Vanessa Saraceno: Where does the title of the exhibition come from?
Anne Percoco: The title comes from the Maintenance Art Manifesto by Mierle Laderman-Ukeles. She wrote that manifesto when she was pregnant or just after she had had her baby and she realized that she was spending her time taking care of this baby and of their house. She didn’t have time to make art, so she started to view of all these maintenance activities as her new art. Realizing that these everyday activities — not just domestic maintenance, but also civic maintenance such as trash collection — are immensely undervalued in today’s world, she created the work, Touch Sanitation, in which she shook the hand of every trash worker in New York City. The ideas of maintenance and object-care comes from there.
VS: In your work you always mix natural elements with synthetic things.
AP: Yes, I like to mix materials – natural and man-made. Especially in the Nurture Art exhibition and in the hut in particular, combining natural with synthetic materials presents, for me, a post-apocalyptic scenario. I think that a lot of people, when they look at these huts, think about our civilization, where it is going to be and so forth. For example: for my Master thesis project, I collected refuse, junk, and fallen limbs from trees, and put them together to create shrines. That was a project dedicated to the nearby drainage system. Shrines have always been used to celebrate the power of Nature, so I thought it might be interesting to have them celebrate a man-made system. Too often we forget to appreciate that at the very least, things are still here.
VS: In the Gowanus Project you also used makeshift shrines. What do they represent to you?
AP: Shrines have always been a symbol of connection between man and the environment. I think the relationship we have now with our environment is very dysfunctional and strained. If something breaks, instead of repairing it, we have been taught to simply buy a new one; it’s unsustainable.
VS: Is this relationship what you were thinking of when you made the hut for the Nurture Art exhibition?
AP: The idea of building a shelter from things you have found around you is a very primitive act — it’s a task done not only by people who do have no choice because they have no place to stay, but also by children who use their household blankets, cushions, and chairs to make living room forts. It’s a basic instinct.
VS: You want to provoke a public awareness about our disjointed relationship with our environment. It seems too that you want to draw attention to the way society values objects.
AP: Exactly, I want to turn something that has no value for most people into something that has value. The piece at Nurture Art made with a broom and the dust from the installation itself works to stimulate a similar consciousness. All of the found materials I use, even if they have no value, are not dead objects; they originate somewhere and travel to somewhere else.
VS: You’ve decided to organize a series of workshops, hosting other artists and their projects. Can you tell me more about the artists you chose and why their projects are connected to your show?
AP: All of these workshops revolve around the idea of repair and creative repair. I chose the artists in regards to the resourceful approach of their practices. Eric Clausen has been the first. For the second event, Kristyna and Marek Milde will create a sculpture from the objects people bring during the workshop. Then Fixer’s collective will help people fix their broken objects, and lastly, Sewing Rebellion NYC will organize a mending circle in the exhibition space. Showing how repair can be a creative act, these workshops’ aim is to celebrate the “Life Instinct”.
Courtesy of Anne Percoco.