Sunday, 17 July 2016

Experiencing Change / Changing Experience at ONCA Gallery, Brighton

Bricoleur Cup from the Spelman Cup series (2016)

I am exhibiting in Experiencing Change / Changing Experience at ONCA Gallery, Brighton from 27th July –5th August 2016. I am exhibiting my Spelman Cups (2016) and an accompanying text. This work explores Elizabeth Spelman's definitions of non-repairers, and our complex relationship to repair.
From the press release:What changes have you seen? | What makes you change? | What is change for? | What would you change? | Why do we resist change? | What makes us accept change?
International artists from the e:collective launch their debut exhibition of new work exploring relationships with change on a social, economic, environmental and personal level. The exhibition will challenge, enact, refresh and stimulate our perceptions and thoughts on change, and will be viewed alongside current research by scientists at the Global Sustainability Institute, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge.
During the exhibition, artists in residence Mark Vennegoor and Aurora Sciabarra will each develop new work in the gallery, inviting visitors to participate in their practice.
Experiencing Change | Changing Experience investigates a world where environment and society is in a state of flux with large, and sometimes devastating changes predicted for the future. Change can seem inevitable or out of our hands, so how much influence do we have on change? Do we just react to the changes we experience or can we intervene?
 This project is devised by lead artist Valerie Furnham in collaboration with researcher Dr. Rosie Robison [GSI], and with the support of Arts Council England, ONCA Gallery and The Global Sustainability Institute.
  
PREVIEW | Tuesday 26th July 6:30pm – 9pm. Please RSVP to valerie.furnham@gmail.com


Sunday, 15 May 2016

TRAIDtalks: Repair In The Community (23/6/16)

Photo of TRAID mending activist meet up, April 2016, by Sarah Klymkiw

 "Crucial to every society is the kind of union and solidarity it fosters and the kind it can further, under the given conditions of its socioeconomic structure."

Erich Fromm, To Have or To Be? p108



On Thursday, 23 June (18:30 to 20:00) I am really excited to be speaking at the eighth #TRAIDtalks along with 2 other leading voices with unique viewpoints on Repair In The Community. 

I will talk about the landscape and politics of repair-making. Through my studio and collaborative practice I am contributing to repair narratives for the post-abundance era, and the emergent repair movement.

Repair is a resilient act, it is material and social; local, adaptive and sharing. As an act of obedience to the self and ones communities, it is also disobedient to hegemonic practices which do not serve the common good.* Personally, I see the connections made through repair-making as redefining ownership, choices, values and power. Through repair-making we actively chose to explore, together, DIY repairing and community building, and we can cultivate a generous, connected mode of being.


The other speakers for the evening are Janet Gunter, co-founder of the RestartProject and blogger Jen Gale from My MakeDo And Mend Life.  We are part of a passionate network of active citizens making headway with the repair movement - sharing skills to benefit the community with an aim to tackle waste and counter over-consumption and working to inspire a repair revolution with wellbeing, skill-sharing, community and concern for the environment at the very root.  To revive the forgotten art of repairing things and improving relationships with 'stuff', this #TRAIDtalks will involve story-telling and sharing case studies to inspire positive change within communities.

TRAID is a fashion reuse charity working to stop clothes from being thrown away.  They turn clothes waste into funds and resources to reduce the environmental and social impacts of our textile use.

Spaces are limited so please book early to avoid disappointment.

Suggested donation on the door: £5 to support Ziferblat, a shared community space in Old Street, cash or card payments accepted.

Refreshments will be provided.

Please support TRAID’s work by bringing a bag of your unwanted wearable clothes, shoes and accessories for reuse and reselling through their charity shops.

Ziferblat - First Floor 388 Old Street, London, EC1V 9LT
Please note the venue is on the first floor and does not have wheelchair access.  


 * see this blog post for more on obedience and disobedience










Monday, 2 May 2016

...by a thread... at Gawthorpe Hall

Blue Jumper (2012 ongoing) woollen jumper, hand dyed viscose threads.  

My Blue Jumper (2012, ongoing) is in an exhibition of "thoughtfully mended textiles", called ...by a thread... at Gawthorpe Hall until 19th June 2016.

The exhibition aims to explore ideas around mending, after a year of building renovation and repair at the hall itself. From the curator:
"While the stonework within the Hall was being mended - quite invisibly - we became interested in repair which did the opposite. We started looking for examples of mending which were visible and actually made a feature of wear and tear. We discovered that with textile items, repair can be storytelling, creative and commemorative. It can add something extra and bring new meaning and emotion to an object. It can tell us more about people, history, memories and lives."

The artefacts exhibited in ...by a thread... all display thoughtful and careful repairs, and include Karen Suzuki’s rescued teddy, Jacy Wall’s Japanase boro jacket, David Worsley’s darned jeans, Angela Maddock’s repaired Wrangler jacket and Jenni Steele’s 1930s nurse’s apron, along with Claire Wellesley-Smith’s Japanese boro bloomers and Coreen Cottam’s family quilt. Each comes with a story written by the lender, explaining why the process and act of repair is significant to them.

