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“My Working Will be the Work:” Maintenance Art and Technologies of Change – The New Inquiry
"In 1973, Mierle Laderman Ukeles staged a series of art performances at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Connecticut. In Transfer: The Maintenance of the Art Object, she took over the duties of the museum’s janitor and used his tools to clean a glass case containing a mummy. When she was finished, she stamped her cleaning tools and the mummy case with a rubber stamp, branding them “Maintenance Art Works.” She then transferred the cleaning duties to the museum’s curator, who alone was allowed to handle and conserve artworks. In another performance, Keeper of the Keys, Ukeles took the janitor’s keys and locked and unlocked various offices and rooms in the museum. Once Ukeles had locked an office, it became a Maintenance Artwork and no one was permitted to enter or use the room. Keeper of the Keys created an uproar, as it drastically impacted the work lives of the museum’s staff who pleaded to have certain floors exempted from the project so they could work undisturbed. Ukeles’ performances, examples of conceptual art called “Institutional Critique,” surfaced the hidden labor of maintenance in the museum setting, and the subsequent visibility of this labor proved to be incredibly disruptive to the institution of the museum.

Recently within the history of science and technology, scholars have focused an increasing amount of attention on the maintenance of technology and systems. Maintenance has been long overlooked in favor of a focus on innovation and design practices; the very beginnings of technology have always been more appealing than their often messy or disappointing longer lives. One important aspect of this “turn” to maintenance histories is that the un-and-underpaid labor of women and marginalized people, who are disproportionately relegated to maintenance work, has again become an important site for articulating the history of technology. A similar turn was initiated by scholars, like historian of technology Ruth Schwartz Cowan and others, in the 1980s.

Even before these early efforts, however, art historian and curator Helen Molesworth has argued that women artists, like Ukles and Martha Rosler, were making significant contributions to a discourse about public and private life, and the hidden labor that sustains both. Ukeles and Rosler, despite often being marginalized as “feminist artists,” were in the 1970s making strikingly political art about labor and gender, about technology and potential violence, and about the ability of art itself to sustain and renew utopia and revolution.

In her video piece The Semiotics of the Kitchen (1975), Rosler appears behind a table laden with kitchen tools, with the refrigerator, sink, and cupboards of her kitchen as backdrop. The artist works through her collection of kitchen gadgets one by one, alphabetically: A is for apron, K is for knife. But her gestures clash with the setting. Instead of using the knife to mime cutting food, she stabs violently at the air. She ladles invisible soup, but then flings it over her shoulder. Rosler’s deadpan stare and her gestural subversion of the audiences cooking-show set-up expectations make a mockery, or perhaps even a threat, out of the labor of the kitchen. Her misuse of the tools of the kitchen has the effect of stripping the technology of its meaning, making it more “thingy” and, thus, somehow threatening or alienating.

Helen Molesworth has used Ukeles’ performances and Rosler’s video pieces to unpick a largely unquestioned binary had existed for much of the 1980s and 90s between “essentialist” feminist art and the more theory-driven works, which succeeded them in critical estimation. Essentialist works focused on more straightforward imagery of the feminine and the female — of this school, Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party (1974-79) is considered emblematic. Theory-based works are represented in this debate by conceptual artist Mary Kelly in the Post-Partum Document (1973-79), which consists of text and artifacts that document and analyze Kelly’s relationship to and experience of mothering her son. Molesworth shows that by adding Rosler and Ukeles to this longstanding binary, we can see that all four artists are actually working in an expanded field that investigates maintenance and other forms of hidden labor.

We might venture to expand the field once more, and place these maintenance artworks in a more explicit story about technology. In her influential book More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave, Ruth Schwartz Cowan takes pains to remind us that the modern industrialized household is intimately dependent on the large technological systems of modernity. No plumbing, electricity, gas means no housework. No access to the manufacture of tools and appliances, textiles and packaged foods means no dinner on the table. These artworks show us how the larger technological world as the public sphere, which Ukeles and Rosler contrast with a degraded private sphere, is itself intimately dependant on the invisible labor and technological systems of the home and the invisible labors of maintenance.

Recontextualizing of the labor and tools of housework, and the slightly unsettling effect this has on audiences, is the most important feature of both Ukeles’ and Rosler’s works. They give the viewer a little glimpse of the power that has, ironically, been vested in the home and its laborers by the public sphere that insists, indeed depends, on the private remaining private. These caches of unseen power, levers that can move an economy in their numbers, are also technological levers that rely on tools and systems that have been degraded and devalued because of their connection to maintenance labor.

