Repair, Reimagine and Responsibility
Embroidery could be used as original embellishment for costume and as its life progressed could be cut and recut, taken from one costume to another, often being handed down over the generations. The costumes themselves could be worn, patched, altered and worn again. Eventually they could be cut up for dusters and rags. Everything tended to have a journey from prized possession to practical working tool. Nothing was wasted and certainly it would have been inconceivable, even a few generations ago, to throw something away merely because something more sparkly and diverting was shown to you through advertising. This attitude of repair, reimagine and recycle applied to both wealthy and poor. Waste was considered a shocking phenomenon even among the supremely wealthy and therefore the most expensive ball gown had a journey to make just as much as the humble knitted sock.
The world of repair, reimagine, sustainability and responsibility has much to do with materials. By making choices about the materials we wear or have in our home, we are making choices about the eventual journey of those materials, whether they end up in the stomach of an infant albatross, irrevocably poisoning a village in China, or becoming a much less damaging integral and changing part of our lives as well as others, is largely up to the individual and their own journey.
Recycling has become such a large part of our everyday culture. In some respects, it salves the individual's conscience in producing so much waste. Unfortunately, despite the best intentions, it is sometimes the case of out of site out of mind. Not all state, regional or private enterprises that deal with our waste are responsible, particularly when there is a profit motive behind the intention.
One of the major handicaps as far as repair and recycle is concerned, is the fact that so many companies that produce our everyday items are locked into the profit over all other concerns scenario. Many companies that produce electronic equipment for example, particularly within the mobile phone market, have made it increasingly difficult for the consumer to adapt and repair. Some companies, after finding out that customers were unscrewing the back of their phones in order to replace dead batteries, rather than buy a new phone, brought out new models that indented the screws so that they couldn't physically be got at. So now, phones have to be thrown away rather than repaired. This is endemic in our culture. When a computer screen goes dead we throw it away and replace it. We have little idea what was wrong with it, whether it could easily be mended and where it went when we 'recycled' it.
This is perhaps where the ideal of the repair culture is so important at this present time. It is very much based on the individual rather than the mass movement, in the respect that repairs are carried out on singular items owned by individual people. Therefore, repair rather than recycle means that at least to a degree there is no involvement in a long trip in a container ship to Asia, although to be fair parts may well have arrived via one, depending on what is needed to repair an item.
As with everything in our contemporary world, there are degrees of understanding and complexity. A yarn for example, can be bought and used to create a lengthy journey of use and reuse. However, we often know little of how the yarn made it to the shop in the first place. What was its journey? Was it spun and dyed causing on-going problems of pollution and contamination? Was exploitation of a workforce involved? Was it shipped half way around the world causing a huge carbon footprint for a small piece of coloured yarn?All of our lives are now about degrees. What degree can we feasibly live so that we do as little harm to both the natural and human environment as possible? To what degree can we trace raw and manufactured elements that we bring into our homes? What degree can we affect what goes out of our homes, whether through waste or our own creative energies?It is a complex issue, but one we obviously need to urgently address. Future generations will not thank us for our prevarication, indifference or our need for unsustainable comfort zones. To repair, reenergise and revalue the possessions we already have, just as our ancestors did, without the cycle of consuming and recycling, is perhaps one of the most important lessons we as individuals can learn and certainly one that we should pass on.The contemporary repair culture is by no means new and repair cafes can be found at various locations across the planet. However, learning and passing on simple repair information is also vital. Try googling 'repair cafes' as well as 'repair culture' to get some idea as to the breadth of the phenomenon and how much farther it can go, and please watch the videos if you can, they all relevant to the ideal of Repair, Reimagine and Responsibility.
by John Hopper
The MIDWAY film project is a powerful visual journey into the heart of an astonishingly symbolic environmental tragedy. On one of the remotest islands on our planet, tens of thousands of baby albatrosses lie dead on the ground, their bodies filled with plastic from the Pacific Garbage Patch. Returning to the island over several years, our team is witnessing the cycles of life and death of these birds as a multi-layered metaphor for our times. With photographer Chris Jordan as our guide, we walk through the fire of horror and grief, facing the immensity of this tragedy—and our own complicity—head on. And in this process, we find an unexpected route to a transformational experience of beauty, acceptance, and understandin