A good friend sent me this link to Mierle Ukeles’ Manifesto for Maintenance Art. In it, Ukeles states,
The sourball of every revolution: after the revolution, who’s going to pick up the garbage on Monday morning?
Development: pure individual creation; the new; change; progress; advance; excitement; flight or fleeing.
Maintenance: keep the dust off the pure individual creation; preserve the new; sustain the change; protect progress; defend and prolong the advance; renew the excitement; repeat the flight; show your work – show it again keep the contemporaryartmuseum groovy keep the home fires burning
Development systems are partial feedback systems with major room for change.
Maintenance systems are direct feedback systems with little room for alteration.
And this :
Maintenance is a drag; it takes all the fucking time (lit.)
The mind boggles and chafes at the boredom.
The culture confers lousy status on maintenance jobs = minimum wages, housewives = no pay.
clean your 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, I’m out of perfume, say it again – he doesn’t understand, seal it again – it leaks, go to work, this art is dusty, clear the table, call him again, flush the toilet, stay young
The exhibit she was proposing consisted of this :
I am an artist. I am a woman. I am a wife. I am a mother. (Random order).
I do a hell of a lot of washing, cleaning, cooking, renewing, supporting, preserving, etc. Also, (up to now separately I « do » Art. Now, I will simply do these maintenance everyday things, and flush them up to consciousness, exhibit them, as Art. I will live in the museum and I customarily do at home with my husband and my baby, for the duration of the exhibition. (Right? or if you don’t want me around at night I would come in every day) and do all these things as public Art activities: I will sweep and wax the floors, dust everything, wash the walls (i.e.floor paintings, dust works, soap- sculpture, wall-paintings ) cook, invite people to eat, make agglomerations and dispositions of all functional refuse.
The exhibition area might look « empty » of art, but it will be maintained in full public view.
We moved onto the farm three days ago. I am writing from a house that’s nestled between a highway, a barn and some mountains. The pastures are greening, the birds chirping, the cars zipping past, and the former owner is still hanging around, using our tractor to move farm implements in some master plan that we have yet to grasp. We are simultaneously peeling off old yellowed wallpaper, replacing drywall in the kitchen, trying to find the source of a leak with the inherited washing machine, pounding fence posts and installing fence lines to move the cattle off the conventional mucky paddock they’ve been on since they arrived here a month ago, finding a veterinarian to figure out what’s wrong with our feverish Jersey dairy cow, and taking care of a curious toddler in a space that is not childproofed in the least.
In the same way that I had a hard time conceptualizing what forty-two tonnes of sulphur looked like prior to seeing the delivery of fertilizers that came yesterday, I still don’t fully grasp the extent of the work that lays ahead. It is endless. It is overwhelming. Empowering too to think that Paul and I can make this place our farm home, we can set it up as we please, and decide for ourselves the makeup of our days. But it is still so so much to take in.
And then there’s the lost feeling of home and rootedness. The not knowing how to carve out a space here. These feelings of being quite lost and scattered amidst the overwork, the sharp edges of exhaustion, and this rural newness.
But I am grateful for the strolls through the fields as we install insulators for the electrical fencing. I am grateful for a partner with more know-how than I realized. Grateful for the remarkable friend who came and so generously stayed with us for two whole weeks to work, to keep us company and to keep us sane. Grateful for this child who’s so eager to get his rubber boots on to go look at the calves and push his little red wagon around. And at this point, I’m just trying to focus on the ‘adventure’ quality of all of this. Despite the blood, sweat and tears.
Here’s to hitting the ground running, and to starting a farm in May.
We were cycling to the notary’s office to sign the last of the official papers to buy the farm—a pretty big deal for us, to say the least. It had been a long time coming. I’m always iffy about biking with kiddo around rush hour but it was early enough and we had planned our route so as to ride solely on bike paths and roads with bike lanes. We set off with the babe on my bike in a seat clasped to the fork at my handlebars.