Ukeles and Rosler remind us the invisible labor of women and marginalized people ensures that those permitted in the public sphere, white able-bodied men, are properly clothed and housed and supported and separated from waste so that they can innovate in comfort. By surfacing this labor and critiquing the ways it has been made invisible, Ukeles and Rosler prefigure scholarly critiques about the labor of women and marginalized people and the hidden histories of maintenance technology that support a public culture of innovation.

In an interview for Artforum, Ukeles talks about how two of the most famous Minimalist artists of the 20th century, Richard Serra and Donald Judd, made artworks that “skimmed the surface” of the industrial, technological world of the public sphere. The universalism of their work depends on the labor of making them which remains invisible and only the artwork itself is available for critique. Meanwhile, Ukeles felt that as both an artist and a mother her labor had become all about care and maintenance. Her decision to commit to an artistic practice of maintenance was an investment in the personal and political act of melding her artistic self to the aspects of herself that were defined by care-work. “My working will be the work,” she declared in her Manifesto for Maintenance Art 1969!.

Ukeles’ radical intervention was to name this invisible work of cleaning, repairing, cooking, and mending Maintenance Art, and to force this labor into spaces that had always privileged the result, not the work that sustains it. Rosler’s critique of the labor of the kitchen is enacted through her alienation from kitchen technologies, a transformation of the object that was mirrored in Ukeles’ branding of the cleaning rag as an artwork and her taking possession of the building keys. These are technology stories, but not the kind we may find most familiar.

Obsession with innovation over preservation is an obsession with those who are allowed to innovate and an indifference to those who are made to maintain. It’s not just an aesthetic matter of what kind of labor seems more appealing; it’s a power structure that requires the domination of others in order to “maintain the change” created by the innovators. Yet, Ukeles meant “maintain the change” in a much more utopian sense, a thread that Molesworth notes in her expanded field of feminist-informed art. The maintenance needed to preserve positive change is itself a worthy and humanistic pursuit and deserves the same status as change itself. The technologies and labors of maintenance, wielded and performed by the marginalized, have the power to disrupt as much as they have the power to sustain.

Further Reading

Helen Molesworth, “House Work and Art Work,” October vol. 92 (Spring 200): 71-97.

Ruth Schwartz Cowan, More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technologies form the Open Hearth to the Microwave (Basic Books, 1983). "
art  maintenance  criticaltheory  feminism  annareser  2017  1973  mierleladermanukeles  performance  science  technology  care  caring  caretakers  ruthschartzcowan  1980s  martharosler  1970s  utopia  revolution  resistance  work  labor  productivity  gender  violence  1975  kitchens  helenmolesworth  judychicago  marykelly  ruthschwartzcowan  richardserr  donaldjudd  innovation  preervation 
january 2018 by robertogreco
The Oppressive Gospel of ‘Minimalism’ - The New York Times
[See also: http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2016/03/marie-kondo-and-the-privilege-of-clutter/475266/ ]

"“Minimalism” was eventually canonized as an art-historical movement, but the name came to mean something different as it was adopted into consumer culture and turned into a class signifier. What was once a way artists shocked viewers became over the decades a style as delimited and consumable as any Martha Stewart tablescape. The word was defanged, no longer a critical insult and no longer a viable strategy within art — though it never quite gave up its veneer of provocation. Even austerity can be made decadent: To wealthy practitioners, minimalism is now little more than a slightly intriguing perversion, like drinking at breakfast. “One of the real problems with design-world minimalism is that it’s just become a signifier of the global elite,” Raskin says. “The richer you are, the less you have.”

The minimalists’ aesthetic of raw materials and aggressive simplicity leaked into fashion, design and architecture, where it became a luxury product, helped along at times by the artists themselves. Judd’s SoHo loft building is now an icon of sanitized minimalism, open to tourists. His Chinati Foundation, a permanent installation of concrete and metal boxes in and around a decommissioned military base in Marfa, Tex., is a site of hipster pilgrimage. It even appears in Ben Lerner’s “10:04,” a novel redolent of late-capitalist anxiety. The protagonist visits the town on an artist’s residency, where he wanders the desert landscape, parties with young people and accidentally ingests ketamine — but it’s Judd’s installation that provides an epiphany. The sculptures, he writes, “combined to collapse my sense of inside and outside.” Judd’s work “had itself come to contain the world.”

Today’s minimalism, by contrast, is visually oppressive; it comes with an inherent pressure to conform to its precepts. Whiteness, in a literal sense, is good. Mess, heterogeneity, is bad — the opposite impulse of artistic minimalism. It is anxiety-inducing in a manner indistinguishable from other forms of consumerism, not revolutionary at all. Do I own the right things? Have I jettisoned enough of the wrong ones? In a recent interview with Apartamento magazine set against interior shots of his all-white home in Rockaway, Queens, the tastemaker and director of MoMA PS1 Klaus Biesenbach explained, “I don’t aim to own things.”

