You’re walking to the laundromat…
You’re running through the long laundry list of things to do…
Sat on the train home, my feet are soaked right through to the socks, and I keep smiling to myself. ‘Walking to the Laundromat’ (convened by David Ben Shannon) was a surreal experience, made no less surreal for taking place during one of those heavy rainstorms that Manchester does so saturatingly. Originally commissioned by WalkingLab to accompany a similar walk in and around a laundromat in Enmore, New South Wales, artist Rebecca Conroy’s audiowalk guides participants through the steps of washing and drying a load of their (dirty) laundry.
You feel the ocean swelling around your ankles.
The climate is changing… the waters are rising.
But first, there is the laundry to be done.
To begin the session, our small group trudges a mile from the university to BandBox Laundry, listening as Conroy laments the long laundry list of things to do (and the rising sea level). Once at the laundromat, we follow Conroy’s instructions to ‘prepare our garments for baptism’. Between cycles, Conroy directs us on a series of walks whilst narrating topics such as affective labour, neoliberal economic practices, and climate change, all through a delirious array of self-help mantras, 1950s-style laundry commercials and mindfulness practices.
Strange jutaxpositions occur between the soundtrack and our walk, such as listening to Rebecca’s commentary on patriarchy whilst walking past the Victoria Baths building, which retains separate doors for ‘first class males’, ‘second class males’ and ‘females’. Cars reverse and manoeuvre around each other, mounting the kerb and trying to park on the pavement in the pouring rain and rush hour traffic. A woman wearing high-heeled sandals picks her way gingerly through the puddles on the pavement. “I am lucky” enthusiastically affirms the soundtrack.
Place, and movement through that place, strongly shapes our experience of the audio. At the same time, memories, thoughts and ideas from beyond the immediacy of place intervene. Raj shows us photos of a Benjamin Zephenia concert, and our group talks at length about a film Christina saw the previous night set mostly on a boat. The rain falls continuously for the entire 90 minutes, and each time I look down at my boots, the damp patch has risen a little further. At the end, Raj tells me he might draw on some of the ideas for his current research with young people. I wonder what the repercussions of today might be for me and my work, but I don’t have the answer yet. In the words of Walking Lab’s co-director Sarah E. Truman (2016), perhaps it was just a walk in the rain that became and is still “becoming more than it never (actually) was”.
Truman, S. E. (2016) Becoming more than it never (actually) was: Expressive writing as research-creation, Journal of Curriculum and Pedagogy, 13:2, 136-143.
Rebecca’s walk can be found here, perhaps to accompany your own future thinking-laundrying:
Participants may also be interested in the following paper, which experiments further with the walk:
Springgay, S., & Truman, S. E. (2017). A Transmaterial Approach to Walking Methodologies: Embodiment, Affect, and a Sonic Art Performance. Body and Society. 23(4), pp. 27-58. https://doi.org/10.1177/1357034X17732626
Blog post by David Ben Shannon and Abi Hackett.