Network for Repair, Reuse & Maintenance (RRM) Cultures

Lead Research Organisation: University of the West of England
Department Name: Fac of Arts Creative Ind and Education


This Network proposal seeks to address the 'repair' gap in academic thinking, artistic practice and UK policy legislation by establishing an international network of practitioners to explore cultures of repair, reuse and maintenance (RRM). Situating the work within artistic practices that deal with repair, the proposal brings together a broad, interdisciplinary intersection of scholarly and entrepreneurial activity. Focusing on urban and rural repair activities three Network meetings will take place: 2x UK, 1x India. This includes a final UK Symposium at which knowledge gained during the meetings will be shared and disseminated.

Focusing on processes of reuse, upkeep, fixing, mending, extending, augmenting, hacking, tinkering, restoration, preservation and customization, each Network meeting will address these process in relation to different forms of repair: critical (relating to artistic practices and aesthetics), craft (relating to heritage and tradition), entrepreneurial (relating to new forms of capital, business and economy) and essential (borne out of immediate need).

With the aim to -

1. Map what responsible consumption and production means through cultures of repair, reuse, maintenance, with a focus on their associated value systems, modes of labour, and forms of economy and styles of production.
2. Examine practices from the fields of contemporary art on repair and bring such knowledge's together with understandings from the fields of critical urban studies, geography, consumer and material studies and sustainability.

Positioning the Network in the context of policies which call for more circular and restorative approaches to manufacturing, such as United Nations (UN) Global Sustainable Development Goals (2016) and New Urban Agenda (2016), Defra, UK reports (2013) and various EU Directives (2008, 2012). Within these policies recycling and waste management, as opposed to repair and maintenance, still remains a central narrative. Repair presents a new set of challenges, as it demands we address issues further up the manufacturing chain or process, before products, services, objects, buildings and 'stuff' come to the ends of their lives. Repair requires us to tackle strategies for planned obsolescence and its associated material flow, by demanding that we shift the conversation from the rhetoric of the 'new' as a means of progression and innovation, to realities of broken-world logics, maintenance, care and upkeep.

Artists such as Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Amy Balkin, Benjamin Gaulon, Kim Cascone and Linda Bothwell to name but a few, have for many years been working with ideas of maintenance, failure, breakdown and upkeep in their creative practice. However, within the context of academia and policy, knowledge of such artistic practices is limited. Likewise, artists and practitioners are often out of the loop of academic thinking and discourse. Within the last five year there as been an academic 'turn' towards repair, with emerging work coming from various disciplines including urban and critical geography, media studies, material and consumption studies, architecture and design. Despite this academic thinking remains scattered across various disciplines and sub-disciplines. Additional the UK lags behind other global leaders on repair legislation. It is for this reason the Network reaches out to partners in France, the US and Thailand with one of the Network meetings been held in India, which has an established and growing, informal green economy sector from which, much can be learnt. Responding to these various needs and opportunities, the RRM research network brings together an international cohort of contemporary artists, academics, practitioners, social entrepreneurs & policymakers to discuss, consolidate and explore the field and its future directions.

Planned Impact

One of the seventeen United Nations (UN) Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) calls for 'responsible consumption and production', and identifies an urgent for changes to global consumption patterns and in order to reduce pressure on resources. Similar imperatives are outlined in the UN, New Agenda (2016), Defra, UK reports (2013) and EU Directives 2008/98/EC and 2012/19/EU. In these documents, circular and restorative approaches to manufacturing are seen as key.

Despite such initiatives, cultures of repair and restoration are by and large overlooked within academic practice, with the UK seriously lagging behind other national initiatives. For example, Sweden (Guardian, 2016) has proposed to introduce tax breaks on all forms of repair, with the aim to stimulate the repair industry and reduce waste. In the US the Repair Association advocates for electronics built with the principles of easy repair, free and easy modification, and easily-available tools, parts, and repair documentation. In June 2017, the online magazine Motherboard (Vice) reported that New Jersey became the twelfth state to introduce the "Fair Repair Act" with the US. Similarly in July, Motherboard report that the EU plan to announce a similar act, which would require for example electronics manufacturers to make their products more easily repairable.

