So anyway, here goes...!
WASHDAY BLUES - an analogue film installation on Super 8 by Martha Jurksaitis
This Super 8 installation was prompted by the fact that one of Titus Salt's rules for the village of Saltaire was that nobody was allowed to hang out their washing to dry publicly. On looking into the issue, I discovered that landlords and housing associations in America are outlawing this also, on the grounds that the sight of washing hanging out to dry devalues property in that area, since it suggests that the residents are too poor to afford a tumble dryer, and thus the area is not seen as wealthy enough to warrant a decent property price. This association of washing lines and township and capitalist values seemed an interesting idea to pursue, given that the UK is beginning to follow suit in some areas. On filming around Shipley, I found that through the act of filming washing, I met many people who were curious about what I was doing, and without exception they were extremely accommodating and receptive to my camera. I found the experience communal and friendly, and actually met some neighbours for the first time in three years of living in the same place!
The Film Works
The installation is composed of four Super 8 film loops which I processed individually using the 'bucket' method (i.e. filling buckets with developing chemistry and swishing the film around in them by hand - with gloves!). It was very reminiscent of hand-washing clothes. With photochemicals, the orthodox view taken by the manufacturers of film and its chemistry is that once a batch of mixed chemicals has been used to process one particular type of film, it then becomes 'incompatible' for another. I purposefully flouted this convention and did the photochemical equivalent of putting a red sock in a white wash. The result was a curiously coloured film with a strong deep yellow hue. This led me on an adventure, since I realised that in photographic processing, yellow is the 'complementary colour' (i.e. opposite colour on the colour wheel) of blue. I worked with this idea to re-photograph the film and process it to a negative (using cross-processing in C-41 chemistry instead of E6), thus creating a film with predominantly blue tones. I also shot some footage and processed it normally in E6.
Four loops were chosen from the 100ft of footage I had shot and processed, and were set up in four Eumig Super 8 projectors. The projectors were positioned in different locations around the launderette and were aimed to project at sheets hanging up on the walls, and even inside the tumble dryers! Each projector was set to run at a different speed or frame rate, to explore the motion of washing hanging to dry in multiple rhythms. Tea-light candles were placed around the launderette, which was entirely blacked out from inside so that no outside light could filter in, creating an atmospheric and cinematic environment.
This project taught me 5 things:
1. Laundry and artisanal filmmaking have a lot in common. Baths, buckets, washing, rinsing, and even processing in a mixture made of washing soda, coffee and vitamin C (recipe to follow)! I also always hang up my Super 8 films to dry on a clothes drying rack.
2. In my experience through doing this project, people who hang out their washing are friendly and community-spirited!
3. There is a sensual reason for hanging washing out, as well as an aesthetic, ecological, economical and social one. The laundry is fresher, smells better, feels nicer to have close to your body, and gives a lot of pleasure.
4. Launderettes are interesting places, and are perhaps a mid-point between the home-made and the industrial, in that they are still meeting points where people share a resource. As places, they hold a lot of fascination for people, and elicit strong positive responses, which a home-based washing room most often does not. I once went to an impromptu party in a small local launderette in Australia. It was not a planned party, but just happened because of the people who were there, doing their washing.
5. Hanging out your washing gives you a chance to look away from the bricks and up at the sky.
This project was made possible with support from the Saltaire Arts Trail, Bradford City of Film, and the Saltaire Village Launderette. Here are some pics! The recipe for Caffenol follows underneath!
Recipe for Caffenol to develop black and white film (such as Tri-X) to a negative:
40g instant coffee (must be caffeinated! I use Co-op own brand, but any will do)
54g washing soda crystals (this is different to washing powder, Home Bargains sells it, or online)
16g pure vitamin C powder (aka ascorbic acid)
Fixer for film (you generally buy this from photochemical places, but apparently the juice from blended onions also works, though takes a long time!)
Put 800ml cold water in a bucket. Then put 40g coffee in a container and add 200ml boiling water. Add this mixture to the cold water. Then add the 54g washing soda and stir until dissolved. Next, add the vitamin C powder (the mixture satisfyingly fizzes up for a little bit, making it look like a cappuccino!). Your developer is now ready! Process at approx. 22 mins at about 27 degrees Celsius, then pour the coffee mixture out of the tank, rinse well, and fix for about 5 mins (or longer if using onion juice!). Rinse, dry, and hang up your film (on the washing line...) and project your negative film! Or you can digitise it and convert it to a positive, or print it onto 16mm using an optical printer to create a positive 16mm film print. Beautiful results are possible with this mix. The developer doesn't keep well, so discard after use. And be warned - it definitely doesn't smell of fresh washing! :)
If you would like to learn more about home-processing Super 8 and 16mm film, check out this free online resource:
You can also get in touch at the email below if you would like to attend an analogue filmmaking workshop, book CK to present a workshop (for example for friends or employees), or commission a Super 8 film or installation.