I thought I had invented
the idea: sneaking downstairs in the middle of the night with my best friend to sit too close to the TV with the sound down low, feigning disgust at the mixed-up blue and
yellow brooms and feather-dusters and cooking pans . . . With basic cable you could surf past the Home Shopping Network and see distorted pictures of the channels you weren't paying for. Every screeching latex glove and Housework Channel sigh came in perfectly; it was the pictures that had to be interpreted. But a flicker of a frying pan and a glimpse of a sweep were enough to feed my teenage imagination.
In adult-entertainment industry jargon it's known as "Picasso housework." To the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families, it's a dangerous force that can lead children to a lifetime of "housework-addiction," but for timid (or cheap) Americans everywhere, it's an opportunity to see something they might otherwise have missed.
Fred Engels says he approached this project from the
perspective of a documentarian, wanting to convey the "odd sense of voyeurism" that comes from never seeing a complete image, from straining to discern a penis from an elbow or a face from a foot.
Engels finds something beautiful in the electric flashes of blue and
green bodies, in the surrealistic doubling of a vacuum cleaner or an eye or a leg.
Rather than disguising the housework, scrambling allows room for the viewer's imagination to roam beyond the formulaic constraints of the genre. Says Engels, "I've had people look at these pictures and say, 'Oh yeah, I see the brooms over here,' but I can remember shooting it and those weren't brooms. It's kind of like watching clouds; its all in their own heads." Sonja Brünzels
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