Mahlia Amatina and her 'Around the World in 80 Washing Lines' project
PUBLISHED: 12:07 17 January 2017 | UPDATED: 12:07 17 January 2017
Around the World in 80 Washing Lines is a social art project pegging us together, across the planet, irrespective of who, what or where we are
Reading’s launderettes might seem unlikely places for an artistic display, but many of those bringing in their duvets for a seasonal change or completing a weekly wash have been delightfully surprised. What they are discovering is an exciting and innovative project by conceptual artist Mahlia Amatina.
She is recording 80 washing line photos from 80 different countries in a project based around humanity and the similarities between us as human beings. “It was inspired by prayer flags I saw strung along the mountains of the Himalayas in Nepal, and is an extension of a thought process behind the painting ‘Look! They Also Dry Their Clothes!’ displayed at my ‘Kathmandu Calling!’ exhibition last autumn,” she explains.
Mahlia has been sourcing photos from around the planet and the last time we checked was getting close to that 80, although more photos from South and Central America, the Caribbean and parts of Asia were being tracked down. So if you’re planning a holiday to any of these countries, or perhaps know someone who lives in one of them, snap up the photos and send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to the photograph, a short blog is written about the person behind each washing line in an effort to showcase further similarities we share with our global neighbours, and how we are all truly connected. Once completed, the display will tour, and be exhibited in various venues to act as an educational vehicle to highlight its strong social messaging.
“It’s a really special project, which as well as creating an astounding visual display, the stories will help add a window to the world of our fellow human beings, and act as a further interactive element to the exhibition – I’m thrilled to be working on this,” she says.
With its various cultures and backgrounds, this project hones in on the theme of inclusiveness and ethnic diversity. Mahlia has been honing in on this by conducting workshops with groups in her local community of Reading, which has helped inform the art, and gain an understanding of the various laundry techniques used in different countries, particularly developing ones, and to learn about the challenges people face when washing their clothes.
“It’s been a real eye-opener learning about how something which is so simple and taken for granted in the Western world is such an elaborate affair in countries like India and Pakistan. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed having the opportunity to explore culture and diversity in the local community, and seeing how residents relate to the universally accepted notion of laundry.”
Six photos were then selected from the community groups, and printed onto laundry items such as vests and tee shirts and displayed in laundrettes around Reading (Dots Laundry, The Washbox and Suprema Dry Cleaners in Caversham) until the end of last year. This formed part of the ‘Art in Unusual Places’ theme – for Reading’s Year of Culture celebrations. Mahlia believes that this is a “great opportunity to make art more accessible to people by bringing it into the community, and effectively bringing art to the people.”
Launderettes have recently gained a ‘retro’ appeal among residents of the UK and are becoming popular gathering spots where customers can enjoy a wide range of amenities from art exhibitions to cocktail bars while they do their laundry. While there were about 12,000 launderettes in the UK in the 1970s, this number has now diminished to around 3,000.
Mahlia’s social art project has added renewed interest in Reading’s launderettes, while also inspiring spirited and thoughtful conversation around her art installation. The BBC picked up on the story and ran a feature (both on TV and radio) on the project, as well as covering the decline in launderettes in the UK, and how existing ones are attempting to entice people into them.
The aim is to exhibit all 80 photos from 80 countries, along with their stories, to form a fully immersive art installation and experience for all ages to enjoy. Can you help? Team Amatina are looking to collaborate with individuals or companies, and are able to offer many benefits to those who would like to partner with this insightful project.
“The strong social messaging means that it ties in with many firms’ ethical stance and corporate social responsibility goals, while also having universal appeal to reach a wide demographic of people. Moreover, the project provides exposure to potentially millions of people through visitors and media coverage, as well as global association with an innovative and original art idea, ” she says. As an official partner, the individual or company can showcase their products and convey marketing messages, while also having the option to host events and entertain at an exclusive preview night. Sound interesting?
Art in the workplace
A survey conducted by Inside Space resulted in 98% of staff saying they wanted to see some form of art at work, and studies have shown that it can lead to an increase in efficiency, innovative concepts and workplace satisfaction. Team Amatina can set up unique art installations for workplaces, with paintings on display for 10 weeks. They are available for sale with 10% of the proceeds allocated to a charity of the company’s choice. As an added extra, Mahlia can also offer a ‘meet the artist’ or an ‘abstract painting session’ for employees.
Named as a 2015 UK Trust Award finalist, Mahlia has had her work displayed at The Hermitage Gallery in Amsterdam, Alliance Healthcare, the NHS, Art Scope Gallery, Reading Town Hall, Jelly Conversation Space, Watlington House Hall, as well as a variety of outdoor venues. More recently, she was part of the American Airlines Autism exhibition in airports around the United States, while closer to home she is taking part in the Whiteknights Studio Trail ‘Comes to Town’ at Haslams in Reading and took part in ‘Art on the Street’ in Maidenhead.
A passionate advocate for service and volunteering, both in her community and abroad, Mahlia has volunteered with children’s arts organisations in Nepal, Lithuania, and more.