When I received the official press release for the film Washing Machine, I couldn’t help but laugh. The 66 minute movie, premiering December 5th in Leicester Square’s Cineworld Theatre, features primarily a single continuous shot of exactly what one would expect: a washing machine. The film progresses through an entire wash cycle for its duration, all the while with the support of an original film score by renowned British composer and pianist Michael Nyman.
There’s really not much more to speak of… though the verbose and sensationalized release touts such phrases as “art meets technology,” “dramatic original score,” and “a virtuoso performance from both man and machine.” What’s really going on here, artistically, is a high quality production of something seriously mundane.
Some might think I’m being a bit harsh. “Perhaps there is validity to this film that can only be understood once it can be viewed in full,” you might argue. Or perhaps, “Nyman’s compositions can make watching paint dry an artistic experience.” And maybe this is true. But there is one issue I take up with Washing Machine – The Movie: the entire project is one big advertisement.
Washing Machine is poised to break into artistic spheres, both musical and cinematic, by producing an intriguing experience for viewers. It also pushes its own relevance with a statistics angle, stating that the average British person will spend 61 days of their lifetime watching the laundry. The sales tactic is that this particular machine, the Samsung QuickDrive™, “cuts laundry time in half, without compromising wash performance.”
Quite the marketing scheme. For me, at least, this absolves the film of any artistic value. However, I present the other side of the coin – an album by experimental band Matmos titled Ultimate Care II which consists of a single 38 minute track, following the course of none other than a washing machine cycle.
This album, however, has no stake in selling a product, and furthermore takes a far more inventive and vulnerable approach to the creation of intriguing music by way of sampling the various sounds the machine makes. Well known YouTube personality and music critic Anthony Fantano even likens the album to a blend between early IDM-style Aphex Twin and The Blue Man Group. While lacking in the visual element of the washing machine’s cycle, the band performed the album live in numerous locations with an actual washing machine (among other hardware and instruments) and even projected a live video feed of the view into the machine’s interior on a screen behind the stage.
Between the two presented takes on washing machines as an inspiration for art, I assert that one has genuine vision, while the other may simply be a gimmick. Of course, Washing Machine may very well prove my expectations wrong and end up scratching some kind of itch for plenty of people. If so, wonderful. While I don’t mean to completely discredit the attempts, which are indeed earnest, of Washing Machine – The Movie, I do mean to challenge those who consume art to dig deeper than a glorified, hour long commercial for a brand name appliance when exploring alternative and niche artistic expressions.