A Handful Of Dust

From the Cosmic to the Domestic

Laure Albin-Guillot

Georges Bataille


Robert Burley

John Divola

Marcel Duchamp

Walker Evans

Mona Kuhn

Rut Blees Luxemburg

Scott McFarland

Jeff Mermelstein

Bruce Nauman

Louise Oates

Kirk Palmer

Man Ray

Alain Resnais

Xavier Ribas

Gerhard Richter

Sophie Ristelhueber

Edward Ruscha

Aaron Siskind

Frederick Sommer

Giorgio Sommer

Eva Stenram

Shomei Tomatsu

Jeff Wall

Nick Waplington


Tereza Zelenkova


Curated by David Campany

a Handful of Dust offers a rare opportunity to view a remarkable diversity of photographs from the last 100 years, focusing on the theme of dust, unified in a visual journey through the unlikeliest imagery.

Here, curator and critic David Campany proposes a speculative history of the past century, beginning with an iconic photograph by legendary artist Man Ray. The picture is of a sheet of glass belonging to Marcel Duchamp covered in dust. In October 1922, the image is published in an avant-garde French journal with the deliberately misleading caption: View from an aeroplane. It is later renamed Dust Breeding. The very same month, a little English journal publishes TS Eliot’s poem The Waste Land: “I will show you fear in a handful of dust.”

And what if dust is really a key to the ensuing decades? Why do we dislike it? We are stardust, after all. Dust must be kept well away from camera equipment, but it is deeply photogenic. There is also something universal about dust: we come from it, go to it, and create it daily. Inevitable and unruly, dust is the enemy of the modern order, its repressed other, its nemesis. But it has a story to tell from the other side.

The connections range far and wide, from aerial reconnaissance and the American dustbowl to Mussolini’s final car journey and the wars in Iraq. a Handful of Dust features a range of photographic works by renowned artists John Divola, Marcel Duchamp, Walker Evans, Gerhard Richter, Sophie Ristelhueber, Xavier Ribas, Jeff Wall and many others, alongside anonymous press photos, postcards, magazine spreads and movies.

About the Curator

Based in London, UK, David Campany is one of the most acclaimed photography experts of our time whose fresh perspectives on the history of the medium have had a profound impact on art and scholarship.  He has published widely and curated a number of critical exhibitions. For his writing, he has received the ICP Infinity Award, the Kraszna-Krausz Book Award, the Alice Award, a Deutscher Fotobuchpreis, and the Royal Photographic Society’s award for writing. Campany is co-founder and co-editor of PA Magazine, which has been published since 2008. He teaches photographic theory and practice at the University of Westminster.

“Endlessly thought-provoking”
—The Guardian

"There is a lot to be wowed by, but even more to sift through intellectually"
—The Globe and Mail

“Mournful, elegiac but also deeply beautiful”
—The Tyee

For more video content, visita Handul of Dust on Vimeo
Documentation Partner: Yosef Wosk, OBC

For an audio tour, download The Polygon Gallery app from the App Store or Google Play and select "Audio Tour" from the menu.

Generously supported by Phil Lind, as well as Nancy Harrison and Paul Buitenhuis, through their membership in The Polygon’s Exhibition Circle.





Thursday, February 7
7pm Members Preview and Introductory Tour with David Campany
8pm Opening Reception

Saturday, February 9
7pm Lecture with David Campany

Wednesday, April 17
7pm  John Divola: Artist Talk

Sunday, April 28
3pm Mona Kuhn: Artist Talk and Book Signing


Exhibition Tours

Tours of a Handful of Dust will be hosted every Saturday at 2PM. To join the tour, meet at the ground floor lobby at 1:55PM. These tours are recommended for general visitors as an introduction to the exhibition.

For a more tailored experience, visitors are encouraged to book a private guided tour with a member of our curatorial team. For more information about private tours, visit the Contact Us page, or email tours@thepolygon.ca.

Tours in French and Farsi are also available. See the Events page for details. 


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Image: Eva Stenram, Per Pulverem Ad Astra, 2007 (detail), unique chromogenic prints, Courtesy the artist