What is the relationship between maintenance and freedom?
Here are a few fragments culled from her Manifesto:
Two basic systems: Development and Maintenance. The sourball
of every revolution: after the revolution, who’s going
to pick up the garbage on Monday morning?
Maintenance is a drag; it takes all the fucking time (lit.)
The mind boggles and chafes at the boredom.
The culture confers lousy status on maintenance jobs =
minimum wages, housewives = no pay.
Clean your desk, wash the dishes, clean the floor,
wash your clothes, wash your toes, change the baby’s
diaper, finish the report, correct the typos, mend the
fence, keep the customer happy, throw out the stinking
garbage, watch out don’t put things in your nose, what
shall I wear, I have no sox, pay your bills, don’t
litter, save string, wash your hair, change the sheets,
go to the store, I’m out of ...
I am an artist. I am a woman. I am a wife.
I am a mother. (Random order).
I do a hell of a lot of washing, cleaning, cooking,
renewing, supporting, preserving, etc. Also,
(up to now separately I “do” Art.
Now, I will simply do these maintenance everyday things,
and flush them up to consciousness, exhibit them, as Art.
I will live in the museum and I customarily do at home
MY WORKING WILL BE THE WORK
At this very instant in twenty-first century time, her version of art activism is still necessary and contemporary. Considering our pace of growth in consumerish behavior since 1969, and the context of our more recent economic meltdowns, her ideals and processes seem even more relevant than usual.
Part Three: Earth Maintenance
Everyday, containers of the following kinds of refuse will be delivered
to the Museum:
-the contents of one sanitation truck;
-a container of polluted air;
-a container of polluted Hudson River;
-a container of ravaged land.
Once at the exhibition, each container will be serviced:
purified, de-polluted, rehabilitated, recycled, and conserved
by various technical (and / or pseudo-technical) procedures either
by myself or scientists.
In 1976, Ukeles also named herself Artist-In-Residence at The New York Department of Sanitation, Fresh Kills Landfill where she has undergone a number of long term projects.
Art Ranger was drawn back to Ukeles work when husband mentioned the word TAXES. Yes indeed, this yearly maintenance tally. This T word inspires a number of procrastination-related side projects, such as cleaning and re-installing the hummingbird feeder. Golly we need an oil change, don’t we. And knitting a hat that looks 80% good, and of course, finishing the dang chicken coop. Or re-researching artists such as Mierle. Taxes require that we think about money in this detailed way, using the word itemize or unit price. Kind of like getting bloodwork done to see your nutritional balance. Or re-living your entire year by spreading receipts across your bedroom and labeling them with posit-notes. (It also leads us to think about our tax dollar usages and the daunting fact that we still have the largest appetite for military activity in the history of the earth).
Not only that, but when discussing my admiration of this artist’s work with my mother, she said, "oh sure, I know her mother" (who has since passed). Ukeles was also born in Denver, Colorado which probably makes us even more partial to her work. But really it's that "flush them up to consciousness" line that gets us going.
If this art interests you, please read a more detailed and proper biography while learning about an excellent link: http://greenmuseum.org/c/aen/Issues/ukeles.php
Exhibition History and great images:
And find her complete “Manifesto for Maintenance Art” there too.