We had crossed over to Québec and were waiting for the light at the corner of Montcalm and Alexandre-Taché. The pedestrian light changed for us, with reds all around. My partner leads the way as I’m a bit slower starting. He’s crossed the four lanes as I get passed the first and as I enter the second lane, I see a speeding police car coming at the child and I. The cruiser’s lights are flashing but its sirens aren’t on. I look at my front wheel, with my toddler child sitting not too far from its edge and the scene just seems too surreal. I couldn’t have seen the cruiser, hidden behind the other lane of traffic and I can’t comprehend why I’m not hearing warning sirens. I put a foot down, I retreat as much as I can without toppling and the driver swerves an inch or two, just enough for my wheel (bike, child and person) to not be sent flying and smashing into the intersection.
I’m in shock.
I’ve never had a speeding car close call like this.
And never a close call with child-in-tow.
I somehow made it back to the sidewalk.
The police officer parked off Montcalm, walked over, said he was entirely to blame, apologized and told me he had kids, he was shook up, and that this would serve as a lesson and reminder for him.
I stood crying at that street corner for a bit, not knowing what to do. With kiddo beautifully oblivious, pointing at buses and babbling happily. We walked the rest of the way.
What gets me about this (among other things) is that already, as a mother, in order to be a semi-normal person, every day I have to force myself to forget or play down the (very real) risk of losing this little person (and having grown, birthed, nursed and carried this child, I can’t even imagine what would happen to me were he to die).
Another real struggle is living in this effed up world, being true to our ideals and convictions all the while appreciating that the way we choose to do things is harder or unpractical with a kid, and definitely not as safe (in the immediate, short term) as mainstreaming it. Transportation and getting from A to B is an obvious one here (choosing bikes, feet and buses over cars), but the way we work, and the way we conceptualize our responsibility to others and the planet are other big ones.
We didn’t bring a child into this world to start driving everywhere. I’ll admit I feel more justified now taking an automobile than I ever have (and I just got my license after three glorious decades without one, in fact), but the truth of the matter is, our kids have chronic respiratory diseases, are trucked everywhere, and are losing green space everyday to roads, highways and parking lots. They’re going to inherit the havoc wreaked by wars for oil and a climate crisis the magnitude of which we probably can’t fathom at this point in time. My kid needs a car ride as much as our democracy needs another shady back room deal.
When our governments invest peanuts in real cycling (and other active transportation) infrastructure, we’re jammed between a rock and a hard place. I refuse to believe that my only other choice here is to live apathetically in (relative) safety and succumb to the eye twitches of cognitive dissonance brought on by going against my ethic as I try to raise a compassionate and engaged child.
Regardless, I’m frazzled and we’re going on foot tomorrow.
des mots timbrés
ces amitiés narrées
nostalgie au carré
savourer ce petit moment
comme une mine
qui saurait tracer les contours
d’un bonheur nouveau.
Dear Plan Toys,
I love sustainably harvested wooden toys as much as the next person (and more than I care to admit, actually), so I was quite dismayed to discover that such an apparently forward thinking company would be peddling such tired stereotypes.
I am talking about the character « farmer’s wife » that you sell with the « farmer » for the « PlanCountry » dollhouse.
I, of course, have no problem with farmers having wives, but those wives are oftentimes farmers themselves or have other occupations that could be used as identifiers. If you feel the need to sell a character called « farmer’s wife », you should at the very least consider adding a female agricultural worker (you could call her a « farmer ») and a « farmer’s husband. » They do exist, I know a number of them.
It would be really stellar if your female, like you male characters, could be identified for their occupations instead of their roles in relation to men. Or, by all means, put an emphasis on roles. It would be a lovely way to teach youngsters that our identities are interdependent and that we all have roles and responsibilities towards one another. But do so for the male as well as the female characters. (You could rename the aforementioned dolls and sell them as a pair : « farmer’s husband » and « farmer’s wife »).
