|Nantes was the ideal city for Barker to test his theories on dirty laundry and coming clean. Beneath its civilised exterior lurked a history of slavery, a shameful record of religious intolerance and a litany of World War II atrocities. Here Barker produced a work that, perhaps more than any other to date, encapsulated his themes and styles with absolute conceptual clarity.|
Exhibiting in a building overlooking the river, the structures of which had been built by slaves, Barker installed a makeshift laundromat with the help of a group of students he was tutoring.
"What I did was request the public of Nantes to please bring their dirty clothes so I could wash them - as a form of catharsis and a sign of forgiveness. I bleached everything until it turned grey."
Planes, trains and automobiles dotted the show, all pointing to the port of Nantes, where international traffic was slowly producing a "grey" cultural mix. "On the walls of the laundromat, in chalk and napthalene, I wrote the names of all the explorers I could think of, as well as dates of slavery."
As laundry was washed and bleached by Barker and his students, it produced a stream of grey water. Running from the machines, the water travelled through a transparent pipe into the next room of the installation.
The room swirled with a great rotating washing line. Holes were burnt into the washing hanging on it and video images were projected onto this, the light falling through layers of fabric like fractals of memory. The footage being projected was the violent newsreel material that Barker had hung onto for all those years. Drawings of fishermen littered the walls.
Past all this ran the pipe with grey water. From there it turned downwards into a room containing a structure built to resemble the shape of a magnetic field and, after passing through that, the pipe ran into a hole in the floor that had once housed the plumbing of a toilet. From there it dropped off, depositing the water back into the river from whence it came.
Wayne Barker: Artist's Monograph