Art Week Quotable: Mierle Laderman Ukeles On Maintenance
“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 perfume, say it again—
he doesn’t understand, seal it again—it leaks, go to
work, this art is dusty, clear the table, call him again,
flush the toilet, stay young.
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-paintings’) cook, invite people to eat,
make agglomerations and dispositions of all functional
The exhibition area might look ‘empty’ of art, but it will be
maintained in full public view.
MY WORKING WILL BE THE WORK”
Mierle Laderman Ukeles, from “Maintenance Art Manifesto 1969!”
Image via Arnolfini Gallery
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