Aisha Bell is The Laundromat Project’s 2012 Create Change commissioned artist. The LP’s commissioning arm connects artists of color and their communities in meaningful ways by resourcing them to make art in their own neighborhood and in the context of everyday living.
Where do you live?
What’s your favorite thing about your neighborhood?
The children playing on the sidewalk.
Tell us about your recent LP commissioned project.
SUSU is an old Twi word that means little by little. It refers to groups of people putting in a little at a time to create something bigger. In contemporary practice in West Africa, the Caribbean and various immigrant communities in the US and Europe, it is a form of microeconomics. For this project I collected one or two articles of clothing and words written on index cards from folks in my community over the course of six weeks. On a series of days in front of the laundromat, I bleached the donated clothes and then re-dyed them red, yellow and blue. I allowed them to drip dry on watercolor paper as I hung them to line dry on Malcolm X Blvd. For my final performance, I tied all of the clothing around me creating a huge skirt. I recited the contribution of words from my neighbors during this performance. I then brought the clothing to my studio space and used them to create two sculptures – one for the Laundromat and one to be displayed in a public space in Bed-Stuy.
How did your neighbors respond to your project?
For the most part the response was very positive. Many folks were curious and receptive. People liked the idea of donating clothing for a good cause. The very young and the very old were the most receptive. The use of the clothing line and the wash tubs sparked nostalgic conversations with several people from a variety of backgrounds whose parents washed them and their clothes in wash tubs.
What most inspires your work?
The exploration and the reflection of self. The act of being aware and awake. Ideas on empathy and the multiplicity of who we are at any moment.
What are you working on now?
Currently I am editing a series of performance videos shot on Governors Island. I am also working on a series of drawings inspired by the Susu Project. The clothing line, the washtub and the cocoon, become part of my visual lexicon.
Any current or upcoming show/performance you want to recommend?
Aisha’s LP-commissioned sculpture is currently on display at Marmy Laundromat, 197 Malcolm X Blvd, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
Find out more about Aisha by visiting her website.