This collection of soap is part of an archive accumulated from an almost week long, neighborhood door knock in Fitzroy, Melbourne - which covered seven blocks from Johnston Street to Moor Street and seven floors of the Atherton Gardens Housing Complex, (a public housing estate). I asked each resident I met to exchange the soap they were currently using, (no matter how small or worn), for a new handmade, organic soap from a basket I carried. Soaps were collected in clear bags along with some anecdotes from my interaction with each person or family.
The Soap Exchange led to other kinds of exchanges through invitations into people’s homes. Over cups of tea - stories were told and laughter and conversations emerged between strangers who are virtually neighbors but had never met. In particular, I was privileged to hear the often-untold stories from people who are now my neighbors, but have come from far - away places and under very difficult circumstances. The depth and detail of these stories and exchanges remains something shared within the time of our meeting and the space of their home - the anecdotes provided here serving only as a trigger for a memory of each person and our initial encounter. The collected soaps store the physical traces of these meetings, existing as both a kind of bodily offering and as unconscious sculptures - each soap having been shaped and worn away by its users’ body in the daily washing ritual and holding remaining skin cells and hairs.
The archive becomes a kind of idiosyncratic, mental and physical map of the area and the people living within it.