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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
Power Positions | Dirty Furniture
"When it comes to taking a seat at the table, not all sides are created equal. Architecture and design critic Alexandra Lange considers an underexplored mechanism of control.

From 1959 architect Philip Johnson would lunch at a corner table in the Grill Room, part of the Four Seasons restaurant in the Seagram Building he designed. Contemporaries Frank Lloyd Wright and Henry Dreyfuss held court at the Oak Room in New York’s Plaza Hotel. How can Johnson’s decision to make his own Oak Room be interpreted as anything other than a power play? Here everyone had to sit, literally, at his table. Clients, colleagues, supplicants, artists: on his own turf, the architect trumped them all. And the table itself laid bare an unspoken hierarchy, depending on where you sat.

All tables do: choose a seat close to or far away from the seat of power and you reveal your sense of place. Take the seat you’ve been allocated and you find out where others place you. If you don’t like your position you can move, or, if an Arthurian knight, fight. It is more subtle, though, to change the rules of engagement by changing the shape of the board."



"The Boardroom Table"



"The Kitchen Table"



"The Schoolroom Table"



"In some offices, homes and schoolrooms, the table is now in decline. Meetings today might be held in break-out areas defined by soft furniture, stadium-style steps, or even foam mountains. With low-slung sofas and side tables, such landscaped interior spaces may come closer to Saarinen’s floor-level Katsura ideal, albeit without the elaborate manners and tatami mats. In today’s suburban kitchens, meanwhile, meals are as likely eaten at the counter or on the sofa as at a table. Family dinners have become nothing but a fetish for food writers. As schools embrace technology, communal writing surfaces become less necessary – the laptop is table, pen and pad in one. In each of these new scenarios some freedoms are gained, but chances for conversation are lost. The table gives and it takes away: it can harden hierarchies but also create the space for speech.

The idea of an architect as a fixed physical presence in a city seems quaint today; one imagines them instead in transit, on the phone, or on site. I hardly want architects to return to public life patronising from the corner table, but wouldn’t there be some benefit to watching their design work at work, to staking a claim for architecture’s importance to cities through their physical presence? The history of the table proves its versatility as a symbol for how people are connected to one another. Its disappearance suggests a retreat into individual architectures for eating, working, learning that can’t bode well for diplomats, housewives, students or business."
alexandralange  tables  power  hierarchy  education  harknesstables  harkness  harknessmethod  2015  architecture  furniture  relationships  teaching  learning  pedagogy  business  boardrooms  modernmen  kitchens  families  homes  offices  officedesign  schooldesign  kingarthur 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Art + tech (13 Oct., 2015, at Interconnected)
"There's something about art + tech which is niggling at me. The process I'm interested in is when a technology organisation commissions or supports art as a way to understand itself.

I don't quite understand this itch or why I've got it, so I've spent a day looking at examples."
mattwebb  art  design  technology  1951  belllabs  1960s  1990s  lilianschwartz  rachelduckhouse  kitchens  amtrak  randcorporation  1971  andywarhol  advertising  marketing  davidchoe  eames  eamesoffice  2011  1968  electricobjects  eo1  brendandawes  mailchimp 
october 2015 by robertogreco
DASH of PDX
"Your fully equipped commercial kitchen for hire

Dash is 550 sq ft commercial kitchen available for hire on an hourly or monthly basis. Our commissary style kitchen allows food creative's, bakers, chefs, butchers, cart owners, or anyone involved in a food start-up, to prep their wares in a well appointed new kitchen. Dash is also available for cooking classes, recipe development, pop-up and tasting events, or private dinner parties.

We are conveniently located at 5124 NE 42nd Ave Portland, OR 97218
and our second location at The Colony, 7525 N Richmond Ave Saint Johns, OR 97203
For rates, inquiries and an on-site tour please email: info@dashofpdx.com."
portland  oregon  openstudioproject  lcproject  kitchens  rentals  cooking 
february 2015 by robertogreco
The Setup / Julian Bleecker
[Julian reads my mind.]

"The dream setup is a studio that's a short bike's ride from home. In front would be a cafe that the studio would run in a haphazard way — sometimes someone from the studio might pop around and decide to make coffee for patrons. Sometimes you'd just have to turn people away. But the cafe would also be a bit of a literati cafe, so people would come by and read and write and talk and use as a meeting place and to teach little "Public School" style classes on anything and everything. There'd be books and a bit of a lending library. The only thing between the cafe and the studio behind it would be a bit of glass wall and a door. The studio would have a proper cooking kitchen (no microwave and robot coffee — real cooking) and a long family style table to accommodate 15 or so — that's what experience tells me is the maximum compliment for a well-oiled, creative, functioning team of designers/makers/builders.

In back would be a 40 foot x 40 foot pitch of back garden with a fire pit, outdoor kitchen and a wall where we could show movies all year round in the California evenings. Attached and visible through a wall of sound muffling glass would be the shop. A big shop with CNC machines, clean room, electronics assembly and fabrication, hand tools, finishing tools, cutters both material and laser and a 3D printer that wouldn't be fetishized but used to compliment proper designing and making."
coffee  thesetup  california  design  making  edg  srg  kitchens  reading  books  publicschool  thirdplaces  cafes  libraries  groupsize  cv  glvo  studios  lcproject  2012  julianbleecker  thirdspaces  openstudioproject  usesthis 
july 2012 by robertogreco
Malthus, a Meal a Day. Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying About the Food and Love the (Population) Bomb. — Conceptual Devices
"It is an in-home aquaponics unit designed for the next generation kitchen or living room. It grows one meal a day: a portion of fish & a side salad. Aquaponics farming is a technique that combines the cultivation of fish with the growing of vegetables. The fish provides rich fertilizer for the plants and in return, the plants clean the water from the tank. The fish & the plants co-exist in a symbiotic relationship.

Malthus is an appliance for the kitchen of the future that grows food right next to where you cook it. Malthus consists of a fish tank that holds 400 litres which can support more then 2kg of fish like tilapia, salmon, grey fish or carp. The water is pumped through three cultivated grow beds which filter the water for the fish.

Malthus is designed to optimize space & costs with indoor food production. The weight of the fish tank is comparable to the one of a full bathtub, its width is about the size of two small refrigerators…parts…available in most DIY stores."
aquaponics  via:lukeneff  food  foodproduction  fish  sustainability  environment  ecology  classideas  kitchens  tilapia  carp  salmon  greyfish  farming  indoorfarming  personalfarms  agriculture 
july 2011 by robertogreco

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