recentpopularlog in

robertogreco : georgemarcus   2

Maintenance — Cultural Anthropology
"Designed worlds are produced and maintained by human labor. As such, maintenance labor is a key site through which ethnographers might rethink the design of our own research.

* * *

Living in Ladera Heights
The black Beverly Hills
Domesticated paradise
Palm trees and pools
The water’s blue
Swallow a pill
Keepin’ it surreal

—Frank Ocean

In “Sweet Life,” the artist Frank Ocean sings of the affluent Los Angeles black enclave of Ladera Heights. He describes life for the city’s young middle-class black inhabitants as insulated and undisturbed: the sweet life.

A meter shift in Ocean’s vocals and music encroaches on the fiction of this “domesticated paradise.” The veneer of an unblemished pool and of svelte skirted Mexican palms is undone by the song’s chorus: “You’ve had a landscaper and a housekeeper since you were born.” Ocean’s analysis of a black middle-class subject works to make visible immigrant maintenance labor.

In Ramiro Gomez’s acclaimed series of artworks Happy Hills, the serenity of affluent West Los Angeles is similarly recast by making visible the unmarked labor of Latina and Latino immigrant laborers. Gomez, who worked as a nanny, plants life-sized cardboard cutouts of gardeners on the sidewalk hedges of Beverly Hills mansions and inserts domestic workers into the immaculate kitchens shown in the pages of magazines like Better Homes and Gardens.

Gomez and Ocean make palpable the relationship across Los Angeles’s suburbs between affluent and working-class, leisured and laboring subjects. In their works, disparate social and material worlds overlap by making explicit the maintenance labor performed by workers who are themselves alienated from the very places they enrich.

* * *

How is maintenance work, which is to say life-creating and time-freeing labor (such as the domestic and gardening labor of Latina and Latino immigrant workers), a site from which to theorize ethnography and design?

Maintenance, as Ocean and Gomez highlight, is the work of fiction. It is the repeated labor that creates a neat story about the way things naturally appear to be. Ethnography—as the practice of approaching material reality—is itself a practice of repetition, from repeated travels to the field and reconsulting with field notes to the writing and rewriting of a supposed reality. Maintenance labor, like ethnographic narratives, produce an image of the way things supposedly are by erasing the trace of its constant reworking; that is to say, it makes invisible the labor necessary for its construction. In the case of maintenance work, as Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo (2014) argues, labor is made invisible through its gendering and racialization. In the case of ethnography, on the other hand, the author works to remove their labor from the frame so as to represent an unvarnished texture of cultural difference. Or, as Kamala Visweswaran (1994, 1) puts it, the supposed division between fiction and ethnography “breaks down if we consider that ethnography, like fiction, constructs existing or possible worlds, all the while retaining the idea of an alternate ‘made’ world.”

Maintenance, for gardeners and domestic workers, involves the constant reworking of a lawn or the repeated wiping down of a kitchen counter—week after week, sometimes day after day. Conceiving of maintenance as the material accumulation of labor, resulting in well-fed plants or well-fed children, echoes what Keith Murphy and George Marcus (2013, 258) identify as “the complex processes” that designers and ethnographers undertake, which are “almost entirely obscured by the form of their products.” For maintenance, as for design and ethnography, the final products “receive most of the attention from those who consume them” (Murphy and Marcus 2013, 258). Yet there is a surplus contained in the seemingly invisible labor of maintenance.

For Latina and Latino immigrant gardeners, maintenance also means mantenimiento, a practice of organizing days into routes (rutas) and labor sites into divisions of labor shaped by differences in legal status, ethnicity, age, and ability between gardening company owners and their ayudantes or peónes (hired helpers). Mantenimiento reveals a practice of working around the designs of affluent gated neighborhoods, congested Southern California highways, imperatives of state exclusion, and the demands of homeowners and their plants. Mantenimiento challenges the naturalization of racialized and gendered labor, which forecloses the possibility of certain subjects being represented and casts laborers’ repeated reworkings as exacting and skilled labor.

Maintenance is the constant repetition of life-creating labor. As Kalindi Vora (2015) notes, reproductive and affective labor also contains traces of workers’ life activity that, although alienated from the laborers’ social world in order to enrich the lives of others, may retain a collection of stories and affective connections that happen in the service of others’ needs and that, for gardeners and domestic workers, occur in homes designed for others. Sometimes laborers take in excess of the demands of their labor, whether this occurs in the form of a gardener taking a botón of a succulent to reshape the landscape of their own or a domestic worker building a bond with an employer’s child; mantenimiento is attuned to the life that occurs in places where it is said not to exist.

* * *

My interest in maintenance as a concept that raises questions about ethnography and design arises from my experiences as a gardener and longtime manager of a small gardening company in Orange County. As a researcher, the parallels between my own repeated practices of maintenance labor and the repeated practices I employ in representing gardening laborers’ sociality are tethered to laborers’ careful design of their labor and lives."
maintenance  salvadorzárate  ethnography  design  anthropology  2018  via:shannon_mattern  labor  work  domesticworkers  gardening  gardeners  latinos  us  california  frankocean  laderaheights  losangeles  beverlyhills  westlosangeles  fiction  spanish  español  kalindivora  kamalavisweswaran  keithmurphy  georgemarcus  pierrettehondahneu-sotelo  socal 
july 2018 by robertogreco
FIELD | A Journal of Socially-Engaged Art Criticism
"FIELD: A Journal of Socially-Engaged Art Criticism

