You Don't Know Me from a Bar of Soap 2023

15 Jul 2023 : The Levee, Maitland, NSW, Australia

Presented for the Pop-Up & Play Arts Trail , a combination of interactive performance and temporary installation. The event featured 8 artists presenting diverse works over a 3 hour period along the Maitland waterfront and in the town centre.

The expression ‘I don’t know you from a bar of soap’ is compounded with the question that challenges belonging: “but where are you really from?” The sense of alienation caused by this assumption on origins is linked to personal histories, memories of soaps at home, personal hygiene, and underlying, it ethnic cleansing. As well as vegetable oils, both animal and human body fat may also be rendered into soap. In this project I display a range of new and used soap bars and fragments. These are a catalyst for memory, reflection and discussion. As people shared their personal associations I lead them into questions about the ethics of hygiene, and the metaphors that cleansing implies. For example, have you ever had your mouth washed out with soap? Would you wash yourself with a used piece of soap even if you don’t where and by whom it had previously been used? If soap is supposed to be clean then what are the unclean associations it still harbours? And finally, would you be prepared to wash with a soap made of human fat? As we talk I offered to emboss or engrave a bar of soap for my audience, which I then asked them to wear on a string around their neck as a medallion. This project initially came to mind based on the history of human fat rendered from victims by Nazi experimenters during The Holocaust.

This project has been realised both as a public engagement work and as a text-based installation inscribed on bars of soap.

Materials: costume (trousers, shirt, Stetson hat, necktie, dust-coat) , timber shelves, plastic table and chairs, various tools (hammer, scissors, embossing kit, electric drill, knife, cheese slicer, stencil set, chiselling set), chord, new soap bars such as Sunlight, Pears, Cussons Imperial Leather and others including an original Marseille Soap. Collection of various multi-coloured used pieces of soap.

PUAP flier

Project Details
Dates 15 Jul 2023
Duration 3 hours
Category solo

Featured artists:
The Great Bozoni, Fondalicious, Albert Lin , Meg O’Hara, Louisa Magrics , Sandy Sanderson, Alan Schacher, Eryn With a Why

Produced and curated by Chloe Warren. Produced by Uncapital Productions and supported by a Creative Streets Grant from Maitland City Council.

Photos by Myf Garven, Alan Schacher, and local friends.