Catherine Bertola creates site-specific installations that tell a story about the history of a space. For the V&A Bertola has chosen to recreate a wallpaper pattern that used to provide backdrops to displays in the early years of the Museum.
But Bertola works with an unusual and ephemeral material - dust. Carefully collecting and preserving the matter that V&A conservators and cleaners strive daily to remove, she transforms dirt and dead bugs into an ornate pattern. She draws attention to the acts of cleaning, monitoring and conserving that are rarely seen by visitors to the Museum. Through the perversity of making something beautiful out of this unsightly and unwanted detritus, she makes visible a hidden and continuous process.
'My work is about labour, investing time in a very ordinary material. I use daily domestic activities or chores such as vacuuming and dusting to make my work. The manual labour involved adds value to something that usually gets swept away. I use dust as a mechanism for storytelling - dust is often described as being the matter of history, a residue or fragment that enables you to reflect on the past.'