Today I have been studying the extraordinary work on ordinary life by the American artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles. I am especially interested in how she presents her own invention Maintenance Art as a feminine antagonism to the male dominated Avant-garde.
She argues that the two, Maintenance Art and Avant-garde follow two very different paths through life. This is how she defines it: The Death Instinct and the Life Instinct
- The Death Instinct: separation; individuality; Avant-Garde par excellence; to follow one’s own path to death—do your own thing; dynamic change.
- The Life Instinct: unification; the eternal return; the perpetuation and MAINTENANCE of the species; survival systems and operations; equilibrium.
Here she is in her own words:
- I am a Maintenance Artist
- I use my ’artistic freedom’ to call maintenance ‘art’
- Part of the time I do private maintenance (at home taking care of my family)
- Part of the time I do public maintenance (in museums and galleries) to show people my ideas
- 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.