The Story of My “100 Sheets” Project: We washed it as best we could

In 2004, as a tribute to my Mum’s sacrificial work, I asked her to wash 100 clean sheets. She had been caring for our elderly and very sick grandparents at home for a long time by then, to ease the last years, months, weeks, days, hours of their lives. After years of hard emotional and physical labour, I wanted to give her some relief, mother and daughter together. So that she would not struggle with the maculae, with her own conscience – “did I do everything well enough” – but could clear her own little life, her own soul, of the burden, so that she could gain absolution through this intimate ritual. It was autumn, it was in our own backyard, the sheets were floating under her hands in the little enamel tub she used to bathe us in as children, we videotaped it.

These 100 clean sheets were laid out in a run-down, disused hall of the Csepel Metalworks, a symbolic place where our parents’ generation had worked. Privatisation was going on, a vast, abandoned space, the late steel temple of hope. In it, white sheets hung or rose like pillars, on which we projected the video of Mum washing and washing. Unfortunately, the exhibition was only open to visitors for one afternoon and evening.

A Hundred Sheets, 2004; site-specific installation, Csepel Metalworks

Then I saved the 100 sheets as a treasured heritage for later. In 2010, I took out my special dowry of the spotlessly clean sheets washed by my mother, and covered the floor of the Small Synagogue in Eger, which was then used as an exhibition space, deprived of its original function. Snow-white, immaculate, covered and veiled, a much-used wooden floor, which made the once white-painted walls look yellowed, dirty, showing stories. Just as we don’t like to enter a clean room with muddy shoes, it was hard to set foot in here and against our will dirty the white sheets. My “impertinent request”, my will was fulfilled, that the floor covered with white linen, despite the good will of the visitors to the exhibition, should be dirty, and that we should put up with it, accept it, someone should be responsible for it.

Dowry, Veiling, Unveiling, 2010; site-specific installation, Small Synagogue, Eger

The exhibition closed, I picked up my dirty dowry and packed them in black bags. The sewn-up long strips of linen that I nailed to the floor in the late synagogue, and which we had laid out in the factory hall in Csepel, split with a sharp sound as I tore them off like wounds. Not just the sheets, I also picked up the dirt on them. Let that be saved too. I knew I’d get it out again someday.

Spring 2023, Viktória Popovics asks me to participate in a group exhibition, Ludwig Museum, on the theme of care. They would like to show the project “100 Sheets” again in some form. I have not participated in an exhibition for years because I had nothing to say as an artist. This invitation spoke to me, and I thank for it.

A long struggle to decide what to do. Let’s wash it again. Let it be clean again. But who will wash it? Who should wash my dowry, my ‘dirty linen’? I’m a woman, so it’s my job? I am also permeated by the expectations of female roles, for example, for days it never occurred to me that anyone else could wash them, not just me. There is someone else in the family, my brother will wash it. But rather: let’s wash it together! The important thing is that we do it together. Let’s wash it together, we 2 siblings, Gyuri Baglyas and me.

A man and a woman washing. A powerful image. Let the 100 sheets be clean again. We too will have to take care of someone one day, we too have to face the passing of life. We too must take responsibility for our own lives.

According to the new social law, “the individual is responsible for his or her social security first and foremost”, then his or her immediate family, then the social services, then the Church and finally the State.

We are taking responsibility, the process is physical and concrete, because we have done it, we have washed it, but now it is more symbolic. It is important that together. We dismantle our own stereotypes together, we dismantle the pile of dirty linen and then we build up the pile of white linen by washing it again, we may need it again. Many times in the process we felt we were on our own. That in the midst of the task, we were left to ourselves as individuals in society. That this laundry is a symbol of our self-care, of our own destiny and responsibility towards others. We decided, we faced it, we washed it as best we could.

100 Sheets, 2023; video, 17’45”, contributors Gyuri Baglyas, László Dinea

Erika BAGLYAS, artist

Translated by Ágnes Ivacs

Kurátorok: Dabi-Farkas Rita, Popovics Viktória
Megtekinthető: 2024 január 14-ig

Contact me

    Scroll to Top