Hung out to dry is playful, nostalgic and introspective. It presents the stories and observations, personal and communal, that reflect on an essential and everyday activity. Part oral history project, part artistic response, this exhibition reveals the significance of clothesline aesthetics, gendered labour and environmental sustainability, as embodied in the air-drying of washing.
The concept arose from the creative consortium’s shared interest in the backyard as a site for significant personal events: celebratory family photographs that demand open space and natural light; siblings, cousins and kids from the neighbourhood at play oblivious to the canopy of wires and fabric overhead. Then, released from its duties, the clothes hoist becomes the mainstay for sheet cubbies, a climbing fortress or swinging carousel.
In times of global climate change, this exhibition reacquaints us with the beauty and sustainability of air-dried laundry and the social life that once surrounded it. The expansive grassed backyard complete with clothesline is disappearing as the suburban idyll; the quarter-acre block is no longer the norm. Swimming pools and BBQ gazebos have consumed back lawns, with the rotary hoist superseded by retractable lines and clothes dryers. Occasionally, on the tiled balconies of inner-city apartments, a folding clothes rack may be spotted.
From clean sheets hanging in the breeze to the washer woman’s bare arms, laundry has long presented artists with a fascinating subject. Hung out to dry draws together works from The University of Queensland Art Collection from the 1920s to the present. In addition, contemporary artists Adrienne Kneebone and Mari Hirata are inspired by diverse cultural experiences. Chris Bennie and Arryn Snowball respond to a shared aesthetic moment, while Georgie Roxby Smith considers gendered labour in the virtual world of gaming.
A/Prof Naomi Stead and Dr Kelly Greenop (Centre for Architecture Theory, Criticism, History and School of Architecture) and Dr Allison Holland (School of Communication and Arts, and UQ Art Museum)
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