Raut #8: We’re Girls from the Streets

“Before, we had to work out how to get the basics. Now we’re choosing where we want to exhibit,” say members of the Laundry Collective

04. 05. 2022
Podcast Audio

Balu, Monika, Magda, Linda, and Helena are artists who dedicate their time to creating and to direct actions in support of homeless women. They themselves have experience with living on the streets.

“We’re girls from the streets. All of us have been homeless at some point in our lives. The collective is taking me to a different life. Before, I was only concerned with the basics—getting food and a place to sleep. Now we’re choosing where we want to exhibit. I would never have gotten to this point on my own,” says Monika, a member of the Laundry Collective.

Please note that the podcast is available only in Czech.

“They threw me out of the flophouse, and I didn’t have anywhere to go. I figured I’d have to stay on the streets. The only idea I had was Magda—I knew she wouldn’t leave me on the streets. She really helped me out back then,” says Balu, describing the background of her relationship with artist Magda Kwiatowska, who works as a mediator for the collective’s meetings and other activities.

The collective was created during the winter of 2019/20 as part of a three-month residency at the INI Gallery in Prague for women experiencing social hardship. Today, members of the collective meet regularly to write, draw, or make films, and together they challenge the stereotypical portrayal of people in need.

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“We want others to see us. We don’t do anything just for the sake of it,” says Balu. Their latest film was made as a recording of a performance the group planned for the festival We Are All Emotional. Members of the group collectively wrote a text that is based on their lives and is loosely interwoven with improvised performances. The film exposes the banality and senselessness of the misunderstandings and prejudices that homeless people face.

In addition to their own work, the collective is involved in various activities to support women on the streets, whom the members help, for example, with their mobile laundry project. At other times, they allow homeless women to sleep in the premises of Prague’s INI Gallery.

“Thanks to the collective, we have the opportunity to help others who are in the same situation. Homeless women have it especially hard. Their ‘partners’ beat them or force them into prostitution. Fortunately, I haven’t experienced this—I have sharp elbows,” says Monika.

“It makes me mad that people often judge the homeless. Just because you have a job and a place to live doesn’t mean that you can’t suddenly hit rock bottom,” says Helena. Balu agrees with Monika that one of the big problems in our society is a lack of concern for the problems of others. “Today everyone is in solidarity with Ukraine. They see it as a duty. But they still don’t care about their immediate surroundings,” Monika adds.

The collective is performing as a part of the festival We Are All Emotional, organized by tranzit.cz at Prague’s Divadlo X10, and is also preparing a project for the upcoming edition of the biennale Matter of Art, which will take place in Prague starting on July 21, 2022.

The podcast is part of tranzit.cz / Matter of Art project Centre and Periphery: Cultural Deserts in Eastern Europe supported by a grant from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway (EEA Grants) as a part of the programme Culture. The series is supported by the State Culture Fund of the Czech Republic. The main partner of tranzit.cz is ERSTE Foundation.

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