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Category #2: Laundry Detergent

From The Catalogue of Lost Glimpses

Often, streets with storefronts that greet passersby with a gumball machine in the doorway also happen to be streets which boast a variety of 99c stores, all with multicolored signs which say the same thing: 99c. These stores often decorate their storefronts with systematic presentations of stacked detergent bottles and cleaning liquids. Although most stores that sell cleaning liquids also sell other colorful things (plastic forks, brooms, impractical clay birdhouses, Chinese slippers, jungle underwear three-packs, orange extension chords, plastic stacking bowls, etc.), most often it is cleaning liquids that dominate 99c store windows. Because the street is sometimes unpredictable, the prevalence of neatly-stacked colorful detergent bottles in store windows stand in stark contrast to the seeming randomness of the fragments the eye is forced to assemble on the street. On a purely aesthetic level, in allowing the display of cleaning liquids to pleasantly dominate their vision for a few moments, the passer-by’s eye is given the chance to leave behind the over-stimulation of the street. (The whirl of car wheels that randomly blows torn-off wrappers, broken-off plastic pieces, discarded food fragments to collect in corners and in gutters, for example.) Passersby might register in their minds, even for just a moment, that the most common cleaning liquid color appears to be yellow. This is probably because yellow, unlike orange, reminds passersby of lemons. And lemons, for some reason, represent cleanliness. Passersby might notice that bleach bottles are usually white but are never transparent. This is most likely because bleach, in spite of its whitening properties, actually is a slightly yellowish color, and doesn’t look as if it would very effectively remove a nasty stain from a white shirt. On a more spiritual level, these passing thoughts are marked in the passerby’s mind because of the contrast: in looking down at the street the eye processes fragments; in looking at the order and precision of the detergent display, the eye is comforted by the possibility of a continually recurring pattern. This is the contrast between order and chaos which balances the energy fields of the universe. It is also the energy which the street sustains and the eye processes, triggering the old brain to remember: I am but one part of the pantomime.


Kristin Prevallet

Kristin Prevallet is the author of Scratch Sides: Poetry, Documentation and Image-Text Projects. She lives in Greenpoint. The Catalogue of Lost Glimpses is a Poetry As Public Art Project (PIPA) which is in-process.


The Brooklyn Rail

MAY 2004

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