PILE OF PANTIES
For the “Pile of Panties,” I put out a call for women from all over the world to send me their dirty underwear. The rules were that the underwear had to be unwashed, and had to be women’s. Little girl’s underwear was acceptable and encouraged. I received over 100 submissions, which I placed in garbage bags in my living room.
For the performance, the panties were piled on the sidewalk at 5115 Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, near a women’s shelter and an abandoned building, for several hours. After I placed the panties on the sidewalk, I made sure not to be directly present with the panties. Instead, I recorded the phenomenon from a distance with surveillance equipment. During the hours the panties were on the sidewalk, they were largely ignored. One woman in a large brimmed black hat, however, stuffed about half the panties into shopping bags and her large black purse and then walked off with them. Beyond that, joggers, walkers, bikers, and various other pedestrians swerved around the panties with barely a second glance.
The piece was inspired by the following Los Angeles phenomena: girl’s clothing items found on the side of the road, child abductions on freeway bulletins, the Rhianna/Chris Brown incident, fallen Hollywood starlets such as Lindsay Lohan, advertising billboards in L.A., and Agent Provocateur lingerie. There was also an unintentional Holocaust reference. Although varied, these are phenomena that have lost much impact culturally-they have lost their spectacle, in a city of spectacles. As a result, when one views these things in their “natural” habitat, they keep walking. It’s interesting that, even when piled, the panties had the effect of both banality (passing by the panties) and opportunism (the woman taking the panties). This is precisely the effect of the cultural phenomena listed above.
Despite the disturbing “reception” of the performance, behind the scenes it did create a strange intimacy between all the participants/absent performers. Women sent personal notes about the history of their panties. Some were concerned about where their panties would eventually end up. Many sent confessions. Others sent me their favorite underwear, which was touching, considering the massive anonymity of the pile. That these highly personal items would be heaped on the street and largely ignored made these intimacies heartbreaking in a way that is connective to the cultural problems the performance intended to address.