About the Project

In 1977, artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles began interviewing New York City sanitation workers, and in 1979, she began Touch Sanitation Performance. This multivalent work included Handshake and Thanking Ritual, in which the artist shook hands and personally thanked each of the city’s 8,500 sanitation workers over an eleven-month period.


Follow in Your Footsteps was another action, during which Ukeles worked eight to sixteen-hour shifts and followed sanitation workers on their routes in every district throughout the city, as well as mirrored their motions as a street dance. In Cleansing The Bad Names, public officials ceremoniously removed windows that had been defaced with slurs for sanitation workers (i.e. “garbagemen”). Ukeles felt if sanitation workers are garbagemen, the public is therefore garbagepersons.




Mierle Laderman Ukeles

Sanitation Celebrations

New York City