An Intimate Symposium on Maintenance

Whitechapel Gallery, London
18th March 2017, 11am – 1pm

With Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Lisa Baraitser, Marina Vishmidt, Kate Coyne/ Michael Clark Company
Organised by Cally Spooner

“The Death Instinct: separation; individuality; Avant-Garde par excellence; to follow one’s own path to death—do your own thing; dynamic change. The Life Instinct: unification; the eternal return; the perpetuation and MAINTENANCE of the species; survival systems and operations; equilibrium.”

Mierle Laderman Ukeles

“Maintenance is a drag; it takes all the fucking time (lit.),” writes Mierle Laderman Ukeles in her 1969 Manifesto for Maintenance Art. Taking up Laderman Ukeles’ premise in the present, this gathering – consisting of lectures, screening and discussions – asked what durations, pragmatics, and cooperative arrangements might upset contemporary, patriarchal states of chrono-normativity and chrono-normative accounts of history. Chrono-normativity, in its simplest terms, may be understood as all life being engineered to run on the same clock: a clock usually set by those in power, to grant control, maximum efficiency and profit. It is a temporal regime which renders slower and more durational activities such as maintenance and care—crucial to our survival—invisible.

Mapping assorted scales of maintenance and also management, from the micro to the planetary, this gathering studied the methods necessary to keep artists’ work and a company of dancers alive, through forms of ‘hidden’ or disavowed time. The gathering also opened up thoughts around maintenance in correlation to a ‘continual rehearsal’; a form of practical work that is never ‘done’ and profoundly reciprocal, as it moulds and is moulded by all its subjects.