Maja Bajevic, Women at Work — Washing Up, 2001, five-day performance / video (18′ 09″) / photographs.
Exhibition view: Cemberlitas bathhouse, 7th Istanbul Biennale, Istanbul, Turkey (Curator Yuko Hasegawa), 2001.
Photo documentation: Emanuel Licha


Women at Work – Washing Up

Political messages always have a temporal meaning; when we put them in a different time they become completely absurd. Washing off the weight of history expressed through famous political messages from ex-Yugoslavia is a reaction to the violence that the political can have over the intimate. Together with three Bosnian women refugees, I embroidered on very fragile fabric three famous sentences by former Yugoslav president Tito, such as, “A country that has youth like ours should not worry for its future.” Each of his sayings was embroidered in Bosnian, Turkish and English. The meaning of these political slogans has been washed out through events in former Yugoslavia and has become rather ironic. The presence of the women refugees makes that more than obvious. I filmed the process of embroidery in Sarajevo that is shown on a simple video monitor. The performance, lasting five consecutive days, took place in a women’s hammam (public bath) in Istanbul and was held during the opening of the 7th Istanbul Biennial. The event could be attended only by women, and presumed an active participation of the visitors who could access it by passing through a cleansing rite of bathing. Zlatija Efendic, Fazila Efendic and myself washed the fabric embroidered with political slogans over and over again, until it fell to pieces. In this way, we destroyed a thing of our own making, as history often does. The process of washing has a sacred connotation in many cultures. Psychologically, cleaning is known as a traditional female reaction to pain, loss, death or stress. The last possibility for taking control of our own destiny is to wash, to clean the dirt of the outer world and it’s penetrating influence on us.