Angela Rose Voulgarelis and Tereza Swanda’s two-person exhibition speaks to the compounded issue of the silencing of marginalized voices, specifically those of women within global patriarchy. Swanda approaches the theme from an economic and political angle while Voulgarelis draws upon social exchange. The planned projects quietly create subtle spaces for catharsis. Conversations become social sculptures; Story telling becomes a shared exchange.
In Mutual Cleanse, Swanda, a native of Czech Republic, 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. 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, a native New Yorker, and Swanda’s collaborator of 7 years, 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. 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.
Pradelna Bohnice, is a contemporary project space located 5 km north of Prague and part of the largest psychiatric ward in Czech Republic. As its name alludes, (Pradelna means Laundromat), it was a laundry facility washing the whole of the institution’s linens from 1909 to 1993. Within its walls one feels the working conditions of thousands of women who scrubbed laundry for a century, concealing the hierarchy between those institutionalized and the institution. This art space sits on the grounds of a fully functioning hospital with roughly 1300 patients and 1000 employees—the past is very much present.
Bars line all windows. The central entrance has very high ceilings which dwarf the visitor but is similar to an entrance of a chapel. The interior is poorly lit, cold and grey. Holes where piping used to run and missing tiles are throughout, as well as randomly placed slabs of cement where machines and tables were arranged. Sound echoes, especially high heeled shoes.
We intervene on the materials of a laundromat, on bars of soap, and hundreds of flat white sheets hung from laundry lines. However we switch the paradigm.