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Laundry Project Concept

Page history last edited by mbreeden@uw.edu 12 years, 1 month ago


Initial Project Concept

Air Your Dirty Laundry will allow visitors to the Henry Art Gallery to engage tangentially in conversation with other visitors, while simultaneously engaging covertly with the pieces on display in the exhibition Vortexhibition Polyphonica.  Three different areas of activity will allow visitors to participate; the first will invite them to participate by “airing their laundry” by leaving a secret, the second zone of engagement will ask them to “sort the laundry” that has been left by other participants, and lastly, secrets inspired by chosen artworks will encourage them to connect on an individual basis with the exhibition.


Zones of Participation

As stated above, visitors will be asked to participate in three different areas, each designed to engage guests to the museum in different manners and varying levels of participation. 


Air Your Dirty Laundry

The first area will be set up outside the museum and will invite participants to “air their dirty laundry.”  This area of the activity is meant to engage visitors who are interested in generating material, namely a secret.  We will invite passersby to participate in this activity, as well as those who are visibly entering the gallery.


To attract participants, laundry lines will be strung outside the Henry, with secrets placed on the lines to serve as prompts toward participation.  We will also be outside facilitating interaction, and encouraging people to participate.  Items used will be pre-cut paper underwear, which can be inserted into a laundry hamper for anonymity, or pinned to the line with clothesline.   A table with pens, pencils, directions, and an invitation to participate will be used to facilitate the interaction, which will be encouraged further by us.


Facilitation in this area will also encourage further participation inside the gallery, and will introduce the activities of other groups who have designed participatory experiments.


Sort the Laundry

In this area, guests will be invited to take the secrets that have been generated by individuals and sort them onto different laundry lines.  This zone has been designed for visitors who enjoy participating, but are not necessarily interested in generating, but more so in sorting or classifying.  


Four laundry lines will be strung along the staircase adjacent to the gallery housing Vortexhibition Polyphonica, and categorized, resulting in a system of classification that allows visitors to curate the secrets.  To facilitate this, a laundry basket will be placed at the beginning of the lines, with instructions inviting guests to participate.  Secrets that have already been generated, will be taken from the basket and hung on whichever line the visitor sees most fit.  The four categories will be:  1.  I totally lol’d, 2.  I’ve been there, 3.  I’m inspired, and 4.  I think I know you. 


This zone builds upon the experience that is outside the Henry, and will hopefully encourage the visitor to engage again inside the gallery. Additionally, our hope is that this section will really give the visitor a curatorial presence in the gallery.


Leave A Secret In the Gallery

This final zone of participation is meant to encourage engagement with artwork that is displayed in the gallery.  Once again, this activity caters to those who are interested in generating material, but it asks them to judge the art to an extent as well, engaging a different form of participation. 


Three pieces from the collection will be chosen as inspiration for generating secrets.  A stool with cutouts and a basket will be placed next to the label for the piece, with direction inviting them and instructing them in how to participate.  Pencils will be provided for participants to write secrets, and secrets will be placed in the basket initially to serve as prompts. 


When secrets have been generated, they may be filtered into the laundry basket to be sorted.  In order to evaluate the experience, the laundry baskets will be moved to different pieces in the gallery.  This will serve to gauge if there are pieces that illicit more interest, or if areas of the gallery get higher foot traffic than others.


These three zones of interaction are meant to relate to one another, but also standalone.  It is our hope that visibility leading into the gallery will result in participation at different level, namely in the sorting of laundry and the leaving of a secret in the gallery.  We intend for the different designs to cater to different levels of participation, ranging from generating to sorting. 


Content Assets

Some of the items that are necessary for this project have been illuminated above, but the following is a larger list of items that will possibly be used in these activities.


