Mierle Laderman Ukeles Labor Relations

Art in America Jan 01, 2017

"ON JUNE 13, 1974, Mierle Laderman Ukeles was on her knees in front of A.I.R., the noted New York feminist nonprofit, cleaning the sidewalk with rags in the performance Washing. Photographs of the event vary from austere images of the artist's hands against the coarse and grimy craquelure of the sidewalk to wider-angle scenes in which her body is framed by the street and the small audience outside the gallery. Ukeles had complicated the status of the site by marking it off with pages of a text—specifically a passage on elevating the profane to the holy—written by Abraham Isaac Kook (1865-1935), a Jewish mystic and early Zionist. Was the place now a public sidewalk for which the gallery was legally responsible under city law, a semiprivate space of religious praxis, a setting for documentary photos, or some combination of the three?"

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