He’s been a fellow blogger, an editor, and a hero to me for more than a decade, but I’m always glad when Andrew Russeth writes. And that goes double for this moment when it feels like we as a people are on a precipice.
Andrew looks around, backwards, and forwards, and sees the importance of maintenance, unsung labor, the often invisible work that is so necessary for making everything go:
In language that startles today, [Mierle Laderman] Ukeles argues that “avant-garde art, which claims utter development, is infected by strains of maintenance ideas, maintenance activities, and maintenance materials.” (Emphasis mine.) She chides Process art in particular for obscuring that fact, but maintenance is in operation everywhere in contemporary art, once you start looking. It is the hidden force that makes so much—in art, and in the world—possible.
And it’s the kind of work–art and labor–we’ll need to get through this.
The current pandemic also makes me think of the AIDS epidemic, and the lessons it holds for us now. There are people who did not survive the malice and indifference and inaction of governments–and there are people who did, and who made a difference in peoples’ lives and in the entire world. We should seek them out and learn from them.
The title alone makes me think of David France’s 2012 documentary about the AIDS activist movement, How To Survive A Plague. A good place to start
Maintenance Work: Andrew Russeth considers the role of art in a pandemic [artforum, thx for the shoutout!]
How To Survive A Plague, the movie, the book, the website [surviveaplague.com]