In 2003, this artist showed Canada how to turn dust into collectable art

Nine years before she won the Sobey Art Award, Raphaëlle de Groot shared her Dust Collection with CBC Artspots.

Nine years before she won the Sobey Art Award, Raphaëlle de Groot shared her Dust Collection with CBC Artspots

In 2003, Raphaëlle de Groot showed Canada how to turn dust into collectable art

4 years ago
Duration 0:42
Nine years before she won the Sobey Art Award, Raphaëlle de Groot shared her Dust Collection with CBC Artspots.

Name: Raphaëlle de Groot

Hometown: Montreal

Artspots appearance: 2003

The story:  A collection could be made up of anything. And really, if you have more than two of something, isn't it technically a collection? A collection of paintings, a collection of shoes, a collection of empty coffee cups at your desk that you're just too lazy to dump in the blue bin.

But the items that people collect aren't necessarily all that interesting. The question is why they're hobby-hoarding in the first place.

In 2003, Artspots first visited artist Raphaëlle de Groot. Nine years later, she'd win the Sobey Art Award — but in this particular video, the interdisciplinary artist is introducing CBC viewers to an art project called Collecte de poussière.

That title basically translates to "Dust Collection," and with tweezers in hand, de Groot is seen cataloguing speck after speck.

"There's dust everywhere," she says in the video. "It's also the least precious thing you could think of collecting, so it's this way to look at life — to give things meaning through the way you look at them."

Raphaelle de Groot. Port de tête. 2009.

Collections are a recurring theme in de Groot's work, perhaps most notably in her series The Burden of Objects. Between 2009-2012 she acquired around 1,800 items, all donated by strangers. Each piece carried a personal story — and she gathered those, too. CBC Radio's The Sunday Edition ran this documentary about the project in 2015.

As for the piece you'll see in the video, Collecte de poussière, de Groot first staged it in 2000, doing dusty data entry out of a local storefront. People from around the neighbourhood would bring her baggies of the stuff, which she'd then dutifully archive in notebooks. In a later iteration of the piece, she included the public's reaction to this miniscule but ever-growing collection as part of her documentation process.

Raphaelle de Groot's Collecte de poussière, 2000. (Photo: Jacques Boileau/

The last time she saw her Artspots episode:

"I just remember they went by too quickly!" 

"I can't remember when I last watched the episodes. Unfortunately when I wanted to access them in the past, the pages were inaccessible."

Memories from the shoot:

"I really enjoyed doing Artspots. I think I did more than one."

"I remember the first occasion was very meaningful for me as I had never done any video 'spots.' It felt a bit awkward because I don't really have a studio practice. 'What are they going to film?' I thought. It made me nervous." 

What she's working on now:

"This year I was part of the LandMarks 2017 project created by Partners in Art."

The initiative backed a variety of new art projects that were attached to Canadian national parks and historic sites this summer. De Groot's contribution is a project called Subsistances, which brought her to the Côte-Nord area of Quebec, where you'll find the Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve.

The artist set out to gather stories and personal items from people living in the remote region's various communities, curious to learn more about their connection to the land and its traditions.

More information on the project can be found here


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