Bucket Of Dirt
I heard this really great story, this Allan Kaprow story from someone here, where he made a piece, which I think is called a Bucket Full of Dirt. I’m probably going to get this wrong, but he used to do yoga apparently, and he had got into this whole conversation with somebody about this space underneath — this idea about this yogi, this guy that he was getting the yoga from, and wondering if he radiated some kind of spirituality or something, and if that kind of infused the dirt — it sounds like some kind of weird stoner conversation, I’m not really sure.1
Anyway, this led to him and somebody else, crawling under the crawl space of this building, this house, where the yoga instructor was, and they were just trying to decide — going directly under where the yoga guy sat and digging up dirt from there. And he had this bucket of dirt, and then apparently after that he kind of forgot about it, and he was driving around in his truck, and he was somewhere else, and he started telling the person that he was with, about this bucket of dirt they had in the back of this truck and where it had come from. And the person he was talking to said, “Cool, well, that’s cool. I’d really like that bucket of dirt.”
So, they kind of — Kaprow gave this person, who I don’t know who he is, the bucket of dirt from — the yoga dirt, and this other person swapped it for a bucket of dirt that was kind of meaningful to them. And it kind of continued on and on and on, and — but he kept switching out the buckets of dirt. Anyway, for some reason I just kind of got really obsessed with this story, even though I can never totally remember it. So, we decided to go on this road trip, and I wanted to collect dirt and we decided we were going to get a bucket of dirt from all these different locations that had some kind of resonance for me of being part of a journey.
So, I kind of like, as usual, bastardized some other ideas and sort of smushed them together. So, we went on this road trip from San Diego through Nevada and Arizona and California. So, of course, a lot of the places that we were going to were national parks, where you’re not actually technically allowed to take anything. So, we never actually managed to get a bucket of dirt from a lot of the places when we were like in Death Valley. We were having more like a pocket full of dirt. So, we had all these different ways of like picking up handfuls of — I had this huge big army coat with massive pockets and it was quite hot in the desert at that point, walking around and picking up handfuls of sand or dirt or whatever and putting them in my pockets, and my coat was getting fuller and fuller and fuller until we could get back to the car, and then filling up kind of gallon ziploc bags with all this dirt.
I did this trip and I came back and I had all these weird, different bags of dirt, and then of course had to work out how the hell to ship it to England, because one of the things that are really top of the terrorist list, that you cannot move earth across borders, because it can contain obviously contaminant things that could hurt agriculture, but potentially you apparently can hide other substances in dirt. So, that was a whole other story in terms of getting these jars — this dirt to England. And I made this installation there, where I kind of scattered it on the floor of the gallery.
I made it kind of — I call it a kind of drawing, a light drawing in space. But anyway, so the dirt was all different colors and different textures from all these different places, and I always remember there’s a Smithson quote, which I have not got in front of me, so I cannot remember it properly, talking about that you can look at a grain of sand, and you might as well be looking at the Grand Canyon. So, I’ve always been fascinated about that notion, of the kind of micro and the macro, that there’s often something really fascinating and fantastical right under your nose.2