Jelsa, HR

A cyclical performative act of washing the art piece While Drying The Facades Are Ours in the old public lavoir, carrying it wet dripping through the city, and later hanging it back on the facade of the museum. 

Text The Laundresses. While drying the facades will be ours. was published in The Perfect House Has Become a Ruin. On Lavoirs. ed. Elena Braida, Blooming, Amsterdam, 2023.

Doing one’s laundry, as an activity, has a very feminized past: for ages, it was a female chore.
The figure of the laundresses / washerwomen appears as early as Homer’s Odyssey, in the scene of Princess Nausicaa and her handmaids doing the laundry by the seashore. Today, in many languages, the word laundress exists only in a feminine form, lacking its masculine counterpart. In various European cities and towns, one can still find special areas (now mostly unused) called wash-houses, lavoirs, bassin public, lavadero, lavatoio, designated for doing laundry, constituting socially important places for women communities, who were the sole users of those premises. They served as a place of work, but also as an arena for talks, exchange of ideas, and lastly — gossip. Until today, in Catalan, the word for doing the laundry — fer safareig — is colloquially used to mean gossiping.

In Pedro Almodovar’s movie Pain and Glory, there is a scene showing four women doing the laundry in the river, singing in the meantime, laying the bed sheets on the cane, and timidly starting to dance flamenco. While kneeling on the shore of the water, one of them says: I’d like to be a man, so I could swim naked in the river. Except being an example of a beautiful cliche image romanticizing women’s physical work — here, the act of doing the laundry — the scene depicts the women as unleashed, freely speaking their minds in front of each other, and feeling confident outside the conventions they otherwise have to follow.

For this brief moment, we shamelessly take over the shiny facades. They are ours until the sun and breeze will dry the laundry. Then, we will bring it back inside, iron, fold, put it in the right places, in the right drawers, and — while sipping on manzanilla, washing our toes, and paying the bills — patiently wait for the moment we will disturb the public view with it, again.

pictures: Marija Kovač

fragment of The Laundresses. While drying the facades will be ours. published in The Perfect House Has Become a Ruin. On Lavoirs. ed. Elena Braida