupied the Wooster Street space, where the dealer also lived in a front apartment. The installation was meant to last for three months, but it never left, and in 1980, Friedrich helped found the Dia Foundation, an art organization that has pledged to preserve De Maria’s work in (more or less) perpetuity. This year marks the fortieth anniversary of The Earth Room’s quiet persistence, which Dia is marking with commemorative events and ongoing exhibitions of De Maria’s work.
De Maria might have created The Earth Room, but its public face is Bill Dilworth, a sixty-three-year-old abstract painter who has been caring for the installation as its curator for the past twenty-eight years. Walk into the back office room past the glass-protected aperture that opens out onto the field and most days you’ll find Dilworth behind a high wood desk. Tall, gregarious, and preternaturally youthful (a result of dirt therapy?), he has thought more about this particular piece than just about anyone. “My life and my experience here is immersed in art, earth, quiet, and time,” he told me. “It’s a continual growth of time.”
I’m not sure if I have too much in common with Walter De Maria, but Bill Dilworth and I are like long-lost brothers. My life has been a continual growth of time as well, and both of the places we work are dirty.
De Maria called The Earth Room a “minimal horizontal interior earth sculpture.” I am now referring to my desk as a minimal horizontal interior dust sculpture.
I’m not sure how much my dust is currently worth on the open art market, but the Earth Room installation is estimated to be worth about a million dollars. A million bucks! And that’s just the dirt, not the apartment it’s in, which is undoubtedly worth more than that.
Hey, no sweat, aspiring New York artists. You want to build your own dirt room, but can’t afford the hefty price tag? I can hook you up. I have twice that much dirt in my backyard, and I’ll sell it all to you for half that price. While you’re here, I’ll even let you come inside and view the dust in my office. The admission is twenty-five dollars for adults. Seniors get a five-dollar discount, and kids ages twelve and under are half-price on Wednesdays.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go look up the words “athleisure” and “preternaturally,” and then I need to start hauling dirt upstairs.
I’ll be holding curator interviews soon, so send in your resumes now.
See you soon,
Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen
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