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Description Of Artwork

1) Description of artwork: This artwork is a black and white photograph named Touch Sanitation by Mierle Laderman Ukeless. This artwork is from 1978-1979. This is a black and white photograph and it portrays four different stages and angles of a woman who is shaking hand and touching another human being by giving them a hand shake in the photograph. Touch Sanitation is one of Ukeles’ most ambitious early projects and a milestone in the history of performance art. Taking almost a year, Ukeles met over 8500 employees of the New York Sanitation Department, shaking hands with each of them and saying, “Thank you for keeping New York City alive”. She documented her activities on a map, meticulously recording her conversations with the workers. Ukeles documented the workers’ private stories in an attempt to change some of the negative words used in the public sphere of society, using her art as an agent of change to challenge conventional stereotypes.The people in the photograph seem to be very calm and friendly and they seem to be having a good time. This artwork relates to the title because it clearly is showing “Touching Sanitation” which is someone giving a kind human gesture and shaking the other person’s hand and being friendly. Not only that but also on the dumpster truck that the gentleman is driving, his truck reads “Sanitation.” And the woman is going up to the gentlemen in the truck and kindly shaking his hand and greeting him. So by her going up to him and touching him this could be the interpretation that this is “Touching Sensation.” Also there are different angles of this artwork being portrayed. The lighting seems to be just a bit different in each photo only because some are in the shade and others in direct sunlight. Also, These are different photos of men in the trucks and the same lady kindly going up to these different gentlemen and shaking hands and greeting one another. It’s known to see graffiti on the truck as well as numbers. The setting of this photograph could possibly be at a dump or somewhere with trash around or in a parking lot. The interpretation that you can get off of this photograph is that she is thanking them for their service in this dirty job that they do everyday. There can be many different scenarios in this setting that are portrayed here in this photograph. The artist did a great job capturing the moment and showing the emotions of the different gentlemen in each photograph shaking one another’s hands. They are sharing “Touching Sanitations” and smiles are exchanged. This photograph goes well with the time and place as well as the year the photos were taken.

2) How does it relate to the concept of ‘institutional critique’?: The concept of “Institutional Critique” began in the late 60s when the artists would begin to create art in response to the institutions that bought and exhibited their work. In the 1960s, the art institution was often perceived as a place of “cultural confinement” and thus something to attack aesthetically, politically and theoretically. This black and white photograph by Mierle does exactly that. The artist is capturing these different shots and angles of the same woman going up to different gentlemen that work in the waste business or part of some kind of recycling plant and on the truck it clearly is stating “Sanitation” when the title reads, “Touching Sanitation.” This artwork is showing an exchange of emotion and they could be working a filthy job that requires touching and is showing that sanitation should take place after working in this job.

3) How does it relate to the concept of ‘conversational art’?: The concept of “Conversational Art” is shown in this artwork by showing the woman meeting with the different gentlemen and talking and shaking hands and sharing kind gestures. These people can be her friends or even people she just knows or just people she exchanges kindness with and is showing appreciation. The possiblities shown in this artwork can be endless and the artist did a great job showing that because you can see everyones reactions to the gestures being exchanged. Also, you can see it is different people in each photo but the same woman is taking in each photo. Also, This piece is a “Conversational Artwork” because it contains people talking in the artwork and its a conversation starting artwork. That being said, this artwork contains people chatting but also gestures and emotions are expressed which is giving a sense of everyday life and also it makes the viewer wonder about the different possibilities that can be portrayed in this artwork. This photo makes the viewer wonder about the artwork and it calls out little things like “Sanitation” being written in big letters among the dump truck. This can mean a bunch of different things and clearly it’s trying to get a point across which turns this piece into a conversation artwork.

4) Name one institutional critique project: Some artists to name a few from the Institutional Critique Era would be Michael Asher, Daniel Buren, and Marcel Broodthaers. Some artworks from this era would be a work by Daniel Buren, Les Deux Plateaux, more commonly known as the Colonnes de Buren, is a highly controversial art installation created by the French artist Daniel Buren in 1985–1986. It is located in the inner courtyard of the Palais Royal in Paris, France.

5) Name one new genre public art project: A New genre public art piece would be, Mapping The Terrain, by Suzanne Lacy which is also the title of a 1991 public performance at the San Francisco Museum of Art and a series of closed discussions organized by Lacy during which artists, curators, writers, theorists and other practitioners gathered to explore and attempt to formulate the history, their individual experiences, and potential futures of public art.

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