previews

Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Touch Sanitation Performance, 1979–80. Performance view, Queens, NY, May 15, 1980. Mierle Laderman Ukeles and sanitation worker. Photo: Marcia Bricker.

New York

“Mierle Laderman Ukeles: Maintenance Art”

Queens Museum
New York City Building Flushing Meadows
September 18 - February 19

Curated by Larissa Harris and Patricia C. Phillips

In 1969, Mierle Laderman Ukeles invented the phrase maintenance art to articulate the undeniable fact that the wealth of nations, the workings of capital, and the privileges of the patriarchy are all predicated on the unpaid and/or undervalued labor of maintenance: the daily acts of cleaning, cooking, and other sundry tasks meant to prepare individuals and institutions for their so-called real work. This means that the efforts of janitors and housewives, conservators and sanitation workers, have served as source material for the artist’s most important interventions and performances. Ukeles, the consummate feminist, insists that art is not a utopian realm in which we can forget the adage that a woman’s work is never done; quite the contrary. Her work elucidates that our attempts to preserve art—to preserve anything, in fact—for a future humanity reside firmly in the sphere of maintenance rather than the realm of master narratives.