Lancaster University: University cleaners to create a real sparkle with new artwork

Lancaster University cleaning staff will roll up their sleeves to bring real shine to a piece of artwork for the campus.

Equipped with mops, instead of paintbrushes, 10 members of the cleaning team will set to on February 24 in the University Library foyer to create a unique artwork entitled ‘Traces’.

Commissioned by Lancaster Arts, the University’s professional arts organisation, and led by Venezuelan multidisciplinary artist, José Garcia Oliva, this project will encourage the appreciation and recognition of the vital role the cleaning staff play in the day-to-day life at the University.

“At the start of the current pandemic a bright spotlight shone on all our key workers including our cleaners,” says artist José Garcia Oliva.

“But as we slowly emerge into a post pandemic world this recognition has faded away as fast as squeegee stains vanish on glass.

“Now is a crucial time to acknowledge the role that cleaning staff have in keeping us going. The historical lack of recognition perpetuates this oppressive and hidden labour. After a pandemic, we now know how vital they are.”

Director of Lancaster Arts Jocelyn Cunningham said: “Lancaster Arts has always been excited to work with the whole university community.

“José creates a unique opportunity to engage with an often invisible, sometimes undervalued but absolutely critical part of our workplaces. All the more exciting for the chance to do this in the heart of the university – our library.”

‘Traces’ will be created between 10am – 12pm on Thursday 24 February. Entry is free and spectators are more than welcome.

There will also be an opportunity to speak to the participating cleaners and the artist himself over a coffee and a biscuit.

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The final artwork will be installed within the University’s Library at a later date.

London-based José Garcia Oliva aims to react to the hidden socio-political oppression and exposes it through participatory performances or public interventions.

His practice is research-led and situated on the clash between identity, labour and place. He works with drawing, sculpture, participatory performance and writing. José graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2020 and currently teaches at Kingston School of Art and Ravensbourne University.

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