Soap City

Installed within Firstdraft Gallery and on top of a nearby building, Sydney.

  1. Put on safety goggles and vinyl gloves
  2. Take measuring cup and slowly combine 421g of sodium hydroxide (NaOH) with 1000g of cold water (H2O); stir gently and leave to cool
  3. Combine 500g of coconut oil, 1000g of cottonseed oil and 1500 g of palm oil within stainless steel pot; gently heat until liquefied
  4. Take a thermometer and measure the temperature of both the oil and the sodium hydroxide solution; when both are within the range of 38 °C to 42°C combine the two
  5. Move the newly combined soap mixture to the plastic bucket; take modified electric mixer and beat soap mixture until saponification occurs
  6. Take saponified soap mixture and pour into moulds
  7. Leave to set for 24 hours
  8. Remove soap from moulds; leave to cure for 2 to 4 weeks
  9. Once the soap has cured you now know the ins and outs of the production of soap; as Italian architect and humanist, sculpture, painter and historian Leon Battista Alberti once put: “a man can do all things if he will”

With Soap City we wanted to survey the potential for a city to accommodate unfamiliar activity. Tentative results suggest that the city is an obliging animal of potentiality.

Soap City was one attempt to inject unfamiliarity into a familiar habit. We wanted to offer an alternative to the habitual act of bathing, that is, showering on a rooftop at a location reached by following a map transcribed on a block of soap. The exhibition was spread across two venues; the gallery being used as a space for manufacturing and distributing ‘soap-maps’, as well as the clandestine employment of a nearby rooftop that supported a showering unit and water tower (which in fact was a converted wine barrel).

A city is welcoming but it is not indiscriminate. Like any new commercial venture unfamiliar additions face a life or death process of classification and scrutinization before they are allowed a place at the table. Once folded into the wider-ecosystem of the city successful additions are likely to find themselves caught up in a heady process of adaptation and transformation.

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