In addition to such legislation, the surge in Repair Cafes, and initiatives such as London's Restart Project and Brooklyn's Fixer's Collective, provides evidence that the repair of objects is becoming (again) a valued everyday practice. While within the field of contemporary art and design, a myriad of artists and designers have been working directly with concepts of repair, reuse, breakdown, failure, glitch and maintenance. This work is poised to make a valuable contribution in relation to the UN's, 12th sustainability goal on responsible consumption and production. Within the humanities and the social sciences there have been a steady but scattered number of studies on repair published over the last few decades.

New research is now emerging, as evident in Graziano and Trogal's recent call for papers (April 2017) on 'Repair Matters' for a special issue in the journal ephemera. The resurgence of interest in cultures of repair intersects with new discourses of degrowth, decay, and displacement (D'Alisa, Demaria and Kallis, 2015; Desilvey, 2006; 2017), which take 'seriously the seemingly banal fact that things are constantly falling out of place' (Dominguez, 2016, p. 60), and recognise that our digital worlds are as material, as any other physical artefact or object--and therefore bound to continual cycles of articulation and disarticulation.

In terms impact, the RRM network will therefore provide a forum for these conversations to take place by laying the foundation for a range of follow-on research projects, with significant potential for future impact on both policy and academic research in related fields. With the aim to specifically generate impact in the following areas:

Theory: Consolidate research in repair from the fields of material and media studies, politics, economics and legal studies, sustainability studies, urban and critical geography and the histories of art and design.

Practice: Establish an international working group on repair, reuse and maintenance, which draws together expertise from contemporary art and design, academic research and NGOs, charities and social enterprises working in the sector.

Policy and legislation: Identify the necessary steps and research needs for future development of UK repair policy and legislation