Also, the heteronormativity of the families on offer for your dollhouses and the tight gender rules that exist for your « boy » and « girl » children dolls should be rectified. It would be helpful to think of girls and boys as children first (and of women and men as people first) and of a person’s sex as one of many qualifiers. In fact, I think youngsters would just as eagerly play with a « child doll » than a « boy doll » or a « girl doll ». Something to consider.
In your 2010 catalogue, you say that « PlanDollhouse is a wonderful way to encourage creativity and imagination through make-believe play. » Let’s not limit a child’s understanding of what human beings can be and create based on their sex or gender. Encouraging creative play starts with not boxing in. And let us remember, the excessive gendering of a child’s world serves no one.
Looking forward to seeing more diverse families and agricultural dolls in your next catalogue.
cette série d’écrits
de bribes sur ce qui use
cette absence de résilience
d’élasticité des humeurs
comme si toutes les phrases qui me venaient
servent à expliquer pourquoi
j’n’arrive pas assortir de l’ornière
cette sensation d’âpreté
comme lors des premiers jours après l’accouchement
quand tout et rien pouvait faire pleurer
et lorsque le moindre effleurement
d’être émue par le bonheur apparent
sur le visage d’un passant,
d’avoir la larme à l’œil
en devinant le moindre reproche
reconnaître un besoin criant pour un vrai repos
des heures non-pressées
pour se rebâtir l’élasticité
la souplesse de l’être
avoir moins l’impression d’être toujours
trop près de chavirer
d’arriver à apprécier ce flot, ce courant
en ayant une parois suffisamment robuste
pour y tenir tête.
en rentrant du boulot
à coup de lames de patin
poser le regard sur un homme d’âge mûr
assis sur un banc, les patins aux pieds
qui se reposait, les yeux fermés
savourant ces rayons de soleil
cette chaleur de mi-journée
cet homme, cette image
qui me rappelle
de prendre le temps d’imaginer les histoires des autres
pour mieux apprécier la mienne.
ma sœur m’a inscrite à une campagne et je reçois chaque semaine, par la poste, une lettre écrite par un.e des écrivain.e.s qui sera au salon du livre du grand sudbury au mois de mai.
en lisant ces lignes de la lettre de sonia lamontagne, une nostalgie bien triste m’a assailli.
« Vous arrive-t-il de vous réveiller avec l’impression, non pas la prétention, de tout pouvoir rebâtir avant que le soleil se lève? de réaménager l’espace avant que la lumière en trace les contours? »
je sais ce dont elle parle. la réponse est non.
pour longtemps, je savais orchestrer cette expérience. quand j’habitais en nouvelle-écosse, sans vrai boulot, je pédalais régulièrement jusqu’au bord de l’eau pour étaler mes calepins sur la rive rocheuse et y rédiger des strophes ou des lettres en sirotant du café chaud. ou quand, dans mon propre petit appartement, j’avais pris soin d’installer mon bureau près de la plus grande fenêtre pour que je prenne le goût, pas mal chaque matin, de m’y jucher pour écrire. parce qu’à force de rédiger on rédige davantage. parce que, chez moi, cet effort créatif, cette concentration et cette discipline sèment le calme et l’équanimité. et nourri cette impression de pouvoir tout (re)bâtir.
je les ai lu bien tard, ces lignes, et une peur m’a avalé la quiétude : la peur que je me suis embarquée dans une vie qui ne laisse pas suffisamment de temps et de place pour cette création et ce calme. avec un copain plein de projets et un bambin qui bouge tout le temps, prendre le temps (pas « l’avoir » mais le « prendre ») n’est pas toujours chose facile. ou possible.
et si on se sent le plus comme soi quand on parvient à « refaire sa place au quotidien » et à « être plus près de l’ailleurs que de l’ici », d’être inexorablement dans « l’ici » (comme l’est sans doute toute nouvelle maman, toute personne sur le bord d’un grand déménagement), d’avoir ses horizons étriqués ainsi, n’est pas très rassurant. et ça use.