We are living through a singular cultural moment in which the conventional relationship between art and the social world, and between artist and viewer, is being questioned and renegotiated. FIELD responds to the remarkable proliferation of new artistic practices devoted to forms of political, social and cultural transformation. Frequently collaborative in nature, this work is being produced by artists and art collectives throughout North, South and Central America, Europe, Africa and Asia. While otherwise quite diverse, it is driven by a common desire to establish new relationships between artistic practice and other fields of knowledge production, from urbanism to environmentalism, from experimental education to participatory design. In many cases it has been inspired by, or affiliated with, new movements for social and economic justice around the globe. Throughout this field of practice we see a persistent engagement with sites of resistance and activism, and a desire to move beyond existing definitions of both art and the political. The title of this journal reflects two main concerns. First, it indicates our interest in a body of artistic production that engages the broadest possible range of social forces, actors, discursive systems and physical conditions operating at a given site. And second, it signals a concern with the questions that these projects raise about the “proper” field of art itself, as it engages with other disciplines and other modes of cultural production.

How do these practices redefine our understanding of aesthetic experience? And how do they challenge preconceived notions of the “work” of art? For many in the mainstream art world this opening out is evidence of a dangerous promiscuity, which threatens to subsume the unique identity of art. As a result this work has been largely ignored by the most visible journals and publications in the field. At the same time, an often-problematic concept of “social engagement” has become increasingly fashionable among many museums and foundations in Europe and the United States. There is clearly a need for a more intelligent and nuanced analysis of this new tendency. However, it has become increasingly clear that the normative theoretical conventions and research methodologies governing contemporary art criticism are ill-equipped to address the questions raised by this work. FIELD is based on the belief that informed analysis of this practice requires the cultivation of new forms of interdisciplinary knowledge, and a willingness to challenge the received wisdom of contemporary art criticism and theory. We seek to open a dialogue among and between artists, activists, historians, curators, and critics, as well as researchers in fields such as philosophy, performance studies, urbanism, ethnography, sociology, political science, and education. To that end the journal’s editorial board will include a diverse range of scholars, artists, historians, curators, activists and researchers. It is our belief that it is only at the intersections of these disciplines that can we develop a deeper understanding of the cultural transformations unfolding around us.

–Grant Kester, founder and editor, FIELD


FIELD Editorial Board

Tania Bruguera is an artist and the founder of Immigrant Movement International. Her most recent project is The Museum of Arte Útil.
Teddy Cruz is Professor of Public Culture and Urbanism in the Visual Arts department at the University of California San Diego, and Director of the UCSD Center for Urban Ecologies.
Tom Finkelpearl is the Commissioner of Cultural Affairs for New York City and the editor of What We Made: Conversations on Art and Social Cooperation (Duke University Press, 2013).
Fonna Forman is Associate Professor of Political Science, founding co-director of the UCSD Center on Global Justice and author of Adam Smith and the Circles of Sympathy: Cosmopolitanism and Moral Theory (Cambridge University Press, 2009).
Dee Hibbert-Jones is Associate Professor of Art and Founder and Co-Director of the Social Practice Research Center at UC Santa Cruz.
Shannon Jackson is the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Chair in the Arts and Humanities at UC Berkeley and author of Social Works: Performing Art, Supporting Publics (Routledge 2011).
Michael Kelly is professor of philosophy at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, author of A Hunger for Aesthetics: Enacting the Demands of Art (Columbia University Press, 2012) and editor of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Aesthetics.
Grant Kester, Field editor and founder, is professor of art history at UCSD and author of The One and the Many: Contemporary Collaborative Art in a Global Context (Duke University Press, 2011).
Rick Lowe is an artist, founder of Project Row Houses in Houston, and member of the National Council on the Arts.
George Marcus is the Director of the Center for Ethnography and Chancellor’s Professor and chair of the department of anthropology at UC Irvine, and author of Ethnography Through Thick and Thin (Princeton University Press, 1998).
Paul O’Neill is the Director of the Graduate Program, Center for Curatorial Studies, Hessel Museum of Art, Bard College, New York.
Raúl Cárdenas Osuna is an artist, theorist, and the founder of Torolab collective and the Transborder Farmlab in Tijuana, Mexico.
Francesca Polletta is Professor of Sociology at UC Irvine and author of It Was Like a Fever: Storytelling in Protest and Politics (University of Chicago Press, 2006).
Greg Sholette is an activist, artist and professor in the Social Practice Queens program at Queens College and the author of Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture (Pluto Press, 2011).
Nato Thompson is Chief Curator, Creative Time, New York City and editor of Living as Form: Socially Engaged Art from 1991-2011 (MIT Press, 2012).

FIELD Editorial Collective

Paloma Checa-Gismero
Alex Kershaw
Noni Brynjolson
Stephanie Sherman
Julia Fernandez
Michael Ano

Thanks

FIELD would like to acknowledge the generous support of the University of California Institute for Research in the Arts (UCIRA), the UCSD Division of Arts and Humanities, and the UCSD Visual Arts department."
ucsd  art  criticism  artcriticism  grantkester  taniabruguera  teddycruz  tomfinkelpearl  fonnaforman  deehibbert-jones  shannonjackson  michaelkelly  ricklowe  georgemarcus  paulo'neill  raúlcárdenasosuna  francescapolletta  gregsholette  natothompson  palomacheca-gismero  alexkershaw  nonibrynjolson  stephaniesherman  juliafernandez  michaelano  ucira  socialpracticeart  knowledgeproduction  urbanism  environmentalism  2015  education  alterative  experimental  participatorydesign  design  participatory  glvo  via:javierarbona  politics  arts  culturalproduction  aesthetics  socialengagement  museums  interdisciplinary  ethnography  sociology  philosophy 
march 2015 by robertogreco

Copy this bookmark:





to read