The outdoor installation and projection

Þváttadagur (e. Laundry Day) is an attempt to rattle and review the social hierarchy of invisible power in place. The human race relies on groups of individuals that are willing to perform important jobs involving care, often on low-income or with no salary at all, in the light that they have a passion and talent for it. These altruistic individuals, with low or unacknowledged cultural status, take care of the children, the elderly, the marginal groups.

The artwork consisted of four white fabric squares that were hung up on a line, in the same manner as regular outdoor washing lines. A video was projected on the squares, on a continuous loop, of a communal washing room that can be found in regular apartment buildings in Iceland. The viewpoint in the video is on a window of the washing room, located on the ground floor, and inside there are drying lines and random clothes hung up. A woman enters the frame and starts to take down from one line and consequently hang up wet clothes. The atmosphere in the video is calm and the setup up is simple, dogmatic, and realistic in style.

The installation is a direct response to the location, Þvottalaugarnar (e. laundry springs) in Laugardalur. The location has a unique history and was for hundreds of years a community washing facility where people could bring their clothes and wash in the natural geothermal water stream. Hot steam arose from the stream and a community of people used the stream, at all times of the year. After 1930 their role became less important when they were replaced with the utilisation of district heating.[1] The Þvottalaugarnar are now dried up and are a protected historical site.

The title has a historical reference. In pagan times Saturday (is. Laugardagur) was named Þváttadagur, direct translation being laundry or cleaning day. The theory is that washing, or cleaning was a part of a sacred ritual that took place on Saturday[2]. During the Christianisation of Iceland in the year 1000 AD the name was changed from Þváttadagur into Saturday or Laugardagur, and it is assumed that the name is referring to the Þvottalaugar in Laugardalur.[3]

Cleaning, as one of the universal daily tasks, is an intricate part of societal norms. As the phrase goes, cleanliness is next to godliness. The act of cleaning can easily transition into a ritual for many individuals and for some even facilitate lateral thinking. The ritual part of cleaning, all humans can relate to, even though it is not an integrated part of the task. When cleaning, it is possible to enter a sort of automation mode, and the body can itself navigate through the task.

[1] „Þvottalaugarnar í Laugardal“. Vatnsiðnaður, May 24, 2019. https://vatnsidnadur.net/2019/05/24/thvottalaugar/

[2] Gunnar Þór Magnússon. „Af hverju heita dagarnir sínum nöfnum?“ Vísindavefurinn, October 17, 2008. http://visindavefur.is/svar.php?id=48074.

[3] Eyja Margrét Brynjarsdóttir. „Hétu vikudagarnir öðrum nöfnum til forna líkt og mánuðirnir? “Vísindavefurinn, Desember 13, 2000. http://visindavefur.is/svar.php?id=1238.