Emily Orley

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Maintain, Manu tenere, Hold in the Hand

A performance installation with Katja Hilevaara

A  performance inspired by and in homage to Mierle Laderman Ukeles and her 1969 Manifesto for Maintenance Art. Ukeles asserts that the artist is also an activist, empowering people to act and change social values and norms.  In her manifesto she challenges the privileged and gendered notion of the independent artist and questions the often overlooked hierarchies of different forms of work, particularly housework and low-wage labour. She suggests that the ongoing mundane activities that can take up large parts of our daily lives, often in the service of others, can be seen as art and should be celebrated as such. It is possible to be a mother and artist at the same time. For between one and three hours we sort, fold and stack a mountain of clean laundry while listening to and reading the testimonies of 30 people about the housework that they (don't always) do.

In Ukeles' words:  I am an artist.  I am a woman.  I am a wife. I am a mother.  (Random order)... Maintenance is a drag; it takes all the fucking time (lit.)

Performed at
  • Congruence and Contestation: Contemporary Feminism and Performance. Conference at Roehampton University organised by Sarah Gorman (September 2015)
  • Peopling the Palace(s) Festival, Queen Mary University (June 2015)

Discussed at
‘Motherhood and Live Art’', an event at the Institute for the Art and Practice of Dissent at Home in Liverpool and 'Performance and the Maternal' , a network meeting at Edge Hill University organised by Lena Simic and Emily Underwood-Lee (January 2016)