Mierle Laderman Ukeles


TsimTsum / Shevirat Ha-Kelim…
Mixed Media

Turnaround / Surround
glassphalt access path
1/2 mile

Touch Sanitation
City-wide Performance With 85,000 NYC Sanitation Workers


Peace Table from Unburning Freedom Hall
cobalt blue stained glass

Hartford Wash: Washing, Tracks, Maintenance:Outside, 1973 performance at Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT, part of Maintenance Art Performance Series, 1973-74
Hartford Wash: Washing, Tracks, Maintenance:Outside

performance at Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT, part of Maintenance Art Performance Series, 1973-74

“Mierle Laderman Ukeles discussed her work in conjunction with WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution On Thursday, June 7, at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA.

“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 with my husband and my baby, for the duration of the exhibition. (Right? or if you don’t want me around at night I would come in every day) and do all these things as public Art activities: I will sweep and wax the floors, dust everything, wash the walls (i.e.floor paintings, dust works, soap- sculpture, wall-painting) cook, invite people to eat, make agglomerations and dispositions of all functional refuse.

The exhibition area might look empty of art, but it will be maintained in full public view.”


Ukeles wrote “Manifesto for Maintenance Art” as a challenge to the binary systems of opposition that draw the line between art/life, nature/culture, and public/private.Over a period of several years, her performance work concerned the every day routines of life. Her work looked to highlight otherwise overlooked aspects of social production and questions, still very relevant today, the hierarchies of different forms of work, especially of housework and low-wage labor. The performances varied from scrubbing the steps in NY to sweeping the streets. Images of the performances are now displayed in the traveling Maintenance Art exhibit.

The manifesto proposed undoing boundaries that separate the maintenance of everyday life from the role of an artist in society. One piece of content to the work could be to show how artists could use the concept of transference to empower people to act as agents of change and stimulate positive community involvement toward ecological sustainability. Another possible reason for the work was because of her own disgust and rejection after child-birth in 1969. It was her way of bringing forth her new life to the public, and making sanitation Art.

She originally studied History and International studies. It was not until later that she began her artist training.



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