Artwork: Dirt
Artist: Darius Clark Monroe

About the Work:

If you haven’t watched the film yet, do so now.

Simple yet complex, confusing yet potent, Darius Clark Monroe’s short film Dirt employs repetition and confusion to reflect on the bitter cycle of violence plaguing America, particularly in the black community.

Featuring a single actor, no music, no dialogue, and only the barest of sound design, it is likely to leave some viewers perplexed, and rightly so. For Dirt does not give us easy answers to the questions it poses.

As our subject drives away, his face seeming to run the gamut of the grieving process, we search for meaning. If he truly cares for the person who he has just buried, why dispose of their body as he did?

A hint lies in the film’s treatment: “We survive in the midst of pure madness. Burying our souls, while suppressing fury. Perpetually mourning the loss of our former, present and future selves. To be black in the world is to be intimate with trauma and pain”.

Perpetually mourning the loss of our former, present, and future selves. Is it possible, then, that our subject is burying himself? Is the body symbolic of the person he was before experiencing loss?

Monroe lost a friend shortly before creating Dirt, so it’s not difficult to see the film as the director holding a mirror to his own experience.

Yet it is not his experience alone. Our subject starts and ends the film digging, but it’s not the same scene played back. It’s another burial. Another loss. And perhaps our subject isn’t the only one forced to bury his former self again and again in an attempt to carry on. If we looked further across the field, as we look around the world today, would we not see many young, black men and women forced into the same situation as they try to survive in a nation so willing to let them die under the heel of authority simply because of the colour of their skin?

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