She outlined her artistic point of view in a 1969 manifesto, which served as a statement for her first-ever Maintenance Art
performance. The manifesto is on view at her long-anticipated retrospective at the Queens Museum
, set to open this month. In the text, she states:
“I am an artist. I am a woman. I am a wife. I am a mother. (Random order).
I do a hell of a lot of washing, cleaning, cooking, renewing, supporting, preserving, etc. Also, up to now separately I “do” Art.
Now, I will simply do these maintenance everyday things, and flush them up to consciousness, exhibit them, as Art… MY WORKING WILL BE THE WORK.”
This seminal manifesto would encapsulate Ukeles’s work over the next 40-plus years.
At the Queens Museum, visitors can engage with the evolution of her work thanks to the exhibition’s semi-chronological timeline. Each major project is illustrated with Ukeles’s meticulous notebooks and preserved communications, as well as photographs and video documentation. Some works, like Touch Sanitation, are given prominence. A performance piece that began in 1979, it sent the artist all over New York’s five boroughs to shake the hand of every sanitation worker.