Mierle Laderman Ukeles’ work explores the value of appreciating the overlooked. She is fascinated with maintenance art, a movement that places emphasis on domestic labour. Ukeles’ interest for service oriented work stemmed from her analysis of her daily duties a mother, wife, and artist. She believes that all the maintenance of her daily life becomes her art practice.
Her work, “Touch Sanitation Project” is a two year-long performance piece that featured Ukeles drawing attention to New York City’s sanitation workers and their hard labour to keep the city clean. She interacted with over 8500 sanitation workers, taking the time to visit them personally at their front door to meet, shake hands with, and thank them for their services to the city. Ukeles said to each worker, “Thank you for keeping New York City alive”. In this piece she invites us to appreciate and re-evaluate the labour required to sustain a city.