Maintenance Required

May 30–June 22, 2013
The Kitchen, 512 W 19th Street

Maintenance is crucial for the continuation of our physical infrastructure, our society, and our lives. The often repetitive and mundane work of maintenance sustains people, objects, and institutions, and supports our constant struggle against entropy and decay. Ubiquitous but unseen and undervalued, maintenance comprises the essential systems of support that clear the ground for all other forms of work.

Investigating the diversity of maintenance tasks, Maintenance Required examines the large-scale systems that construct our daily lives. Durational by nature, maintenance networks provide life-perpetuating mechanisms of care; yet these systems can also invisibly direct or limit life’s possibilities, or even become malevolent systems of control. By overcoming our collective blindness toward maintenance activities, we can begin to examine how they condition our lives. Bringing maintenance into view exposes a constantly shifting set of social, political, and affective relations and invites questions about what needs to be maintained and under what conditions that maintenance occurs.

The exhibition takes as its entry point to these issues Mierle Laderman Ukeles’s “Manifesto for Maintenance Art 1969!", in which the artist redefines maintenance activities as art.Maintenance Required then focuses on artistic practices that frame and critically engage these often invisible systems of life support. Many of these practices articulate the paradoxical tensions of large-scale systems of maintenance whose power to sustain life may run parallel to the power to constrain it.

The exhibition features works by Michael Bramwell, Goldin+Senneby, Ashley Hunt, Masaru Iwai, Yve Laris Cohen, Sam Lewitt, Park McArthur, Salvage Art Institute, Karin Sander, Taryn Simon, Pilvi Takala, and Mierle Laderman Ukeles.

Maintenance Required is curated by Nina Horisaki-Christens, Andrea Neustein, Victoria Rogers, and Jason Waite, the 2012–13 Helena Rubinstein Curatorial Fellows of the Independent Study Program.

  • Yve Laris Cohen, Waltz; Cross Hesitation, 2012 (performance view, Thomas Erben Gallery, New York, May 18, 2012). White wall, white floor, white wall, white floor, black wall, black floor, white transsexual. Courtesy of the artist and Thomas Erben Gallery. Photograph by Andreas Vesterlund

  • Sam Lewitt, _Test Subject A2 Fine_, 2010. Helicopter pilot’s helmet, Arizona test dust ISO 12103-1 (PTI ID: 10717F, Batch 16, Aug. 2010). Photomount, adhesive vinyl lettering, 10 × 11 × 10 in. (25.4 × 27.9 × 25.4 cm). Courtesy of the artist and Miguel Abreu Gallery. Photograph by Adam Reich

  • Taryn Simon, _Transatlantic Sub-Marine Cables Reaching Land, VSNL International, Avon, New Jersey_, 2007. Chromogenic print, 37 1/4 × 44 1/2 in. (94.6 × 113 cm) framed. Courtesy of Steidl/Gagosian

  • Karin Sander, _Wallpiece 220 x 840 cm_, 1995 (installation view, Karin Sander, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart). Polished wall paint, 86 3/5 × 330 7/10 in. (220 × 840 cm). Photograph by Martin Lauffer

  • Mierle Laderman Ukeles, _Touch Sanitation Performance: Sweep 7, Staten Island, 6:00 a.m. Roll Call_, 1979–80. Citywide performance with 8,500 New York City sanitation workers. Courtesy of Ronald Feldman Fine Arts

  • Goldin+Senneby, _Headless Symbol_, 2007. Designed by Johan Hjerpe. Courtesy of the artists

  • Pilvi Takala, _The Trainee_, 2008 (still from video). Installation with letter, key card, PowerPoint presentation, office furniture, video; dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist and Carlos/Ishikawa, London

  • Installation view of _No Longer Art: Salvage Art Institute, Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery_ (Columbia University, New York, 2012–13). Courtesy the Salvage Art Institute. Photograph by Elka Krajewska

  • Masaru Iwai, sketch for _Washing Stage_, 2013. Watercolor and pen on paper, 8 1/4 × 11 3/4 in. (21 × 29.9 mm). Courtesy of Takuro Someya Contemporary Art

  • Park McArthur with Ben Fain and David Prince, _How to Get a Wheelchair over Sand_, 2009. Temporary installation of wood, bamboo mats, concrete, and sand, dimensions variable. Saugatuck, MI. Courtesy of the artist

  • Ashley Hunt, still from _Corrections_, 2001. Digital video, color, sound; 57 min. Courtesy of the artist

  • Michael Bramwell, _Ground Zero Sweeps I–II: Collaborative Sweep, Hiroshima_, 1996. Inkjet print, 11 × 14 in. (28 × 35.6 cm). Courtesy of the artist

Maintenance is crucial for the continuation of our physical infrastructure, our society, and our lives. The often repetitive and mundane work of maintenance sustains people, objects, and institutions, and supports our constant struggle against entropy and decay. Ubiquitous but unseen and undervalued, maintenance comprises the essential systems of support that clear the ground for all other forms of work.

Investigating the diversity of maintenance tasks, Maintenance Required examines the large-scale systems that construct our daily lives. Durational by nature, maintenance networks provide life-perpetuating mechanisms of care; yet these systems can also invisibly direct or limit life’s possibilities, or even become malevolent systems of control. By overcoming our collective blindness toward maintenance activities, we can begin to examine how they condition our lives. Bringing maintenance into view exposes a constantly shifting set of social, political, and affective relations and invites questions about what needs to be maintained and under what conditions that maintenance occurs.

The exhibition takes as its entry point to these issues Mierle Laderman Ukeles’s “Manifesto for Maintenance Art 1969!", in which the artist redefines maintenance activities as art.Maintenance Required then focuses on artistic practices that frame and critically engage these often invisible systems of life support. Many of these practices articulate the paradoxical tensions of large-scale systems of maintenance whose power to sustain life may run parallel to the power to constrain it.

The exhibition features works by Michael Bramwell, Goldin+Senneby, Ashley Hunt, Masaru Iwai, Yve Laris Cohen, Sam Lewitt, Park McArthur, Salvage Art Institute, Karin Sander, Taryn Simon, Pilvi Takala, and Mierle Laderman Ukeles.

Maintenance Required is curated by Nina Horisaki-Christens, Andrea Neustein, Victoria Rogers, and Jason Waite, the 2012–13 Helena Rubinstein Curatorial Fellows of the Independent Study Program.

About the Whitney ISP Curatorial Program

Installation view of ISP Curatorial students’ exhibition Suburban Home Life at the Whitney Museum’s Downtown Branch on Maiden Lane, 1989

The ISP provides a setting within which students pursuing art practice, curatorial work, art historical scholarship, and critical writing engage in ongoing discussions and debates that examine the historical, social, and intellectual conditions of artistic production.

Learn more

Please Note

Maintenance Required takes place at The Kitchen (not the Whitney Museum of American Art) and its hours are: Tuesday–Friday, 12–6 pm; Saturday, 11–6 pm. All events held in conjunction with Maintenance Required will take place at The Kitchen. For more information about the specific hours for each event, please consult the calendar.

This exhibition is free and open to the public.

Support for the Independent Study Program is provided by Margaret Morgan and Wesley Phoa, The Capital Group Charitable Foundation, and the Whitney Contemporaries through their annual Art Party benefit.

Endowment support is provided by Joanne Leonhardt Cassullo, the Dorothea L. Leonhardt Fund of the Communities Foundation of Texas, the Dorothea L. Leonhardt Foundation, and the Helena Rubinstein Foundation.