Installations > Site-specific Installation, Portland Building Lobby, Portland, Oregon, 2012
The Laundry Maze was designed for the lobby of the Portland Building in Portland, Oregon. The project uses the historical reference of the Chinese laundry as a starting point to explore the professional transitions many immigrants face as they find work in different fields in their new lives. As one's profession is often the most public part of one's identity, this transition also brings about a change in identity.
The maze is created from shirts hung on laundry lines at a height that obscures the space for most adults. On the back of each shirt, I painted mountains, oceans, rivers, deserts — the traditional boundaries between nations that were often natural obstacles. For immigrants, these boundaries are behind them. On the shirt fronts, I sewed overlapping tags that describe people's professions before and after immigration, with the “before” tags obscuring the “after” tags. These tags function like a book — you must flip the page to read what is underneath. These “mini-stories” were collected from over a hundred immigrants either through personal contacts or through language programs around Portland.
In addition to learning about these changes in immigrants' identities, The Laundry Maze is also a visceral experience for the viewer — walking through a maze where you can't see beyond your immediate surrounding and can't tell where you're going is disorienting, not unlike the confusion and displacement often felt by new immigrants.
This project was funded in part by the Regional Arts & Culture Council.