Touch Sanitation & Maintenance Art: the Work of Mierle Laderman Ukeles

The incredible weather has me getting excited for the summer, and in the process, thinking back to our past couple of summers, and imaging the summer ahead. I recalled the city workers strike back in 2009 and it reminded me of the work of Mierle Laderman Ukeles, and I thought it was long past due that I post about her work.

From the description at the Ronald Feldman Gallery, Ukeles spent eleven months from mid-1979 to 1980 creating Touch Sanitation, a public performance art work. She crisscrossed New York City ten times to reach all fifty-nine sanitation districts to face, shake hands with and thank every sanitation worker for “keeping New York City alive.”

And as noted over at the Green MuseumTouch Sanitation was Ukeles’ first project as the city’s new artist-in-residence […] Ukeles traveled sections of New York City to shake the hands of over 8500 sanitation employees or “sanmen” during a year-long performance. She documented her activities on a map, meticulously recording her conversations with the workers.

At the conclusion of the performance she was made Honorary Deputy Commissioner of Sanitation and also Honorary Teamster Member of Local 831, United Sanitationmen’s Association, and I believe she’s been an artist in residence there ever since.

Also worth checking out — her Manifesto for Maintenance Art 1969. After child-birth in 1968, Ukeles became a mother/maintenance worker and fell out of the picture of the avant-garde. In a rage, she wrote the Manifesto for Maintenance Art 1969, applied equally to the home, all kinds of service work, the urban environment, and the sustenance of the earth itself. She viewed the Manifesto as “a world vision and a call for revolution for the workers of survival who could, if organized, reshape the world.”

This is the kind of work that makes me want to make more art.

Happy Friday.

Catch of the Day

Catch of the Day

To bring attention to pollution, namely that of the ocean-type, Surfrider Foundation has created a delectable assortment of hand-harvested oceanic delights.

“…they collected actual trash from beaches around the U.S., packaged it like food, and left it on display at farmer’s markets. It’s site-specific, appropriate, impacting, meaningful, shocking, and an actual consumer insight into the very act they’re in the middle of. Someone about to buy fish from the same ocean as the trash in their hands can’t help but be at least a little more enlightened as to how pollution isn’t someone else’s problem.”

This led me to think: what do we actually harvest directly from the earth and market in Windsor besides salt? I don’t think I’ve lived “in” Windsor long enough to come up with an answer. Any ideas?

Note the sarcastic descriptions on the packages.

Continue reading “Catch of the Day”


some street art in Windsor, near Indian Road, on Mill

I saw this on my way home from Lebel today. Earlier in the day, on my way to school, I had seen some bright yellow chunks of asphalt on the south side of Mill Street, where that little cul-de-sac is, right beside Huron Church. I didn’t think much of it, though remained curious about it. There are a few more pieces placed around the area, some purple-coloured sticks, other orange coloured garbage, and some more yellow asphalt. At first I didn’t like the idea of placing more garbage around there, but then caught myself—I hadn’t really noticed there was garbage there before at all. 

The more I thought about it and saw the pieces subtly (if bright orange plastic containers can be subtle) spread around, peaking out from the leaves on the ground, the more I liked it. Is this work from Advanced Sculpture?… I know they’ve been working with the idea of interventions.