About Blue Jumper
I consider Blue Jumper, a heavily darned navy blue jumper, to be a performative artwork that I wear and work on. I found it in pristine condition, in a charity shop off Old Street, London, now Blue Jumper is heavily darned yet still worn. As environmentalist I am anti-waste, and I wear only second-hand wool. When moths ate Blue Jumper, I continued wearing it.

This garment can be considered disobedient, and it certainly has a disobedient wearer. Repairing is both “obedient” to my own “reason or conviction (autonomous obedience)” of being anti-waste and pro-circularity, and disobedient to those of our consumer culture, where “obedience to a person, institution or power (heteronomous obedience) is submission” (Fromm 1981, p19). My stitched intervention displays my politics: my slogan not shouted but darned. Blue Jumper is personal, political, active and rebellious.

Arguably our dominant culture is what Erich Fromm describes as having - with principles around ownership, gains and growth. To repair together (I began the darning on this jumper with tomofholland, simultaneously beginning our friendship) is to push back (that act of obedience/disobedience) against capitalist consumerism and embrace Fromm’s mode of being – “to share, to give, to sacrifice - that owes its strength to the specific conditions of human existence and the inherent need to overcome ones isolation by oneness with others” (1984, p108).

I find myself resilient against pressure to buy new: I can, I will, I am, through choice and necessity, wearing, repairing and re-wearing. In celebration of resistance and autonomy, like Plutarch’s Ship of Theseus, I will keep repairing Blue Jumper until all is repair, and beyond.

Fromm, E. (1981) On Disobedience and Other Essays. New York: The Seabury Press.
Fromm, E. (1984) To Have or To Be. London: Abacus, Sphere Books



Monday, 22 February 2016

'Sides to Middle: My Way of Working' in Mending Revealed




Repair is a material act. It starts from that which is already in existence, enters into the objects narrative part way through, a late arrival to the tale. However familiar the act of repairing may become, individual damages always have their own characters; breaks always need personal consideration before repair can begin. The repairer must make decisions, write their part of the story.

My role as repairer is long standing. From stitching patches on my clothes to gluing unfortunate objects, the act of repair and I have a deep relationship. I am fascinated by repair, and by the brokenness which requires repair, which repair requires in order to exist.

Where sides to middle refers to the practice of splitting sheets through worn middles, and stitching the good sides together, through my practice and my artefacts I seek to understand ownership materially and emotionally, moving both process and object from the sides to the middle. My focus is on materials with previous existences and their palimpsests: I look to recast things through making, remaking and repairing.

In The Craftsman, Richard Sennett suggests that 'a model is a proposal rather than a command. Its excellence can stimulate us, not to imitate but to innovate.' (2009, p101) Through the creation of repair models, I propose ways of approaching repair and repairing, sometimes functionally, sometimes not. My repaired or remade objects are considered but not excellent per say, through my work I have rendered many of them not-excellent, possibly even anti-functional. My mends are idiosyncratic - some verge on idiotic - they do not make the object typically useful again.

When I hang my plates on a wall in a gallery, I am aware of the difference to using them to eat from at home. I am aware of their potential position as aesthetic stance only, whatever my intention. These plates and their mends are actuals and potentials, stories and ideas. Stimulation is their aim: to act as provocateur or goad, questioning us questioning them.

Some of my work will be in the exhibition Mending Revealed at Bridport Arts Centre from 4th March - 16th April 2016. I will be speaking about it on 12th March, in the gallery space.

https://www.bridport-arts.com/events/mending-revealed/












Thursday, 21 January 2016

Little Brown Jug



You are found outside a junk shop, cold.
You came here in a bag, paper.
Placed on my desk, gently.

Would anyone else have exchanged cash for you?  You have issues, you're not fit for purpose.  Your use value is diminished, eliminated to most.

Your previous life is a mystery but here's what I know:
It began with care, and ended undignified and uncared for, discarded.  Yet in some way you are not completely lost.  The lines raised in your handle.  Your neck, beyond chipped - a vital part of you gone.  You were turned, not cast.  Your spout worked after.  The potter's pun on modesty: a leaf covering the join between your handle and body.  You are simple but detailed.  Not one tone but two - glossy brown and creamy grey.

I assume you were used.  I assume you were broken in use.  Even your sharp edges are smooth.  Your missing piece revealing your material nature.  Where is that splinter, the fragment which would complete you?

Now you wait for me.  You have lived here, in my studio, for six months, but only now do I know your future. Your quiet motionless stance asks me 'what next?'.  Your new life will be different.  Will it fulfil your true purpose?  Probably not, although it won't negate it or ignore it.  It might question you, but, more importantly, you will question us.  You will be seen, visible, rather than used, invisible.  Your break, your journey, has altered your purpose in more ways than one.


