Series of twelve sequential photographs, captured on circular paper negatives
Steven Pippin discovered a number of similarities between a camera and a commercial washing machine. As the artist points out, washing clothes and the process of photography both involve a chemical process, require time, and are motivated by the desire to reach ever better results (Pippin, 1998, 156–157). He found out that the washing machine possessed all the relevant characteristics to function as a camera, and that he only had to modify its glass front as a lens and shutter device and add the proper chemicals. There was also the benefit of being able to process the negative picture afterward by pouring the chemicals directly into the machine’s powder drawers and then run it through its cycles. After having completed an initial series of photographs using a single washing machine, Pippin decided to realize his series Laundromat-Locomotion (1997) in a public laundromat with twelve converted washers aligned in a row. In order to shoot a sequence of photographs he attached cotton trip-wires to each of the machines; these activated the camera whenever something passed it. As the title suggests, Laundromat-Locomotion is a homage to the pioneering photographer Eadweard Muybridge and his analysis of human and animal motion. Pippin’s “restaging” of the motion studies in the environment of a laundromat portray the artist in profile and range from walking backwards to passing in front of the machines wearing a suit or naked, and even included a rider on a galloping horse in reminiscence of Muybridge’s research on equine locomotion. Each series consists of twelve sequential images, captured on circular paper negatives. These were the result of carefully cutting out by hand a circle with a diameter of 24 inches from the originally rectangular sheets in order to fix them to the back of the washers’ drums, opposite the machines’ “eyes”. To Pippin’s surprise, the resulting circular pictures, developed and fixed in the washing machine, looked like beautiful Muybridge originals. (Ju.Ju.Li.)
Steven Pippin, born 1960 at Redhill, Surrey, UK.
Steven Pippin, Laundromat-Locomotion: Mr. Pippin (San Francisco: SFMOMA, 1998).