Ziggy Dirtdust (2020)

After electric rains, come electric worms.

Rule #9 is "Make it from plastic" and Rule #11 is "Something must get dirty."

I have had these rules for over a decade and although they are not hard and fast I do frequently catch myself keeping my little plastic robots from getting down and dirty.

There are pragmatic reasons, but I know I am also responding to the very antagonism towards dirtiness intrinsic to plastic's materiality that these rules themselves are somewhat meant to interrogate.

The relationship between the materials we call "plastics" and dirt is a complex one. For one, plastics are often the outer layer that protects an object from soiling, the materials that are thought to be most easily cleaned.

But we also all have in our inner eye an image of a plastic object jutting from a landfill so hopelessly permeated with dirt and grime that we can't help but see in it some kind of metaphor for our future.

Ziggy Dirtdust is an intergalactic traveler that prefers soil to heavenly bodies. And On Beyond Lowly Worm, its near twin, stays even closer to home.

They began life as the tail pieces of a rat robot that went their separate ways. Some kinds of rats shed their tails to escape a predator's relentless tug.

They are both supposed to be on dirty quests to the inner reaches of space and are thus perhaps the quintessence of Rules #9 and #11.

Yet so often I keep them a few centimeters away from the ground.

Here, the two electric worms avoid not only touching the soil below but also touching each other.

Partially supported by a residency at the Beall Center for Art+Technology