The Laundry, Memories

We met Georgina Johnson at the launch of our issue #8 back in May and were instantly bowled over by her energy and presence. She introduced us to her contemporary womenswear label Laundry Service and its sister platform, The Laundry—an arts curation and collaboration programme for women and BAME creatives through which she runs art and community events and exhibitions. As part of The Laundry's programme she’s about to launch Memories, an immersive and interactive exhibition that will run at Protein from 4-9 August. We sat down with Georgina and two of the artists taking part in Memories Aminah Ibrahim and Kayla Meikle to find out what we can expect from the show.

Georgina Johnson

What was the starting point for launching Laundry Service? 

I launched it after graduating last year. Before I left college we had a, "Next Steps" talk at University, where a bunch of alumni came back and spoke to us about the reality of their first few years out of education.

They were really honest about their experiences. Some people had to go on the dole, some couldn't find a job for years. These are the things people face and they aren't things to be ashamed of. It wasn't the typical motivational talk but it just clicked for me that I wanted to do my own thing and to do it my way. 

In terms of the label what is your approach to developing collections?

Little things really interest me like gestures and movement. I might be inspired by 2 seconds in a film and that can inform the foundation of my research for a collection. I enjoy the exploration the process is so important.

I love when you test something and it doesn't quite work but then a whole different process is born. I think because I'm hyper-sensitive to touch and sound everything around me can spark something new but I’m learning when to step back and how to be selective with editing because you have to be. 

How would you like to see it develop?

I’m working on another collection, looking at funding and support. What’s interesting is that when you have very limited resources you are even more resourceful, and I am pretty good at doing a lot with a little. I have tons of plans, it's just about aligning myself with the right resources, people and also just keeping what's important, important. 

I’m also developing the brand through The Laundry its twin movement. This gives me the opportunity to really spread my wings and invest in the community which is really the core of both things. 

There are some brilliant platforms emerging that are offering marginalised voices a platform but there's still a really long way to go. How would you like to see things in mainstream media change?

I would really like there to be more attention paid to people doing real things and not because they have 60K Instagram followers. But honestly I think that is going to fall off. People really need to evaluate what they’re doing with their platforms rather than just taking a new selfie everyday, I mean who cares?!

I think mainstream media and big brands need to reconfigure so that the new focus is actually sustainable and properly weaved into the basis of everything they do at the core not just as a token.  

Can you tell us where the idea for Memories came from and what it’s about?

My Nan is 93 and over the last few years she has started to become really forgetful. It hit home when started to ask who I was and I thought about how important she is in my life. I suddenly wanted her to tell me everything she remembered about her childhood, Jamaica, coming to England and everything she'd experienced in between because I felt the immediacy of it slipping away.

Surprisingly she remembered so much about that time. The stories she told connected me to a place I hadn't been and a side of her I didn't know. I saw the hurt in her eyes as the stories she retold reignited her spirit and told myself to remember is to forgive and to be found.

Memories is about the act of remembering and delving into how those stories impact us today. It's about reawakening the feelings about those moments through our retelling. I thought a lot about how and if, it is possible through contemporary practise to reformat an experience completely and what that could look like. I chose to do that through exploring the relationship between storytelling in its various and visual forms and sound. 

How did you approach the curation of Memories?

I asked everyone to submit very in-depth stories of their earliest memories. I then asked photographers Cary Fagan and Cecilie Rasmussen to contextualise these stories. The space will be pretty immersive overall, I think it's best if people come and see and experience it. 

Aminah Ibrahim

What have you created for the Memories exhibition?

I shared one of my earliest memories of my paternal grandmother. I also created five of the soundscapes in the exhibition inspired by the memories of poet Abondance Matanda, artists Hayley Martell, Evar Hussayni, writer Kareem Reid and photographer Cecilie Rasmussen.

How did you approach the brief and respond to the theme of memory?
With the brief, it’s difficult to not get really intimate and personal with the memory. I think the more traumatic or dramatic memories are the ones that stick with us. The memory I shared of my Jidah (grandmother) may not seem to be all that profound initially, but in connection to the way she passed, the irony is too much.

With my approach to the soundscapes I broke down each memory from the contributors to a major feeling/emotion, creating word maps and searching the Internet for sounds that connected to those words to then compose that emotion as the base.

Before I started producing them, I definitely underestimated how much time and emotional energy it would take me to create the soundscapes. These artists are sharing personal moments, letting them be dissected, analyzed and recreated and it takes trust. So being sensitive and keeping true to the thread that runs through everyone's memories was my main goal.

What questions do you hope to raise with your piece?

With the soundscapes I hope to gather people's attention, to focus on building a deeper sense of listening, and not just an ordinary hearing. 

A few questions I want to put out there are: What is your earliest sonic memory? Think about a great story someone told you, what about their storytelling made it so memorable? How would you recreate yourself with sound, without using words?

How important is ritual in defining your sense of self?

When I'm not on track with my personal practices I spiral. Be it looking at myself in the morning and reminding myself of my worth and that I am more than body, or keeping up my automatic writing rituals and meditation, my daily practices nourish my sanity.

Kayla Meikle

What have you created for the Memories exhibition?

I have written some poems and essays based on various childhood/teenage memories.

How did you approach the brief and respond to the theme of memory?

I know I had a wonderful childhood but sometimes I fail to remember certain periods of time. I thought back to my earliest memory and tried to recall as much as I could about the colours, smells and sounds. Once I placed myself physically in my earliest memory, it became easier to picture my mother and various other happy images clearly and vividly. Memories are an extremely important thing to me and I found it freeing and engaging to write openly about things I had to go back into my mind and relocate and re-experience. 

What questions do you hope to raise with your piece?

I'd like this work to make people re-engage with their own memories if possible. My contribution to this exhibition speaks about love in particular—mother/daughter love, first love, love of a city so it would be very interesting if it ignites people’s curiosity to think about their own memories of love.

Do you approach performing your own work differently to the writing of others?

Yes and no. I think I am more protective of my writing and criticism can be harder to take when it’s your words and heart and soul poured onto the page but in terms of performing my own work v’s that of another writer, I feel I approach the characters/backstory/process of the play the same. All words deserve time care and attention. 

Tickets for The Laundry x SSPACE talks on the 6th are available here:

The closing party curated by Georgina Johnson and poet/writer Abondance Matanda, will be an evening full of music poetry and monolgue’s from some of London’s most exciting talent on 9th Aug and open to the public. With sounds by : MARTHA, Eldon Somers and Larry B.

Go to @laundrysrvice or @thelaundryarts for more information.