10 25 50
Title Repair Acts, Tales of Care and Repair 
Description Repair Acts, which emerged as a programme of artist-led, place-based practice and research from the first network grant; continued to work with partners Toxic Links, on the British Council Creative Commission for Climate Action, as part of the COP 26 programme. Work from this commission, which was titled, TALES OF CARE AND REPAIR, was included within the exhibition, Eternally Yours, which took place at Somerset House, London (16 June - 25 Sept). Showcasing diverse examples of creative reuse, from historical samples of the Japanese art of Kintsugi and Boro, which embrace upcycling and repurposing, to works from contemporary artists who put repair at the heart of their practice, Eternally Yours explored the unexpectedly hopeful and healing stories that repair reveals. In light of the recent global pandemic, the exhibition seeks to unpack how 'repair' can guide both our individual and collective healing. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2022 
Impact 3-month exhibition at leading, public art gallery, Somerset House. 
Description Online photography archive/database of over 700 entries of everyday repaired goods from across UK, Brazil and India. Created as part of TALES OF CARE AND REPAIR: 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2021 
Impact Entries are enabling further understandings of people's motivations for repairing things; the costs associated to repairing and the design factors that are influencing instances of planned obsolescence. 
Title The Repair Acts Exhibition emerged from on-going dialogues among network members, as well as early-stage research into the history of repair business in Bristol and prior research on mending practices in the South West of England. Opening on Thur, 7th Feb 
Description The work exhibited focused on labour practices, the aesthetics of failure, planned obsolescence and the contemporary relevance of tradition, craft and skill. The work collectively reflects on the fragility of the material world and our bounded, physical, entanglements with it. As Elizabeth V. Spelman notes in her book 'Repair: The Impulse to Restore in a Fragile World' (2003): "To think about repair requires us to recognize our own failures and imperfections and those of the world we live in" (p. 138). These imperfections in part, relate to what infrastructure scholar Steven Jackson calls 'broken world thinking', whereby life itself is constituted in relation to the care of existing 'things', as opposed to the continual invention of the new. This orientation is identified by Mierle Laderman Ukeles in her seminal 'Manifesto for Maintenance Art" (1969) as the 'life instinct', which she describes as the eternal return to doing what is required for the maintenance, equilibrium and survival of all species. It is also expressed through the language of "articulation work" (Leigh Star and Strauss, 1999) or what Ingold (2013) calls 'thinking through stuff', and the lively knots that emerge when we make, mend and build. The focus for the exhibition extends beyond the professional realm of arts and crafts into the daily labours involved in picking up, sorting out and dealing with dirt, the discarded and wasted. Ravi Agarwal, in the catalogue accompanying his Trace City series, places this conversation within the "invisible terrains of marginality" that make up our "contemporary global understandings of an anthropogenic planetary future and ideas of progress". Trace City, Ravi Agarwal In the aura of everything marginal lies signs of our futures. Ravi Agarwal's Trace City series documents landfill sites in India. The image of the waste picker captures simultaneously the dignity of the worker and the deep caste, gender and class hierarchies that structure human societies. The Body Marks #1, Teresa Dillon: The daily position that a shoe repairer takes on the streets in New Delhi becomes the focal point of the image, as the body's expression becomes inscribed on the pavement wall. Kindle Glitched, Ben Gaulon: Exploring the aesthetics of planned obsolescence, Kindle Glitched is a series of broken Kindles donated, found or bought on eBay and signed by the artist. The defected images, resulting from the malfunctioning devices, are fixed onto the screens as a permanent display of failure. Coded Boilersuit, Anna Mills: Coded Boilersuit explores how everyday white goods (washing machines, fridges) are increasingly becoming locked down, requiring diagnostic software to detect and fix the broken parts. As a result, maintenance workers are moving away from manual repair to becoming information technology specialists, whose privilege and skill lies in holding the permissions to unlock customised software. Visualising such standardisation across repair professions, the accompanying poster illustrates the normalisation and positioning of such change. Figurine under repair in Helen Warren's Workshop, Steve Bond and Caitlin DeSilvey: Taken from the project Small is Beautiful? Visual and Material Cultures of Making and Mending, this image captures the frozen poetics of an object, waiting to be repaired at Helen Warren's workshop in Budleigh Salterton, Devon. A Collection of Objects Representing Repair, Teresa Dillon, Caitlin DeSilvey and Steve Bond: As part of the Repair Acts programme 2018, three workshops took place in Bristol, New Delhi and Falmouth. At each workshop, participants