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Meaning Cleaning

Meaning Cleaning

Meaning Cleaning is an ongoing collaborative performance initiated by Hayley Severns and Angela Rose Voulgarelis. Since 2007 we have cleaned public spaces together as a way to subvert traditional ideas of what “women’s/domestic work” implies in today’s society, and to play with notions of acceptable public behavior and social norms. We’ve done this through the simple intervention of cleaning in public – an action that is usually done in private. 

Dressed in professional attire and armed with rubber gloves, mops, brooms and eco-friendly cleaning products, we mop, sweep, and clean areas in an unannounced and unexpected way. We clean areas of urban centers that are typically used for transportation, and that are often very dirty: subway stations, sidewalks, train cars, etc. As we work, we welcome engagement from passersby. Our actions become conversation starters, as it is highly unusual for two white women dressed in suits to be cleaning the streets of any urban center.

Our performances take responsibility for our shared urban environment, which is why we feel strongly that Meaning Cleaning is pertinent to ArteUtil’s mission statement. We bring to light what we as a community discard and highlight the ethos of human condition. Our actions provide a fundamentally different approach to the perceived lack of care for the immediate environment. Our focus as artists is on the foundation beneath our feet, to be reminded of our interconnection and impermanent nature. Our work maintains the lineage of Feminist and Conceptual artists before us, primarily Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Marina Abronovic, and Joseph Beuys.

Meaning Cleaning challenges the civic notions of women’s work and encourages a greater sense of social responsibility. It also offers an alternative to the product – driven Art market. When two white women begin cleaning a subway platform, it brings attention to the action. Why? Is this because one is typically used to seeing men of color wearing brightly colored jumpsuits cleaning in public? Is taking care of public space considered a low-level, humiliating job? Or can it be sublime, a meditation? Our work is an ephemeral action, and only exists in the time it takes to clean a given area. It is art for the sake of social justice, and is not made as a commodity. 

Our public cleanings are public cleanings: we clean the subway to clean the subway. We connect a local action with a universal compassion. In light of the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, and mounting fears of global overpopulation and climate change, Meaning Cleaning’s message is more important than ever to today’s society. We feel that one doesn’t need a natural disaster as a reason to act more humanely towards another human being. Creating a space for this can occur on any given day. 

We work in the real world: in subway stations, on city streets. This non-art context brings the aspect of social justice and social sculpture to our work. Our performances remain the same regardless of where they are located. Meaning Cleaning reflects the functions of the everyday, but is done in public rather than in private. It is only because both artist initiators happen to live in New York that Meaning Cleaning has occurred primarily in New York. However, Meaning Cleaning can be implemented anywhere. 

Meaning Cleaning’s strength is in its ability to grow with participation from the public. It is a facilitated action. Meaning Cleaning is not about us as individuals, but points to a more inclusive position within society. As such, we encourage participation from passersby, who have helped us clean, and have often revealed very intimate aspects about themselves in the process. 

Meaning Cleaning’s work is done with grace and earnestness. We bring the same amount of care to our public cleanings as we do to every other artistic action we do. We clean the streets with the same reverence with which we clean our own homes. We take this project seriously, and understand its transformative potential. We slow down the action of cleaning in public; we get in the way of people walking by; we intervene in normal flows of foot traffic so that passersby take notice of the actions we are doing. 

 

Project Links

http://www.meaningcleaning.blogspot.com
http://blog.art21.org/2008/10/21/looking-at-art-in-odd-places
http://vimeo.com/threeart
http://3-art.org/past-projects/now-here-this/october-2012
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AfttxRrhH5Q

 

Meaning Cleaning

Meaning Cleaning

Meaning Cleaning

Meaning Cleaning

Meaning Cleaning

Meaning Cleaning

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16_meaningcleaning.jpg

Meaning Cleaning

Meaning Cleaning is an ongoing collaborative performance initiated by Hayley Severns and Angela Rose Voulgarelis. Since 2007 we have cleaned public spaces together as a way to subvert traditional ideas of what “women’s/domestic work” implies in today’s society, and to play with notions of acceptable public behavior and social norms. We’ve done this through the simple intervention of cleaning in public – an action that is usually done in private. 

