Deborah Wasserman’s performance, HEAVY LOAD, spins the drudgery of everyday laundry as a metaphor for women’s role in today’s patriarchal society. Highlighting the otherwise invisible labor of mothers, caretakers, and domestic help, which bears the brunt of society’s mud, her performance raises questions about class, labor, gender, modernity, and privilege.
Wasserman speaks about the process of washing away stained and distressed fabrics not only as a physical task but also as a cleansing ritual, discharging one’s feelings of being ‘stained’. Exposing dirty laundry to light brings out feelings of shame and guilt which are often hidden and folded away. The artist seeks to point to the transformational power of women, who often bring compassion to their work and in doing so, cultivate a more humanitarian society. Taking the idea of hard work to an extreme, and referencing cultures where laundry is washed by hand, the artist will challenge her physical endurance by carrying heavy bags of soiled clothing, lugging water back forth and scrubbing piles of garments and house linens.
Utilizing the geography of Socrates Park to create a site-specific performance, the artist
performs a cycle of washing, drying and folding. The washed clothes are spread on the grass and in trees to dry naturally in the sun. The cycle repeats in another location of the park, a four-hour slice of the eternal cleaning that is part of women's motherly and domestic duties throughout the world.