were asked to bring with them an object which represented what 'repair' meant to them. Small is Beautiful? Visual and Material Cultures of Making and Mending, Steve Bond and Caitlin DeSilvey: Small is Beautiful? was a two year (2010-2012) project in which two cultural geographers (Caitlin DeSilvey and James Ryan) and a photographer (Steven Bond) set out to find, visit and document workplaces in the South West where people fix broken things. The project resulted in a series of exhibitions, an on-line portfolio of images, and a publication (Visible Mending, Uniformbooks, 2013). Vintage Amp Repair, Robert Leadbeater: As part of the preview evening, sound engineer and amp repairer Robert Leadbeater takes us through his practice, demonstrating the steps necessary for repairing a vintage Italian amplifier. On display will be a collection of valves from 1940's English radios. Letterpress Collective, Printing Bike, Nick Hand: In 2013, Nick Hand from the Letterpress Collective, Bristol, asked his friend Robin Mather to build a bicycle that could carry an Adana 8×5 printing press. Following the footsteps of the Journeymen printers of the 18th century, Nick cycled from Bristol to Mainz printing along the way, in homage to Johannes Gutenberg (the inventor, in 1450, of printing with moveable type). In 2017, Nick cycled from Land's End to John o' Groats on the Printing Bike. On this journey Nick printed postcards in towns and cities, celebrating the objects and processes they were most famous for producing. On the opening night, Nick will be demonstrating how the bike works and creating a special one-off print. My Square Mile, Teresa Dillon, Arthur Buxton and Carmela Pietrangelo: Over 2018, Teresa Dillon and Carmela Pietrangelo carried out research on the history of repair business within a square mile of Bristol city. Taking a 20-year time slice they explored business registers, insurance logs and archives for the years 1938, '58, '78, '98 and 2018. Working with print maker Arthur Buxton a selection of advertisements from these years, were recreated. The accompanying black and white symbols are extracts from various repair advertisements, which illustrate the changing trade associate symbols and seals of quality and assurance. Data generated from the project is also presented in the form of maps and graphs, which sit on the way into the gallery space Repair Acts Logo, Teresa Dillon, Arthur Buxton 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Year Produced 2019 
Impact Invites to present the work at work at various conferences and events, as outlined in the narrative impact. 
Title Turning the Collar 
Description Reflecting on the nature of our material relations with objects and our relationship to fixing and mending. 'Turning the Collar' follows artist Teresa Dillon on her journey around the midlands county of Westmeath, Ireland, where she speaks to over 13 repairer professionals about their work. Capturing the humour, insights and the joys that each repairer finds in working with their hands, the documentary reflects on the values that underly what we choose to care for and mend and the struggles that skilled trade professions face. Closing points address technological lockdowns, planned obsoletism and the Right to Repair legislation and movement. Credits: Director: Teresa Dillon: Camera: Matt Boyd: Editor: Matt Boyd: Music: Garreth Anton Avrill: Graphic Inserts: Marta Celio. In order of appearance: Meab O'Neill (Meab Enamels, Multyfarnham), David Corrigan, Neil O'Dwyer (O'Dwyers Masonry, Multyfarnham), Olga Corrigan, Declan Browne (Liturgical Book Restorers, Athlone), John Conlon (Thatcher, Glasson), Leo Farrell (The Bike Shop, Mullingar), Paul Dunne (Dunnes Joinery, Kilbeggan), Molly Collins (Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre, Dublin), John Joe Quigley (Inner Lakes Marina, Glasson), Giedre Mostova, Mary Garvey (Partners Garment Care, Mullingar), Claire Delabre (Handmade Design Studio, Mullingar), Mary Connell (ICA, Ballina), Kiernan Veale, John Mangan, Peter Burrows, Danny Cole, Pat Begley (Men's Shed Mullingar) and Steve Sherwood (Sherwood Technologies, Mullingar). Created as part of Repair Acts, Ireland a project led by Teresa Dillon and Alma Clavin, in partnership with University College Dublin and Westmeath County Council. With support from the University of the West of England, School of Art and Design and Digital Culture Research Centre. Funded by Creative Ireland, Climate Action Programme (2021-22). 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2022 
Impact First-time director credit (Teresa Dillon); unique focus on midlands region of Ireland (specifically Westmeath). 
