Friday, December 17, 2010

The Laundry Maze

I'm tempted to make a “laundry list” (ha!) of all that has happened in the last 3 months, but I think I'll just focus on The Laundry Maze instead for now; it's the latest development, the news from today.

This was a proposal I submitted early November before I left for a 3 week vacation in Taiwan. It's for a Portland Building installation. I just got the call this morning that my proposal was accepted, and I'm scheduled for early 2012. That seems far away, but not really so much. I am thinking about 2012 already as well. So here's my proposal for The Laundry Maze:

The Chinese laundry is an iconic thread of early China-to-US immigration story. It was a small business that did not require a lot of start-up capital or spoken English, neither was laundering seen as a desirable job, and therefore the business was easily passed on to immigrants without much controversy. Although the laundry business, the US economy, and the immigration patterns have all changed a great deal in the last 100 years, it is still a line of work that many immigrants find accessible regardless of their professions in their countries of origin. It is particularly true if one looks at the ‘laundry’ business in a broader sense—from dry cleaning to housekeeping of the hospitality industry, and also private housecleaning services. As our professions are such a large part of our identities, this transition in profession also brings about a change or loss in identity.

Starting with this connection between immigrants and ‘laundry,’ I propose to install The Laundry Maze in the Portland Building. Resembling lines of clothing hung out to dry, The Laundry Maze will document these profession transitions and invite the viewers to participate and share in this loss of identity.

Clotheslines will be installed in a grid pattern; clean shirts, blouses and t-shirts will be hung in such a way as to create an entry and an exit through a very simple “maze.” I will collect data from immigrants about their professions in their countries of origin and also here in the US. Each pairing will be inscribed on a piece of clothing that is hung on the clotheslines and will be readable from inside of the maze.

When viewers find their ways through the maze, they read & share the experiences in these transitions while their faces and identities are hidden by The Laundry Maze. Only their legs and feet will be visible from outside. As our legs and feet are our most basic methods of mobility, each person is reduced from the whole to an anonymous figure that moves from place to place.