This jug, mended, will be part of my installation Sides to Middle 
in Mending Revealed at Bridport Arts Centre, opening 4th March



Friday, 1 January 2016

Breaking Things Better: When a deliberate break is actually a repair

Green Dress, ongoing

This dress was my mothers. Before that (and maybe after too), it belonged to my Gran. At some point it became mine. My mother is shorter than me, her mother was shorter still. Both broader than me, and more softly shaped than my boney form. Their bodies similar, mine different. The inside of this garment shows the changes made by all our hands to fit all our selves, although my changes alter less. The removed then re-attached hem (re-moved? as in moved back?) - for my diminutive Gran, my slightly taller mother. It suits me at either length. There are small ribbons inside the straps, to hold them on Gran's self-proclaimed sloping shoulders - neither my mother or I removed those scraps of fabric. The side seam has been moved several times, again I just leave it. My only real task with this dress has been to sew buttons back on when necessary.

Green Dress detail, ongoing


So is this repair?  Or is this adjustment?  Adaption?  Customisation?  Something else entirely?  We have repaired it to our own needs - without these small adjustments the dress would not have worked - it would have been broken, perhaps.
'Breaking things may lack the positive associations that repairing things has - "Do you want me to repair that?" will almost always be a more attractive request than "Do you want me to break that?"  But look around contemporary culture and you'll find that we're not always consistent in our relationship with the word.'*
After this, Scott Burnham goes on to discuss the idea of breaking things better, using the example of a pool cue, snapped so it can be used to play in the corner of a room without hitting the wall.

That brokenness is subjective is an interesting suggestion, the understanding of when something is broken is complex and oblique.  In our case - the green dress - the unchanged dress was broken for my Gran - too long - then the changed dress was twice broken for my mother - too short and too wide.  In narrowing and lengthening it for herself she broke it for her mother.  The works I have done to it are more traditional, more understandable as mends, repairs - sewing buttons back on - however the dress works  without most of the buttons - it only really needs one.  Thus, in some sense at least, my repairs are the least essential, the dress functions as dress with or without my labour, but without my work my mother and Grandmother would not have worn it, rendering it unused (broken again).  But from outside of this journey, at what point would the dress have looked broken or damaged?

This renders the green dress something of an eddy, curling in and back on itself, and this discussion potentially unending, but I feel this illustrates the complexities of repairing, and the layers that build around and through object ownership and use.


*Scott Burnham in: van der Zanden, Joanna (2011) Curatorial Cooking: The design practice of Platform21 Amsterdam Artez Press, Premsela, Dutch Platform for Design and Fashion, and d'Jonge Hond Publishers; Holland.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Superglue Plate, Centering and Objects

Superglue Plate, 2014

The mends I made as a child were playful, rough and amateur: visually, you could see my young hand.  This aesthetic has not left me or my work.  

Superglue and I have a long history.  It lived in the drawer of stuff, the drawer where the string ends, odd pegs, letter openers, the random-detritus-of-life drawer.  Really, it was a bricoleurs heaven – when I needed something for something, it was there I would find it.  The superglue would be in there, in a crumpled metal tube, with a pin in its long nozzle to prevent it from blocking.  Always, I would hold the tube too hard in my concentration; too much glue would come out, on my hands, my clothes, the thing I was trying to glue, but never in the place it was meant to.  

My Grampa, with his calm approach and steady hands would have to take over, explaining the intricacies of glueing, of repairing.  I understood them, and still do – the logic of sealing the surface with a thin layer of glue, of propping the parts before you start, that dirty edges lead to a dirty join – but no matter how hard I tried then and try now (or don’t try!), the result is the same – glue everywhere, me stuck to me, object still broken, still in need of repair.

This plate is a testament and an opposition to that, its dirty join clearly showing.  However, it is joined, it is one again.  Would I trust it hold to my cup?  I'm not sure - the roughness of my join implies a lack of strength to me.  Yet I know that superglue is strong.
'But even the fired pot stands in the long narrative of these transformations with only its own authenticity.  For it too will disappear; it will be sold or given away.  It will almost certainly be broken in time.  The shards will then stand with their own special charm and symbolism.  They may even be pounded up for grog and thus enter bodily in to the process at another beginning point.  Or they may be turned into mosaic for yet another experience of form.
And though shapes change, though each moment dies into the next, though no thing is being made to last, something is happening  Each moment bears life forwards'
Mary C Richards, from an excerpt from Centering (1966),  p208 of The Craft Reader (ed. G. Adamson, 2010)*

Although Mary C Richards sees the life of the material carrying on, even after the form has been broken, she does not mention repair here.  If we are expanding our way of being through (in a controlled way) the objects we own**, what does keeping and repairing them say?  

The notion of mosaic-ing resonates with repairing.  The charm and symbolism that Richards mentions, continue in their actual form (shards) as material rather than as a renewed composite in the original material (grog, clay), and presumably shed and gather further charm and symbolism along the way.  In this plate repair, the object has journeyed from material (clay) to material-with-form (plate) to form-as-material (shards) to material-with-form (plate) again.  As such it has a different message.  Is this a message of resistance? sentiment? thriftiness? need? dirtiness?  I think it depends on the object viewer.

*Richards speaks about the relationship between the centering of clay on the wheel, and the centering of the self in life, the transformations of clay and the experiences of metamorphoses in nature.
**see Baudrillard's A Marginal System: Collecting in The System of Objects, 1968