[-empyre-] Documenting Repair

Camilla Møhring Reestorff reestorff at gmail.com
Fri Nov 29 01:47:21 EST 2013

I enjoyed Patrick’s mentioning of art of repair as a new form of knowledge;
a knowledge that reinvents or reproach the object. In a sense this is
closely related to what I suggested in my first post, namely that artivism
can be studied as assemblages of various participatory engagements,
structures, technologies, materialities and affective modalities.

I am interested in projects that seek to reinvent or reuse places that are
somehow abandoned. Not all of these projects are however dedicated to
repair, but maybe it is possible to argue that they are repairing places
that would otherwise be abandoned. I enjoy the Spontaneous Intervention
Project http://www.spontaneousinterventions.org/interventions. Certainly
many of these cases work to create relationships between people, places and

I also find that the notions of repair and reinventions are closely
connected to the questions of documentation that Selmin raised when she
asked whether documentation tames art activism and occlude its horizon by
locating it in an archival past or not.

The critique of “artivists” projects is often that they are media-savvy
documentations, copies and copies of copies. Drawing on Benjamin’s old “Das
Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit” there seems
to be an idea that the copy somehow dissolves or threatens authentic value.

However, I think that we need to recognize the value and the transformative
character of the documentation. As in Patrick’s example of the art of
repair new connections are laid and these connections transform the object.
I like to think of these processes of repair and the treatment of
documentation of artivism in connection with Boris Groy’s concept of art
documentation. According to Groys “Art documentation is by definition not
art; it merely refers to art, and in precisely this way it makes it clear
that art, in this case, is no longer present and immediately visible but
rather absent and hidden (Groys 2008). By maintaining this notion of art
documentation art and in our case artivism creates the life of an object,
the documentation simply inscribes the existence of an object in history,
gives a lifespan to this existence, and gives the object life as such. We
might posit that documentation and media circulation prolongs and
transforms the lifespan of artivism and that the function of artivism is
therefore not to witness history, but to produce history, objects and life

Best Camilla

2013/11/25 Patrick Keilty <p.keilty at utoronto.ca>

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Going back to my repair post briefly, Jonathan Reus (
> http://www.jonathanreus.com/) alerted me to Benjamin Gaulon's Recyclism
> projects (http://www.recyclism.com/) and to the way Apple uses
> non-standard parts so that only Apple can fix its products (
> http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2012/06/opinion-apple-retina-displa/),
> similar to the way Microsoft deliberately makes their software
> incompatible.
> Thanks Jonathan!
> On Sat, Nov 23, 2013 at 1:19 PM, Patrick Keilty <p.keilty at utoronto.ca>wrote:
>> So I am going to shift gears a bit. I recently discovered Steve Jackson's
>> research on the art of repair. He argues that breakdown, maintenance, and
>> repair are central but neglected moments in our collective relationship to
>> technology and the built environment. He developed an installation work on
>> the concept of repair, which you can find here:
>> http://cornellhci.org/scale/. A number of repair collectives have
>> emerged throughout the world. These collectives work to repair objects
>> (e.g. lamps, cell phones, computers, bikes, etc.) at no cost to their
>> owner, but the "owner" (or "user" -- both conceptually and politically
>> charged terms) has to be part of the process of fixing the object. Owners
>> can't simply drop off the object with the collective and pick it up later.
>> Repair collectives want owners to have a more intimate, material
>> relationship with objects. In many cases, members of a repair collective
>> will intentionally break an item, just to learn about how to repair it.
>> I found the concept of repair interesting for several reasons. Partly I
>> like that, unlike the maker movement, which always seems to be concerned
>> with what's new, the repair or fixit movement concerns itself with taking
>> things that are are old, broken, and discarded and repairing them. It
>> rethinks recycling and reuse, particularly in an age when industrial waste,
>> from digital technologies in particular, is on the rise. Usually we think
>> of reuse as taking broken things and reusing them in a new way, making
>> something new out of them, which often involves combining it with other
>> objects that enable its reuse. Doing so often relies on other materials --
>> such as glue, new screws, new wires, or whole recycling plants, an ironic
>> industrialization of recycling -- in order to remake an object. This
>> undercuts the goals of reuse, which is to reduce the amount of materials or
>> resources we consume. Many people come to fixit collectives to repair
>> sentimental objects, such as a grandfather's watch. Others fix objects so
>> that they don't feel as alienated from them when those objects break down.
>> We often don't know what to do or have the appropriate tools at hand to fix
>> broken objects, a result of industrialization and assembly-line labor.
>> Steve's installation of broken objects (above), and its subsequent
>> documentation, or the installation of broken items as a form of
>> documentation, got me thinking about how the art of repair makes small but
>> meaningful interventions into issues of industrial waste, alienation from
>> the built environment, new forms of knowledge in an industrialized age, and
>> recycling and reuse.
>> Best,
>> --
>> Patrick Keilty
>> Assistant Professor
>> Faculty of Information
>> University of Toronto
>> @patrickkeilty <https://twitter.com/PatrickKeilty>
> --
> Patrick Keilty
> Assistant Professor
> Faculty of Information
> University of Toronto
> @patrickkeilty <https://twitter.com/PatrickKeilty>
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
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