Assets for outside component

  • Predesigned cutouts:  these will be paper cutouts in the shape of articles of clothing, i.e. underwear, socks, that participants will air their dirty laundry on
  • Typewriter (provided by Amanda):  this will serve as an option for participants.  They can either type directly onto the cutout itself, or they can dictate to on of us.
  • Writing utensils:  colored pens, pencils, Sharpies, etc. will provide an alternative to the typewriter, giving participants another option and greater artistic liberty.
  • Clothesline:  participants can have the option of displaying their secret outside on the clothesline.
  • Clothespins:  to hang secrets on the clothesline.
  • Hamper:  if participants do not want to air their dirty outside, they have the option to leave them anonymously in the hamper.
  • Aprons:  these will be worn by us to mark us as facilitators and will relate to the textiles on display inside the gallery.
  • Thread starters:  these will be examples generated by us and classmates that provide an example of what the secrets will look like, and how they are to be displayed


Assets for inside component

  • Predesigned cutouts:  as seen above
  • Writing utensils:  pencils that can be used in the gallery space.
  • Clothesline: additional clotheslines will be placed in the museum to provide more room for secrets to be displayed
  • Hampers:  these will be used to sort the secrets that other individuals have left behind.  They will be categorized, allowing the visitor to “curate” the secrets as he or she sees fit.
  • Clothespins:  as seen above, they will be used to display the secrets.  Additionally they will be utilized in the “curatorial” process as visitors group secrets together into larger groups on the clothesline.  They may be used in a possible labeling activity in the gallery as well.


Project Goals

While this has been referred to above, it is necessary to expand upon the goals and desired outcomes, to fully explain our hopes for what the experiment will do.


The outside component has two goals, to generate material, as well as generate interest and awareness in the Henry.  The first goal, to generate material, is necessary for other areas of participation to be successful.  In doing this, we hope that we will create awareness of the Henry as well.  A goal of this component is to create interest amongst students at UW, who have not previously had any interaction with the Henry.  It is, then, and informal marketing plan.


The primary goal of sorting the laundry is to engage visitors, but also have them participate in a conversation, albeit not in real time.  The messages left behind by generators will hopefully encourage participants to categorize, judge, and relate to the content.  While it is questionable whether this is a conversation or not, we believe that it is a discourse of sorts, that allows for challenging subjects to be approached in a detached manner.  So, while semantically this may not be a dialogue, an exchange is occurring and discourse is happening as participants relate to, and categorize the secrets.  Regardless, conversations between visitors will most likely occur here.


The final sector of activity, in the gallery, is driven by our desire to connect viewers on a personal level to the artwork they are seeing.  It is our hope that prior activities with the secrets will create a scaffold of sorts, introducing the idea of leaving and categorizing secrets, which leads to thinking more abstractly about secrets and what secrets the artist or artwork holds.  Or more simply, what secrets does the inspiration of the piece generate? 


What Occurred

The project as imagined was realized for the most part.  There were minor changes made to each component of the project as the weekend passed, to understand what variables would result in greater participation.


Outside the gallery, there was, unfortunately, little foot traffic as it was the weekend.  One thing we did not account for was the presence of headphones.  We found that the majority of people who passed as individuals had in earbuds, which deterred them from responding to our prompt to participate.  The combination of lighter foot traffic and technological isolation resulted in a lower number of participants than we had originally hoped for.  To combat this, on Sunday we ventured out into the University District to see how willing people were to participate.  We found that people were more likely to participate, and it also aided us in achieving one of our goals, which was awareness of the Henry.  We found that the majority of participants did not know of the Henry, and if they did, they did not know how to get there.  After doing this we returned to the museum and found that two participants we had found on the street, who had no prior experience with the Henry, came in to see the project.


We also began to facilitate the laundry lines inside the gallery to encourage greater participation.  We had hoped this area of participation would be self-facilitated, but found that when one of us brought the laundry basket to guests, there was a much greater rate of active participation as compared to passive participation.  For the purposes of this reflection, active participation is defined as pulling secrets from the basket and hanging them on the line, while passive participation was simply reading what had been categorized as well.  We also made larger category labels to place on the wall, making the different categories more visible and distinct for the visitor. 


In the gallery housing Vortexhibition Polyphonica we found that visitors were leaving secrets, but they did not necessarily pertain to the artwork we hoped they would interact with.  To try and encourage interaction with the artwork, we moved the directions for participation to a prominent space, hoping that visitors would see this and focus on the art, instead of simply the act of telling a secret.  At this point, we cannot definitively say whether this was successful or not.



This space is not meant to evaluate, but briefly reflect on the changes we made in the concept and delivery.  There were minor changes made to the project as the weekend continued, as illustrated above.  We feel that these changes aided in greater participation, but this needs to be evaluated further.  The concept remained the same throughout the weekend, but the changes made aided in bringing the intended goals to fruition.  Flexibility then, is an important component of a project, allowing for changes to be made that will better the project and rectify unexpected variables and outcomes.


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