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Bridget Harvey

Published date
19 Jun 2018

RepairAbility: Repair As Pathway To Sustainability For Makers and Users

Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon

My practice-based research aims to understand the uses, possibilities and applications of repair as a strand of environmental sustainability. Conceptually and materially, repair has methods/systems peculiar unto itself, and can be considered both a social and a political movement.

I address the ‘decisional burden’ of repair (Graham and Thrift, 2007) at two points: before the break – during design and making processes - and after - as user activity, service and community.  Repair can be prevention as well as cure. Breakdown often stimulates innovation, and repair develops current understandings, new views and sense of place (Adamson, 2010; Brook, 2012; Crawford, 2009; Jackson, 2014; Pollock et al., 2009).

Discourses of waste practices (Braungart and McDonough, 2008), environmental ‘slow violence’ through consumption (Nixon, 2006), and sustainability (Ehrenfeld and Hoffman, 2013; Monbiot, 2014) inform me. I see repairing as ‘active hope’ (Macy and Johnstone, 2012) and form of resilience, from an ecofeminist perspective (Gaard, 1993; Gray, 2003).

My practice lies between craft, art and design, underpinned by my ‘slow design’ framework.  Action Research provides iterative structure (Boyarsky and Murphy, 1998; Costello, 2003; Lewin, 1946) and anarchéologie (Brown, 2013) offers order-with-flux. In my practice deliberately visible repair has a particular agency: complementing and juxtaposing the ‘quietness’ of handwork; contributing and destroying narrative; and as ‘subtle symbol’ of anti-consumption enabling deep cooperation (Hackney, 2013; Portwood-Stacer, 2013; Sennett, 2013; Spelman, 2002).

Through practical and artistic repairing, collection of repair language, investigation of repaired objects, repairers, materials, methods/systems, tools, discussions and attendance at workshops, I ‘assemble’ repair and build know-how.  Exhibiting, curating, and facilitating workshops, I use experimental and situational methods to test and develop repair pathways, visibly encouraging practical action and active choice in others.

Through my physical artefacts, thesis, proposed framework and other media I contribute to repair narratives for the post-abundance era (Wiens, 2013), and the emergent repair movement.  Stewart Brand (1997) states that material maintenance is learning. I posit repair as being material, social and environmental learning: convivial connections which ‘de-garbage’ materials and knowledge, (Rathje and Murphy, 2001; Scanlon, 2005), and redefine ownership, choices, values and power. This I call Repair Thinking.


Professor Rebecca Earley

Dr Maiko Tsutsumi

David Cross