Magdalena II Magdalena III Magdalena I Within the ethers


The Laundry Series

The Laundry Series is an exploration of the Magdalen Laundries, with a response to the physical space by dance artist Venettia Miller, in the as-then closed-since-1974 space at Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne Australia.

At this time the Laundries were left empty yet otherwise unaltered since that time. The sense of its painful history lingered strongly within the walls.

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    The Laundry series

    About this collection:

    Magdalena I, II & III - Silver gelatin lith photographs - Accompanied by the compositional response of Tom Fitzgerald

    These photographs were made within the out-of-commission Magdalene Laundries of Abbotsford Convent in Australia in 2012. From the 1880s, thousands of girls and women were sent to the convent — either by court order or through family condemnation — to work in the Magdalen laundries for no wage. Young unmarried mothers had their babies taken away and they and other 'wayward' girls’ were put to work.
    In 1904 alone, Abbotsford had about 366 ‘Magdalen penitents’. The moral point of it was explained by the head nun of Abbotsford about 1890:
    "the inmates are principally engaged in laundry work, this being, in the opinion of the sisters, the most suited to all, and calculated to occupy the mind and body, leaving little time for melancholy reflection on the past or anything except the work of reformation."

    This practice continued until 1974 when the doors were finally closed.

    During this rare moment of access inside the heavy shut doors of the laundry in 2012, dancer Venettia Miller responded to the dusty, pent-up space. Tuning into her sense of these young women of times past her dance became a soulful journey toward liberation, grieving the past and moving into a statement of empowerment honouring and freeing these young women of the judgement of society and imposed sacrifice. 

    'Within the ethers' is an image of the womanhood these young women were denied. Interestingly this and other images made in this series had strange blotches and flaws in the negatives.