Minimalism is now conflated with self-optimization, the trend that also resulted in fitness trackers and Soylent (truly a minimalist food — it looks like nothing, but inspires thoughts of everything else). Often driven by technol­ogy, this optimization is expensive and exclusively branded by and for the elite. In Silicon Valley, the minimalism fetish can perhaps be traced back to Steve Jobs’s famously austere 1980s apartment (he sat on the floor) and the attendant simplicity of Apple products. Pare down, and you, too, could run a $700 billion company. A thriving Reddit forum on minimalism debates the worth of Muji products and which hobbies count as minimalist-appropriate, in a communal attempt to live the most effective, if perhaps not the most joyful, life.

These minimalist-arrivistes present it as a logical end to lifestyle, culture and even morality: If we attain only the right things, the perfect things, and forsake all else, then we will be free from the tyranny of our desires. But time often proves aesthetic permanence, as well as moral high ground, to be illusory. And already, the pendulum is swinging back.

Writing in The Atlantic in March, Arielle Bernstein described minimalism’s ban on clutter as a “privilege” that runs counter to the value ascribed to an abundance of objects by those who have suffered from a lack of them — less-empowered people like refugees or immigrants. The movement, such as it is, is led in large part by a group of men who gleefully ditch their possessions as if to disavow the advantages by which they obtained them. But it takes a lot to be minimalist: social capital, a safety net and access to the internet. The technology we call minimalist might fit in our pockets, but it depends on a vast infrastructure of grim, air-conditioned server farms and even grimmer Chinese factories. As Lerner’s protagonist observes in “10:04,” even a dull convenience like a can of instant coffee grounds reaches him thanks to a fragile and tremendously wasteful network of global connections, a logistics chain that defies all logic, one undergirded by exploited laborers and vast environmental degradation.

There’s an arrogance to today’s minimalism that presumes it provides an answer rather than, as originally intended, a question: What other perspectives are possible when you look at the world in a different way? The fetishized austerity and performative asceticism of minimalism is a kind of ongoing cultural sickness. We misinterpret material renunciation, austere aesthetics and blank, emptied spaces as symbols of capitalist absolution, when these trends really just provide us with further ways to serve our impulse to consume more, not less."
minimalism  2016  mariekondo  asceticism  possessions  culture  society  consumption  ariellebernstein  kylechayka  siliconvalley  affluence  inequality  privilege  austerity  greatrecession  donaldjudd  davidraskin  aesthetics  technology  abundance  tidying 
july 2016 by robertogreco
What Reclaimed Wood Meant — Kate Losse
"But if I went to the desert for space, when I got there I discovered another element that is abundant in desert architecture that was visually startling to me in its newness after the hard, gray-green industrial tones of the Bunker. This "new" material-- wood-- seemed so interesting to me that in 2011 I made a Facebook album called Reclaimed Wood to chart the material and its aesthetic progress to popularity, of which I was already certain. The first photos I took were of the ceiling in an old Ice Locker that Donald Judd, the original gentrifier, had purchased in Marfa. Built in the early 1900s, the locker had heavy white stucco and iron walls but the most beautiful, heavy, old, vintage wooden railroad beams in its ceiling; the effect of the wood was to soften what would be a hard industrial space into a pleasing, welcoming, artisanal atmosphere, and this is why Judd bought the building and converted it into an artist workshop and studio space. Judd, in a sense, predicted Reclaimed Wood forty years before everyone else caught on. All of the buildings he purchased in Marfa are masterful, original, unstudied versions of what has now become a national craze: the American industrial building with a soft, artistic and artisanal side. In Marfa these buildings were built for the railroad and then abandoned, decayed, and converted to art functions later. Thus their combined hardness/softness has had decades to develop.

After some months in Texas, I returned to the city and noticed that wood was steadily appearing everywhere and spreading. It began in small coffee shops like Four Barrel coffee shop (along with its textile counterpart, nautical rope, which often accompanies wood as a nod to wood's ship-ly connotations of pirates and sailors) and spread to restaurants and finally, back to the same tech company offices that I had left in pursuit of space and more organic forms. That's to say that the irony of all of this is that no environments have been more committed to retrofitting themselves with reclaimed wood than the very spaces that drive the technology that drives people to seek refuge from technology in more open, organic spaces. As technology filled our lives, so did our lives become increasingly filled with soft wooden beams and forms, a kind of reverse de-industrialization of the technical space using organic materials. We now plant these warm-colored, gnarled wooden objects like talismans amid our screens, a reminder of organic shapes, something to touch that, reassuringly, can't be swiped on.

