Domestic labour is about maintenance; taking care and looking after. It is an action that tends to go unnoticed, as it is about making sure things are in place so that the daily cycle can continue.
Throughout history, women have mostly been relegated to unpaid domestic labour, from cooking and housekeeping to looking after children and ill or elderly relatives. Although valuable, this work would leave little space for a housewife to develop independently, both on a financial as on an intellectual level.
Today we still fail to recognise the domestic labour without which society would collapse. Although men increasingly take on some of the household chores, the balance is still skewed. Usually women take on waged work while retaining most – if not all – of the domestic responsibilities. This means that, on average, woman have more unpaid hours of labour.
As a result of the tradition of domestic work as unpaid labour, the labour remains invisible or under‐rated when the work is passed on to a domestic employee. The status of domestic labour as non-work creates a vulnerable position for the domestic worker to be in; working conditions are easily violated. When taking into account that domestic work is increasingly done by minorities such as single moms or immigrants, the invisibility of domestic labour becomes not only gendered and social, but also political.
In the old Dutch custom of making sand-carpets, the domestic act of cleaning becomes an act of creation. On Sundays or other festive days “housewives” used to make sand patterns on the floor so that the tiles got sanded clean as people walked over it throughout the week. The pattern would fade and new patterns would be made so that the cycle can repeat itself.
Instead of referring to the original floral motives, the pattern of “Domestic Traces” derives from gestures; starting from a kneeled position using the body and its proportions to make traces in the sand. The presence of the domestic worker is recorded in the pattern and will be faded out by the slightest lack of attention.