A public garden & cultural center

Mierle Laderman Ukeles


Remediate/Re-vision: Public Artists Engaging the Environment
Glyndor Gallery | August 1 – November 28, 2010

Fresh Kills, formerly the largest municipal landfill in the world, was New York City’s principal landfill in the second half of the twentieth century. The site is currently being transformed into Fresh Kills Park, and when fully developed, it is expected to be the second-largest park in New York City.


Describing this as an ultimate embodiment of “social sculpture,” Ukeles believes that this site cannot truly be transformed unless a large number of the individuals who created this “social sculpture” actively and personally engage in its renewal.


Therefore, she proposes that over 1 million members of the public, or “Donor Citizens,” create or select something of great personal value to be made into a “Public Offering.” The item must be small enough to fit inside the donor citizen’s hand. These offerings will be collected at designated “Cultural Transfer Stations” (sanitation garages, museums, libraries, schools, botanical gardens, and other cultural institutions throughout New York), where each object will be photographically documented, registered, and then embedded in a transparent recycled glass block. A unique barcode will be given to each donor as a receipt, and then the barcode will be engraved onto the surface of the block, as part of its design. Eventually, the glass blocks will be placed at the new Fresh Kills Park, permanently embedded into the landscape along miles of pathways and retaining walls throughout the site.


According to Ukeles, the offerings are voluntarily released, but they are not rejected; their value stays with them, released to be shared in the community.

Bronx resident Mierle Laderman Ukeles has received multiple awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts as well as support from the Guggenheim, Andy Warhol, Joan Mitchell, and Anonymous Was a Woman foundations. She has been involved in public performances throughout the world. She is currently at work on part 5 of TURNAROUND SURROUND FOR DANEHY PARK, a permanent public artwork on a former garbage dump in Cambridge, MA, with the Cambridge Arts Council, which she has been working on since 1990. She is represented by Ronald Feldman Fine Arts in New York City.

Mierle Laderman Ukeles on Proposal for 1 million people to participate in an artwork for Fresh Kills Park: PUBLIC OFFERINGS MADE BY ALL REDEEMED BY ALL

Part of my Manifesto For Maintenance Art 1969! was a proposal for an exhibition called “CARE” that would take up an entire museum. It had three parts: Personal Maintenance, General Societal Maintenance and Earth Maintenance; that is, taking care of the whole planet as a continuing cultural act. Contrary to an incorrect understanding of my work as that of a sole housekeeper calling her housework and personal childcare art, my work has been, from the very invention of Maintenance Art, a world vision with all three parts interlinked/connected and inseparable, i.e., an ecological vision.

My proposal for 1 million people to participate on a 1:1 basis in creating the artwork Public Offerings Made By All Redeemed By All grows out of my long-term daily contact with one of the biggest urban infrastructure systems in the world: The Department of Sanitation New York (DSNY), which comes in contact with millions of people on a daily basis. They know how to find everybody in order to deal with their waste and recyclables. Their operations expertise, intimate knowledge of the whole city and the most local aspects of the body of the city, at multiple scales, is mind-blowing. I choose to piggyback onto this expertise. I believe it is certainly possible to engage 1 million people for this project, as the DSNY does every day. And I also believe that unless a whiff of that vast urban scale symbolized by the number “1 million active participants,” is engaged to personally redeem Fresh Kills and transform it into a safe public park, then the new Fresh Kills Park will not be transformed in the deepest sense so that it can actually be reborn.

This project was proposed around 2000. As a concept wedded to the development of Fresh Kills Park, it is featured in the Draft Master Plan published by the City in 2006 and was exhibited at the Sharjah Biennial 8 in the United Arab Emirates. It seems to have legs! I still am tremendously committed to this project. I will need a lot of help to realize it. It is imminently realizable if someone has the courage to help.

The Arts at Wave Hill are supported by the Lily Auchincloss Foundation, Inc.; Michael J. Shannon; Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation; the National Endowment for the Arts; New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; New York Community Trust Edward and Sally Van Lier Fund; New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; The Pollock-Krasner Foundation; The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation; and by the Cathy and Stephen Weinroth Commissioning Fund for the Arts.