Service Act # 1 – At Your Service, 2019
Performed at the conference:  New Infrastructures Of Art,
Throughout the duration of the conference
Organised by Astrid Noack’s Atelier and BKF
Held at The Royal Academy Of Art, Cph

The work is formed in the gap between the female artist, care labour, mental labour,  experience and art history. It draws inspiration from feminist performances of the 70s and reflect the precarity explored in these pieces in contemporary conditions of work, class-consciousness and identity.

“Clean you desk, wash the dishes, clean the floor, wash your clothes, wash your toes, change the baby’s diaper, finish the report, correct the typos, mend the fence, keep the customer happy, throw out the stinking garbage, watch out don’t put things in your nose, what shall I wear, I have no sox, pay your bills, don’t litter, save string, wash your hair, change the sheets, go to the store, go to work, this art is dusty, clear the table, flush the toilet, stay young.”

§1.c – Manifesto for Maintenance ArtMierle Laderman Ukeles 1969

The series of performances holds Mierle Laderman Ukeles’ ‘Manifesto for Maintenance Art’ as its primary source of inspiration. Ukeles’ manifesto was first published in 1971 and focused on women’s labor in the family and household as an invisible workload aside from their ordinary jobs.  Thus, Ukeles shed light on phenomena which are also heavily debated today, such as women carrying the mental load and, accordingly, being more vulnerable to stress.

’Service Act Series’ also springs from a general interest in feminist economies and a hope for more sustainable work lives as an alternative to the current capitalist systems. Accordingly, the series of performances also address present discussions about jobs associated with care – types of jobs that are often performed by women, who tend to be reduced to “warm hands” in the public debate.

The first performance in the series took place during Symposium at The Royal Academy of Art in Copenhagen in 2019. Three performers were present during the entire symposium – all wearing identical black T-shirts and pants, carrying red buckets and mops, and covering their heads with paper bags. The performers were patiently waiting during the talks and performing pseudo-practical tasks like serving snacks and mopping floors in between. Furthermore, the performers handed out the text from Ukeles’ manifesto, neatly handwritten on paper napkins, to each member of the audience.

A later version of the performance took place at Vega Arts + Art Hub Cph, in 2022. Nine performers contributed, again equipped with black T-shirts and pants, red buckets and mops, and paper bags covering their heads. The paper bags made the performers faceless and anonymous, reducing them to a working body without any autonomous identity. Additionally, the paper bags slowed down their work speed and created a general sense of disorientation among the performers. This was obvious from the very beginning of the performance where the performers entered the room in a stumbling procession resembling Pieter Brueghel the Elder’s famous painting ‘The Blind Leading the Blind’ from 1568.

Having crossed the room as a procession, the performers split up and occupied individual areas of the room. The performers then started mopping the floor, still blinded by the paper bags and consequently quite confrontational to the audience who had their feet swiped by the mops.

Finally, the performers turned their backs to the audience and clustered into a big, heavily breathing, shared body. One by one the performers then left the cluster, facing the audience and finally breaking their anonymity while letting go of their buckets, mops, uniforms, and paper bags before leaving the room.

The upcoming version of the performance will occupy a larger space and include a larger number of performers. Thus, the care and maintenance workers will eventually form an army, fighting the invisibility of their workload in feminine solidarity. 

– Text by Kamma Overgaard Hansen, 2023

Performed live at:
Art Hub + Vega Arts, Nov. 5 2022
Literature Exchange Festival, 2022
ARoS Public, Nov – Dec 2019

visual artist

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