Artist Olivia Erlanger takes mermaids from the ocean to your local laundromat
A short while ago, by the end of summer, a couple of fishlike tails appeared at a laundromat in Downtown LA. On a closer look they seem to be tails of mermaids, hanging out of the big washing machines at the Laundry Zone in Arlington Heights. But how and why did they get there? Artist and author Olivia Erlanger has the answer.
In her exhibition “Ida”, US-based creative head Olivia Erlanger confronts customers at a local laundromat with life-size mermaid tails. The exhibition was organized and brought to life by the arts platform Mother Culture, located close to the unconventional exhibition space.
Olivia had shown interest in doing a project on life-size mermaid tails and the founders of Mother Culture, Milo Conroy and Jared Madere, came up with the idea to do it at the Laundry Zone – funny enough – while stopping by to do their own laundry.
The main inspiration for her work with the mythical sea creatures came from their representation. In Olivia’s mind mermaids have a connotation of a pre-gender or genderless archetype. In an interview with the Los Angeles Magazine, she says that different environmental pressures effect a transformation of sorts. “When they are presented as female, mermaids bring up many questions of mobility, not only in a physical sense, but also ones around agency. Ariel, for example, gave up her voice to walk on land.”
Extending her practice into creating environments with her art projects, Olivia says it felt like a natural experimentation to inhabit a public space. Customers visiting the laundromat, expecting the usual tristesse of such places, reacted with curiosity, surprise and delight.