Wash is a wall installation comprised of one hundred oversized ceramic soap dishes supported by metal armatures. The dishes span a thirty-foot wide wall in the shape of a rectangle and are attached at heights ranging from three to six feet. Each porcelain dish holds a large bar of white handmade soap. Using the Edwardian Script font, each epithet is embossed into the face of the soap. To clearly see the ethnic slur black ink fills in the indented text.
“We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“Remaining Awake through a Great Revolution."
In 1992, I conceived and designed an unrealized text-based installation entitled Ethnic Cleansing. The idea behind this mixed-media sculpture was ignited by the widespread reports during that year of the heinous acts committed by the Serbian-Yugoslavian president, Slobodan Miloševic, against the Albanians, Croats and Bosnians. His offenses “included massacres, ethnic cleansing, systematic rape, crimes against humanity and genocide” . I was struck by what seemed to me the inherent contradiction in the notion of “ethnic cleansing,” a phrase that became ubiquitous in the media and ultimately sparked my protest installation against the hideousness of the Serbian atrocities. I expanded my project to include other forms of ethnic cleansing besides the Serbian horror expressed as racial slurs and mass racial violence. Can such stains on the body politic and upon the consciousness of humanity ever be washed away?