Saturday, February 21, 2015

477 Words

Pradelna Bohnice is a contemporary project space located 5 km north of Prague's city center. Set on the grounds of the largest psychiatric ward in Czech Republic, it was previously a laundry facility for washing the whole of the institution’s linens. (Pradelna means Laundromat). Within its walls one feels the working conditions of thousands of women who washed the laundry from 1909 to 1993, concealing the hierarchy between those institutionalized and the institution. This art space currently sits on the grounds of a fully functioning hospital with roughly 1300 patients and 1000 employees—the past is very much present.

Bars still line all windows. The central entrance has very high ceilings which somewhat dwarf the visitor but is similar to an entrance of a chapel. The interior is still poorly lit, and feels cold and grey. Holes and missing tiles are everywhere, as well as randomly placed slabs of cement where machines and tables were arranged. Sound echoes, especially high heeled shoes on tile.

Our work speaks to the compounded issue of the silencing of marginalized voices. The planned works quietly create subtle spaces for catharsis. We intervene on the materials of a laundry mat, on bars of soap, and hundreds of flat white sheets hung from laundry lines. Conversations will become social sculptures; Story telling will be a shared exchange. Nothing will be for sale.

In Mutual Cleanse, Swanda, a native of CZ carves and paint portraits into soap. Portraiture usually reserved for the elite, politicians or clergy is dedicated to the cleaning women collecting spare change all throughout Prague’s public restrooms. Swanda paints their visage into her grandmother’s collection of 120 bars of soap that she ‘skladovala’ (which means stored but more so, stacked with care) in her one bedroom apartment in Czechoslovakia during Communism. Swanda brings the soap back to a functional state, placing it in holes and missing tiles, the nooks and crannies, of Pradelna Bohnice. Gallery viewers will use one bar at a time for their bathroom use replacing the washed soap back on exhibition. The piece is about un-labeling, erasing, disintegration, and disappearance. Swanda explores and demonstrates one’s effect on another. 

Airing Dirty Laundry is an ongoing collaborative performance installation in which Voulgarelis sits among hundreds of folded flat white sheets and embroiders a single line onto one at a time. She hangs them from laundry lines in public space like Pradelna Bohnice. She offers passersby a phrase card with the text,  “I Should…”, “Don’t Be Too…”, “Don’t…”, or “Not Enough…” and invites them to complete it as well as to embroider alongside her.  She asks each person to consider the notion of “airing dirty laundry”. The pencil used to fill out the card is offered in exchange.  Embroidery, as a central visual element, reveals connection between meditation and everyday actions and collapses the hierarchy between “High Art” and domestic labor.

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