It is thus that we have reached Peak Reclaimed Wood, where some restaurants and coffee shops are so plastered in vintage wooden planks and beams that there is no room for a single new plank of wood (in these spaces, the wood becomes less an accent than an attempt to create the illusion of living in a cabin, which is a related desire to reclaimed wood, but not identical. The desire to live in a coffee-house-as-cabin-- or to import actual cabins into your tech cafeteria, as Twitter did-- is something like a desire to live in the country or the past, without actually living there). And so, because aesthetics have to shift when they become saturated, what is next?

In my next post I will address what comes after Reclaimed Wood and why I think the next turn will be to 80s Hilton-esque business hotel stylings and what that means about us and what we need now."

[via: https://twitter.com/tealtan/status/549965313295781888 ]

[See also (referenced within: "Facebook IRL: A Short History of Facebook's Design Aesthetic"
http://www.katelosse.tv/latest/2014/2/4/facebook-irl-a-short-history-of-facebooks-design-aesthetic
katelosse  wood  texas  marfa  technology  materials  software  2014  aesthetics  donaldjudd  design  trends 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Marfa, Texas: An Unlikely Art Oasis In A Desert Town : NPR
"Johnson runs Marfa's bookstore, with an unsurprising emphasis on art books, art theory and poetry journals. Yoga classes are held there in the morning. It's the only place that sells The New York Times. But even though the Marfa Book Co. makes the town more tourist-friendly, Johnson does not believe Judd would approve of Marfa's emergence as a chic art world destination.

"He thought that making an arts-based cultural tourism was necessarily carnivalesque, which was, for him, anathema to the experience of art," he explains. "He knew that people would come see it, but he did not want that to be a large part of the economy, because he thought, socially, that would have a negative impact."…

We've never marketed…No marketing plan…No marketing director…

Unlike other towns that try to reinvent themselves as arts destinations, it has happened organically in Marfa…

…most newcomers are incredibly well-intentioned, but there's a give and take.

"Sometimes it feels like there's more taking,""
travel  tourism  2012  donaldjudd  cultureclash  revitalization  art  chinatifoundation  marfa 
august 2012 by robertogreco
When Meals Played the Muse - New York Times
"From the beginning, the idea was to establish not only a kind of perpetual dinner party but also a food-based philanthropy that would employ and support struggling artists, the whole endeavor conceived by Matta-Clark as a living, breathing, steaming, pot-clanging artwork.

“To Gordon, I think everything in life was an art event,” said Ms. Goodden, who now lives in a small town in New Mexico. “He had cooking all through his mind as a way of assembling people, like choreography. And that, in a way, is what Food became.”

In a catalog to accompany his retrospective, Elisabeth Sussman, the curator of the Whitney show, describes it as providing “the best picture of an artists’ utopia, in all its extraordinary ordinariness, that Matta-Clark imagined.”"
tinagirouard  robertfrank  rirkrittiravanija  filippomarinetti  thefuturistcookbook  philipglass  counterculture  alicewaters  robertkushner  trishabrown  1974  1971  janecrawford  hisachikatakahashi  robertrauschenberg  lcproject  openstudioproject  srg  cooking  donaldjudd  carolinegoodden  artists  allankaprow  supperclubs  dinnerparties  happenings  127prince  2007  nyc  restaurants  glvo  art  matta-clark  gordonmatta-clark 
april 2012 by robertogreco
LACMA Collections Online - Art and Technology
"In 1967, the two-year-old Los Angeles County Museum of Art began pairing contemporary artists with high-technology corporations in hopes that new artforms might arise. Ambitious and controversial at the time, this project remains a milestone in LA art history of lasting influence."

[pdf here: http://collectionsonline.lacma.org/mweb/archives/artandtechnology/PDFs/AandT_Report_1971.pdf ]
lacma  via:russelldavies  art  technology  history  1967  crossdisciplinary  interdisciplinary  losangeles  robertirwin  jamesturrell  donaldjudd  andywarhol  robertrauschenberg  richardserra  robertsmithson  jefraskin  claesoldenburg  brucenauman  roylichtenstein  ellsworthkelly  christo  johnbaldessari  anthonycaro  jeandubuffet  danflavin 
july 2008 by robertogreco
The Believer - Interview with Dave Hickey
"The MFA system produces "Almost no one. Idiots with low-grade depression...The MFA thing is an invention of the ’70s. Its raison d’être is evaporating."
art  brain  creativity  criticism  thinking  writing  jazz  davehickey  mfa  education  academia  culture  richardserra  glvo  edruscha  frankgehry  danflavin  donaldjudd  andywarhol  anthonycaro  brucenauman  ellsworthkelly  sollewitt 
november 2007 by robertogreco

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