This artist’s book, Word Launder, is a durational artwork made in response to language and to site. It engages ideas around work, time, and exchange. The artwork was made at Cape Town’s Platteklip washhouse, an historical place where slave washerwomen used to do the laundry in colonial times. It is a site of hard labour but also of socialising, according to archaeological excavations. The artwork was made in response, and parallel, to closed academic discussions by urbanists around ‘Vernaculars of Urban Multiplicities’. These discussions were hosted by African Centre for Cities and Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity following on from an earlier engagement around public space and diversity.
The resulting artist’s book, itself a work of performative labour, comprises nine chapters plus a preface. Each double page (or chapter) records a key word picked up from nine participant speakers in turn. I ran the word through Google analytics for its frequency in media reports. The resulting graph is plotted out across the pages of a wage register, already coded for farm labour with work ‘in kind’ factored into its columns. I then write out the key word repeatedly against this graph for as long as the speaker holds the floor.
At the end of each session, examples of media headlines using the key word are randomly inserted into this script. Related statistics are written up to the right, including the word’s geographical dispersions. The artwork indicates among other things the difficulty of finding appropriate signifiers for complexity.