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Mierle laderman ukeles


Considered the “artist-in-residence” at the New York City Department of Sanitation since 1977, spent one and one half years traveling around the city talking to sanitation workers and officials. After this, she did an eleven-month performance piece called “Touch Sanitation” in which she went to the five boroughs of New York and personally shook the hand of every one of the city’s 8,500 sanitation workers, thanking each “for keeping New York City alive.”

This was an effort to encourage a greater understanding of the importance of the work done by workers whom Scala refers to as the “‘untouchables’ of metropolitan culture.” Other works include sculptures made from landfill materials, waste-hauling vehicles, and disused equipment from the sanitation department.


The exhibition METHANOGENESIS (the natural process through which methane gas, an essential component of the global carbon cycle, is generated as a by-product of decomposition) is the most collaborative art project accomplished by the Mountain Lake Workshop to date. Microbiologist, Dr. James Ferry, and artist-in-residence of the New York Sanitation Department, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, consulted with the Mountain Lake Workshop over a period of two years to create a unique exhibition of abstract artworks focused on the invisible, life-sustaining processes of anaerobic (oxygen-free) bacteria. This multi-media exhibition attempts to unite the concepts and methods of past Mountain Lake Workshops with the “performance and installation” strategies associated with Ms. Ukeles' previous artwork.

The several events of a week-long workshop (June 5-11, 1994) involved approximately one hundred community participants in the creation of the various materials included in the exhibition.

*This exhibition was a featured presentation of the Blacksburg Summer Arts Festival 1994.

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