Spin Cycle

Heathcote Gallery 2010 | + 2012

Souvenir Tea TowelThe Tea Towel is forever in a spin. Wet. Dry. Wet. Dry. Wet… Always rubbing and polishing, shining and wiping, busy servicing our needs. Greetings from SANDFIRE ROADHOUSE. Often gifted out to friend and family as a 'great time' souvenir, the resilient Tea Towel is caught in a cycle, trapped in the machinations of the machine, tangled with the tights, slapped taught then hung out to dry.

The Souvenir Tea Towel, related to the common variety Tea Towel, is the rarer and more desirable form within the Tea Towel genus. Her plumage is gaudy and cheaply printed with pictures and anecdotes of a conquering past: WITTENOOM W.A. Caught in a game of Captain Cook she is bought and sold, given and received as a flag-type symbol of 'we was here' reinforcing the colonization cycle.

The Great Australian Roadhouse; small-town general store; tourist bureau; Wombat Lodge or your altruistic fundraising charity distribution chain (CWA, P&C) are the preferred habitat for the Souvenir Tea Towel. She is desired by the panicked traveller sans imagination, the sensible shoe brigade and the astute collector oblivious to the inherent values embedded in the object itself and it's covering decoration: CARNARVON WA jostles for provenance with MADE IN CHINA.

The Tea Towel ends up on the line. She is hoisted up dripping and bleached by the Australian sun until rigid. Pulled down she is quickly folded then stuffed third drawer down atop myriad Souvenir Tea Towels. Too sentimental to use yet too good to throw away, she languishes nibbled by silverfish until rescued and recycled by the local Salvation Army: I swam with the dolphins at BUNBURY WA.

Spin Cycle examines the production and use of the Souvenir Tea Towel as a reflection of the false values, layer over layer like culture over culture invited into our homes stamped on a tea towel, normalized and overlooked. It is examined as a metaphor for, and symbol of culture, society and the individual.

The origins of tea and 'tea time' rituals indeed come into question as loaded meanings inherent in the Tea Towel itself. The tea towel is a signifier of our colonial past and an icon of colonial conquest. In addition the Tea Towel is stamped and marked with other meanings creating a layered effect, like culture over culture.

Spin Cycle reminds us to look closely at those things we take for granted and have forgotten to see. It is a reflection of the false values we allow into our homes stamped on a tea towel that become normalized and overlooked over time. The exhibition emphasizes the endless Groundhog Day of daily ongoing rituals that give meaning but in themselves become meaningless. Silent endeavour.

Installation of over 300 layered works

Spin Cycle is an installation of over 300 layered works evoking souvenir tea towels. These tea towels are strung maze-like in the gallery space. Clothesline strung crossways heavily laden with tea towels creates a multitude of intimate 'rooms' in the installation space. Audience members find themselves enclosed by tea towels evoking a private viewing scenario.

The only way to navigate the installation space is to part the tea towels, thereby interrupting the exhibition in order to enter a new space whilst forcing audience interaction. Occasionally one finds oneself sharing a cloistered space with a stranger. This may challenge our personal space limitations or enforce conventions of etiquette, adding an additional layer of irony to the work.

There is no way of encountering the installation as a whole as one in immersed and swallowed by the works. This act of engulfing the audience is reminiscent of our cultural immersion and the difficulties we have as individuals to perceive the 'forest for the trees'.

The Virginias performance

The Virginias also offered a performance/talk to compliment the installation: Virginia's multitudinous personalities spoke, standing at their ironing boards, spritzing then ironing tea towels while explaining the genesis of the exhibition and virginia's various roles in its construction and installation.

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