The smell was almost pleasurable, in the wholesome, natural way that the smell of sawdust or rain is. I rested my hands on the glass barrier separating me from the room of dirt. I had read that it weighed over a quarter million tons and the first thing I thought about was the building’s structural integrity. Now, actually standing in front of the Earth Room, my mind drifted from Manhattan’s lower east side to some hazy midwest destination, of corn and other basic agricultural staples growing out of dirt tilled over every day, of young children with muddy feet running through a backyard, of retirees lovingly examining their gardens under bright blue skies.
Adam had told me it was called the Earth Room, one of those ambitious art pieces that radical schools so adored in the 20th century’s last decades. It was just that; a room full of earth, dirt, feet of it, layers upon layers contrasted with the stark white walls that held it in. It was located on the second floor of a loft that we had had some difficulty locating. A permanent exhibition. I ran my hand along the surface of the dirt and was disappointed when it was clumpy and not fine and smooth. I stepped back from the opening and let the people behind me have a look.