Mierle Ukeles – NYC Sanitation Department Artist in Residence!


The SFAI Welcomes Public Artist and Artist-in-Residence for New York City’s Sanitation Department

Mierle Ukeles

What: Mierle Ukeles Lecture
Where: Tipton Hall
When: May 10, 2010 @ 6pm
How Much: $10 general admission | $5 students/seniors/members

As part of our 2010 season of visiting artists and scholars, Elemental: Earth, Air, Fire, Water, the Santa Fe Art Institute is pleased to present public artist and Artist-in-Residence for New York City’s Sanitation Department, Mierle Ukeles. Ukeles will talk about her work at Tipton Hall on May 10th at 6pm.

Public artist, Mierle Ukeles’ work reminds us that when we need our spaces cleared of snow, garbage, or other inconveniences, we don’t will it all to be gone – other people take care of it for us. Ukeles re-conceptualizes this first world perk into an active learning process that brings discussions of politics, environment, and society to the forefront. Through her work, she creates a springboard for rethinking urban ecology and the consequences of our current actions, both toward the environment and society.

Mierle Ukeles received her Bachelor of Arts degree in History and International Relations in 1961 from Barnard College in New York, writing her graduation thesis on “checks and Balances in the History of Tanganyika Territory.” This training led her to conclude, early on, that every society shapes its own space, and that the shape a society makes of its space is its “work.” Ukeles began to think of such work as a kind of art, and to define her own “work” as an artist in terms of helping us rethink and reshape our space as a society.

In the late 1960s, two events occurred in Ukeles’ life that had a profound effect on her career. First, she gave birth to her first child, and the responsibilities of raising children led her to question the polarization between life and art. Secondly, she wrote her “Manifest for Maintenance Art,” in which she defined all of her activities, all of her “work” – as a mother, as a wife, as a woman, and as an artist – equally “art.”

Since 1970 she has been the unsalaried artist-in-residence for New York City’s Sanitation Department where she builds and orchestrates major public projects that explore the social and ecological issues of waste management. Her work asks the community to rethink its common disregard of waste and its disrespect for those who work with it. Such reexamination of our cultural space will allow her, at Fresh Kills Landfill, for instance, literally to reshape our environment. Her Flow City, begun in 1985 and closely tied to the Fresh Kills project, is a walk-through installation for observing the maintenance process that raises questions about waste removal and relocation, and the relationship of the nation’s fragile river systems to the problem.

Comments are closed.