Description Established in 2018, the Network for Repair, Reuse & Maintenance (RRM) Cultures was used to establish the Repair Acts network, programme and website []. We defined "Repair Acts" an international and multidisciplinary network of people working on topics relating to repair, care, maintenance and reuse cultures. Questioning the rhetoric of the 'new' as a means of progression and innovation, our work addresses everyday material relations with a focus on tools, devices and the built environment. Examining the implications of current consumption and production patterns, and the broader consequences of our material lives on the environment and other species, we explore issues relating to, for example: planned obsolescence and circular design; labour systems, manufacturing processes, resource limitations and waste; craft practices, qualities and standards; our right to repair; failure and breakdown; and, the care necessary to attend to and maintain systems. The grant enabled a number of public conversations, workshops and exhibitions. Including: Workshop 1: March 13th 2018, Bristol This workshop brought together practitioners from a variety of fields to discuss critical forms of repair. Part of an interlinked series of workshops titled CECE - Critical, Essential, Craft and Economic our guest speakers included the artist Linda Brothwell, whose practice draws on the intersections between repair, care and craft within urban settings. To support our collaborative thinking, workshop participants also brought an object with them, which illustrated a repair or story around repair. In terms of our critical inter-thinking our mapping activities focused on sharing theoretical frames, applied and artistic practices. Workshop guests included the photographer, co-founder and Director of Toxic Links, New Delhi Ravi Agarwal and the artist Ben Gaulon. Focusing on objects, the material and the built environment central to the discussion was the importance of the local in relation to repair, referring to daily care and attention that is required for more sustainable and just material relations to exist. We concluded that within the discussions that the care for the system relations, meaning the relations between things, people and the environment was central. With the systematic breakdown of such relations, leading to material breakdowns. Questions of scale and limitations were also touched upon. Concern for the overuse of the term repair particular when applied to people or communities (i.e., the notion that people or communities are broken and/or need fixing) was flagged with the group acknowledging this use not only as problematic but also as detrimental. The day closed with a visit to the see the work of the artist Kathy Hinde at We the Curious and followed by a public discussion hosted by Urban Knights at which Ravi, Ben and Dr. Lara Houston spoke about their work. Workshop 2: New Delhi, 26-28th March 2018 Addressing critical, essential and economic forms of repair this workshop was the second in a third part series, with a focus broadly on repair, reuse, waste and maintenance cultures in India, namely New Delhi. Alongside mapping areas of knowledge, practice and application, participants worked together of developing ideas for collaborative projects. Issues discussed centred on inequalities, particularly across different sections of society, informal repair and waste practices, human and non-human repair relations. Participants included: Anita Ahuja (Founder Conserve), Gigi Scaria (independent artist), Shibani Ghosh (environmental laywer), Kaveri Gill (Political Economist, Shiv Nadar Uni, New Delhi), Prajeeth Sitherasenan (Manager, Kabadiwalla Connect, India), Ravi Agarwal (Artist, Director and Co-Founder, Toxic Links), Sharmila Samant (artist and Artist, Shiv Nadar Uni, New Delhi), Vimlendu Jha (Social and Environmental Activist, India), Teresa Dillon (PI), Alma Clavin (Bath Spa Uni) and Satish Sinha (Manager, Toxic Links). Alongside thee workshop, we also held a public talk at which workshop participants: Prof Kaveri Gill: academic and author of 'Of Poverty and Plastic: Scavenging and Scrap Trading Entrepreneurs in India's Urban Informal Economy' discusses the socio-economics of the informal waste collection and recycling sector in India; Vimlendhu Jha:Founder of Swechha a youth-run, youth-focused NGO and Green the Gap a fair trade nonprofit company that deals in eco-fashion discusses how both organisations are linked and support sustainable urban livelihoods. Prajeeth Sitherasenan: Growth Manager for Kabadiwalla Connect a waste management solutions provider based in Chennai, India illustrates how their company works with hundreds of self-employed rubbish collectors in the city and Sharmila Samant: New Delhi based artist working with waste materials, activist groups and communities discuss the links between globalization, identity and consumer culture in India, discussed their work. Workshop 3: Penryn, 18-19th Oct 2018 The final part of our 2018 workshop series focused on the craft aspects of our CECE - Critical, Essential, Craft and Economic - axes. A sites visits to Godolphin House opened the first day, with stone mason and sculptor David Paton providing an overview of the repairs which had taken place on the site. This was followed by Caitlin DeSilvey's overview of Mullion Harbour's battle with the sea and a discussion of how its identity as working harbor, and later as a heritage site, influenced the forms of repair and restoration which have taken place. Returning to our working lexicon (practice, theory and application) the group discussed how the linkages between all three in relation to heritage sites.The second day focused on repair, reuse and sustainable fashion with talks from Clare Saunders and Anjia Barbieri on their 'Designing a Sensibility for Sustainable Clothing' project. This was followed by Alison Harper and Sarah Chave providing a tactile guide through various forms of wool processing, as participants held and worked untreated wool with their hands. The workshop also acted as a catalyst to showcase the work produced during a previous AHRC-funded (Visible Mending) project led by the University