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05. Extreme Laundry

2005, Van Alen Institute Parachute Pavilion Competition

Most commonly used in the production of clothing, fabric regularly undergoes a regiment of ironing, starching, folding, and chemical treatment. Without the ‘appropriate’ means of control, undesirable consequences occur when fabric is subjected to natural forces. Just think of an unruly skirt on a windy day! Despite conflicts between the systematic, often machine-dictated construction and maintenance of clothing on the one hand, and the unpredictable forces of nature on the other, there still exists a societal desire to subject one’s laundry to an idyllic, untainted, optimal form of nature. No, not thunderstorms and global warming, but YES, clean breezes and mountain springs. Simply look at branding strategies, commercials, and other advertisements for laundry-related products, and you will notice an obsessive cultivation around the idea of the outdoors and laundry line “freshness.” Some Tide Products, for example, are named: Tide Clean Breeze (Liquid and Powder), Tide Mountain Spring (Liquid and Powder), Tide Tropical Clean (Liquid and Powder), Tide with Febreze Freshness Spring and Renewal, Tide with Febreze Freshness Meadows and Rain, and Tide Coldwater Glacier (Liquid and Powder). Even more ironic is the marketing strategy of dryer sheets. Some Bounce products, for example, are named: Bounce Spring Awakening, Bounce Summer Orchard, and finally, Bounce Outdoor Fresh Scent, for which the description states: “You can bring the outdoors in, and get the classic freshness of line-dried fabrics. Its patented time-release technology gives it long-lasting freshness that lasts for days” ( Extreme Laundry capitalizes on the obsessive desires of both control and unpredictability. The initial premise was to take a repetitive pattern that is typically associated with industry or military, and systematically ‘mis-use’ it for purposes of making clothing. Simultaneously, the goal was to make a fabrication which would be activated unpredictably by forces of nature, such as air movement.