Dressed in professional attire and armed with rubber gloves, mops, brooms and eco-friendly cleaning products, we mop, sweep, and clean areas in an unannounced and unexpected way. We clean areas of urban centers that are typically used for transportation, and that are often very dirty: subway stations, sidewalks, train cars, etc. As we work, we welcome engagement from passersby. Our actions become conversation starters, as it is highly unusual for two white women dressed in suits to be cleaning the streets of any urban center.

Our performances take responsibility for our shared urban environment, which is why we feel strongly that Meaning Cleaning is pertinent to ArteUtil’s mission statement. We bring to light what we as a community discard and highlight the ethos of human condition. Our actions provide a fundamentally different approach to the perceived lack of care for the immediate environment. Our focus as artists is on the foundation beneath our feet, to be reminded of our interconnection and impermanent nature. Our work maintains the lineage of Feminist and Conceptual artists before us, primarily Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Marina Abronovic, and Joseph Beuys.

Meaning Cleaning challenges the civic notions of women’s work and encourages a greater sense of social responsibility. It also offers an alternative to the product – driven Art market. When two white women begin cleaning a subway platform, it brings attention to the action. Why? Is this because one is typically used to seeing men of color wearing brightly colored jumpsuits cleaning in public? Is taking care of public space considered a low-level, humiliating job? Or can it be sublime, a meditation? Our work is an ephemeral action, and only exists in the time it takes to clean a given area. It is art for the sake of social justice, and is not made as a commodity. 

Our public cleanings are public cleanings: we clean the subway to clean the subway. We connect a local action with a universal compassion. In light of the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, and mounting fears of global overpopulation and climate change, Meaning Cleaning’s message is more important than ever to today’s society. We feel that one doesn’t need a natural disaster as a reason to act more humanely towards another human being. Creating a space for this can occur on any given day. 

We work in the real world: in subway stations, on city streets. This non-art context brings the aspect of social justice and social sculpture to our work. Our performances remain the same regardless of where they are located. Meaning Cleaning reflects the functions of the everyday, but is done in public rather than in private. It is only because both artist initiators happen to live in New York that Meaning Cleaning has occurred primarily in New York. However, Meaning Cleaning can be implemented anywhere. 

Meaning Cleaning’s strength is in its ability to grow with participation from the public. It is a facilitated action. Meaning Cleaning is not about us as individuals, but points to a more inclusive position within society. As such, we encourage participation from passersby, who have helped us clean, and have often revealed very intimate aspects about themselves in the process. 

Meaning Cleaning’s work is done with grace and earnestness. We bring the same amount of care to our public cleanings as we do to every other artistic action we do. We clean the streets with the same reverence with which we clean our own homes. We take this project seriously, and understand its transformative potential. We slow down the action of cleaning in public; we get in the way of people walking by; we intervene in normal flows of foot traffic so that passersby take notice of the actions we are doing. 

 

Project Links

http://www.meaningcleaning.blogspot.com
http://blog.art21.org/2008/10/21/looking-at-art-in-odd-places
http://vimeo.com/threeart
http://3-art.org/past-projects/now-here-this/october-2012
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AfttxRrhH5Q

 

Meaning Cleaning

Meaning Cleaning

Meaning Cleaning

Meaning Cleaning
Meaning Cleaning
Meaning Cleaning
Meaning Cleaning
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07_meaningcleaning.jpg
08_meaningcleaning.jpg
09_meaningcleaning.jpg
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11_meaningcleaning.jpg
12_meaningcleaning.jpg
13_meaningcleaning.jpg
14_meaningcleaning.jpg
15_meaningcleaning.jpg
16_meaningcleaning.jpg