of Exeter. From 2010-12, the Visible Mending team (two cultural geographers and a photographer) set out to find, visit and document workplaces in the South West where people fix broken things. The project resulted in an on-line portfolio (A Celebration of Repair) and a publication (Visible Mending, Uniformbooks, 2013). With support from the ESI Creative Exchange Programme, Steve Bond curated as part of our network programme an exhibition of work from the earlier project, including a newspaper showcasing some of the imagery and providing an update on where the workplaces find themselves now. Symposium: International Network Meeting & Conversation, 7th Feb, Bristol 2019 On 7th Feb 2019 a one-day event and month long exhibition was held at CREATE, Centre for Sustainability Bristol. The event brought together national and international artists, scholars, policy makers, designers, engineers, architects and social entrepreneurs to discuss a series a interrelated questions relating to topics of repair, care and maintenance. For full details, see: Exhibition: Repair Acts, Opening 7th Feb, 2019 The grant also enabled us to organise the Repair Acts Exhibition, which emerged from on-going dialogues among network members, as well as early-stage research into the history of repair business in Bristol and prior research on mending practices in the South West of England. The work exhibited focuses on labour practices, the aesthetics of failure, planned obsolescence and the contemporary relevance of tradition, craft and skill. The work collectively reflects on the fragility of the material world and our bounded, physical, entanglements with it. Participating in the exhibition was: Ravi Agarwal (IND), Teresa Dillon (UK), Ben Gaulon (FR), Anna Mills (UK), Steve Bond and Caitlin DeSilvey (UK), Robert Leadbeater (UK), Nick Hand (UK), Arthur Buxton (UK) and Carmela Pietrangelo (UK). Full detials: Curricula Meeting, 8th Feb 2019 The final element, which the grant covered was tied to looking at how to develop curriculum relating to the topic. This conversation was held with Ben Gaulon, No School, France; Rosario Talevi, UdK and Raumlabor, Berlin; Alma Clavin (then Bath Spa, now UCD, Dublin) and Sarah Chave (Uni of Exeter). Following on from the network activates, a small pilot grant (2018-2019) was awarded by the University of the West of England, to PI (Professor Dillon), which enabled research on the histories of repair businesses in Bristol between 1938-2018. As a result of this work, cross curriculum activities have been developed with students [2018-2019] In partnership with the British Library, during the grant period, we made our first steps towards establishing the Repair Web Archive. Hosted by Helena Byrne, Curator of Web Archives and Stella Wisdom, Digital Curator, Contemporary British Collections the workshop provided an introductory overview to members of the Repair Archive team (Professor Teresa Dillon, Dr. Lara Houston and Carmella Pietrangelo) on how to set up the Repair Archive. We will be looking to develop this further. [] PI, Professor Dillon also presented the work at a number of national and international conferences, including: 2018 Repair Acts, Care, Reuse and Maintenance Cultures with Amanortey Kisseih re:publica, Accra, Ghana, Dec 14-15 {} 2018 In conversation with Professor Elke Krasny on RepairActs, Make City Festival, Berlin, 20 Jun [] 2018 Repair Cultures, Refrag, Paris, 28-31st Mar [] 2018 Making Futures, 4th Istanbul Design Biennial, Sept 7-13 [ - on invite from Raumlabor, Germany] 2019 Repair Acts, Public conversation, re:publica, Berlin, 7th May [] 2019 Formats of Care, Conversation and Workshop, Floating University, Berlin, 14-15 June [] 2019 No School, 1-14th July, Nevers, France [] 2020 Repair Economies: Creating restorative futures, 24th Jan, Bristol Pervasive Media Studio []
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Environment,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Retail,Other
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

Description TALES OF CARE AND REPAIR, Creative Commissions for Climate Action
Amount £50,000 (GBP)
Funding ID Not known 
Organisation British Council 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2020 
End 03/2022
Description Podcast with Katie Tregidden, Circular 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Circular with Katie Treggiden

Podcast description: Do we only repair the things that we cherish? Is there a place for visible mending in our built environment as well as our clothes? Can a repair add value to the object that is mended? And do we always need to intervene with repair - or is 'curated decay' sometimes a better option? On today's episode, I'm talking to Caitlin DeSilvey, a geographer whose research explores the cultural significance of material change and transformation, with a particular focus on heritage contexts. She has worked with artists, archaeologists, environmental scientists and heritage practitioners on a range of interdisciplinary projects, and is one of the most inspiring academics I have ever come across.She has worked with artists, archaeologists, environmental scientists and heritage practitioners on a range of interdisciplinary projects, supported by funding from UK research councils, the Royal Geographical Society, the Norwegian Research Council and the European Social Fund.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021