Oil Petals (Pillar of Cloud)

204473025

"Oil, ghost towns and dust devils are aligned as tropes of climate change. Tornado-like dust devils, as canaries in the coal mine, are increasingly common in hot, barren deserts and in drought-stricken areas of the world.

I spent three days chasing dust devils in the California desert where I tried a benignly quixotic experiment of placing flower petals in their paths. (Catastrophic climate change needed some cheering up.) However, after an initial sighting of dozens of dust devils, conditions changed and they became increasingly rare. When they appeared, they moved fast. They dissipated quickly. They were always too far off the road or just ahead of my car. When I was ready to give up looking after my third day while shooting video of an abandoned school, a well-formed small dust devil appeared about 10 meters to my right. I turned my camera on a tripod towards it, snatched a bag of flower petals that I had bought at LA's flower district and ran into the small vortex dumping the contents. ...It grabbed the petals and then dropped them 30 meters or so away.

The Navaho name for dust devils are “chindis”, the ghosts of the dead. According to the local lore, evil chindi’s spin counter clockwise. Benevolent chindis spin clockwise. (Dust devils are not affected by the Coriolis effect, and can spin either direction, sometimes two within sight simultaneously spinning in opposite directions). Although not superstitious or particularly spiritual, I didn’t want to take any chances. I checked my footage carefully. This one spun counter-clockwise. A bad omen on 9/11 2015." - Artist Statement

This work is discussed in an essay by Matthew Crookes, 2017.