The Department of Repair (2015) Camberwell Space, London

Co-curated by Bridget Harvey, Maiko Tsutsumi, Michael Hurley and Karen Richmond Project contributors: Roger Arquer, Chris Cawkwell, Daniel Charny, Carl Clerkin, David Cross, Fixperts, Hendzel + Hunt, Michael Marriott, Tim Mitchell, Harry Owen, Restart Project, SeaBass Cycles, Second Sitters, Hans Stofer, Yuri Suzuki, tomofholland


The Department of Repair explores (re)making through fixing, repairing and mending. The project reframes the theme of ‘repair’, exploring its identities and its potential as an environmentally/socially engaged practice. The project aims to create space for broader interpretations of repairing, fixing and/or mending practice, exploring categories such as repair narratives, agents, materials, and methods/systems.

The project begins with an exhibition which showcases approaches to mending, guides and tools of repair. For the first three weeks, visiting (re)makers, (re)designers and repairers, who demonstrate and teach repair and re-making skills will run drop-in workshops. Outcomes from the workshops will be then added to the existing set of exhibits to form a larger exhibition.  A two-part publication will complement the project with writings by and about the repairers and exhibits involved in the project.

With a fully zero waste aim for the project and accompanying publication, The Department of Repair will engage with the act/notion of repair more through reuse of materials, as a form of recycling with less environmental impact. All furniture for the exhibition is being made from reclaimed materials and will be distributed for further use or dismantled back into materials after the exhibition. The publication, which documents the entire process of the project is being hand printed onto reclaimed paper, and will be produced on demand in small batches to avoid large waste quantities at the end of the project

Project contributors include: Roger Arquer, Chris Cawkwell, Carl Clerkin, David Cross, Fixperts, Hendzel + Hunt, Michael Marriott, Tim Mitchell, Harry Owen, Restart Project, SeaBass Cycles, Second Sitters, Hans Stofer, Yuri Suzuki, tomofholland

The Department of Repair part I publication by ArtLacuna

Camberwell Space
Camberwell College of Arts Peckham Road London SE5 8UF

Exhibition and workshops: Monday 12 January 2015 – Friday 30 January 2015
Exhibition continues: Monday 2 February 2015 – Friday 20 February 2015
Opening hours: Monday – Friday, 10am – 5pm

Private View: 3 February 2015, 5.30 – 8pm
Talk by Daniel Charny, 4 – 5pm

Workshop Programme

All workshops took place at Camberwell Space as part of the exhibition.
All workshops were free and open to the public.

Notes on the Department of Repair exhibition

Repair categories
We loosely categorised each type of repair as Materials, Methods/Systems, Narratives and Agents.

Stories of repair
Maiko thought collecting stories of repair is a good way to survey how repair exists in different contexts. She was inspired by the story of my friend’s mother, who had a ceramic pot made by Lucie Rie, which is also repaired by the artist. Rie wrote in the letter (featured in the exhibition) that she saw repairing her pots as part of her ‘service’, although she admits that her repair isn’t ‘professional’. The photo of the repaired pot shows a rather ordinary looking trace of repair – possibly glued. Then there are three stories of repair from the designer Carl Clerkin who often does a lot of ‘making do’ alterations to things that are broken, or un-broken but not necessarily serving the desired purpose. As a set, his stories tell of the ‘repair’ of very different kinds exemplifying different kinds of skills, mindset, and opportunistic use of materials that are present in each situation. We are hoping to gather more stories over the course of the exhibition and beyond. But of course, we are very much aware that most repair was and still is done out of necessity.

Repair and reclaim
We wanted to review what repair means to different people and also what kind of skills are involved in the process. We also wanted to question where repair ends and making starts, so the question extends to the cycle of material use. For that reason we have included works that’s more to do with reclaim than repair. Our view is that repair and reclaim are parts of the same cycle. When something is broken you may just replace the broken part, but it’s also possible that you could end up replacing most of the original parts. If you go a little further than that, you may not have anything original left – then does repair equate to making from scratch?

Zero waste
While discussing the project at an early stage, Bridget came up with the idea that we should aim to make the exhibition zero waste. We were aware that exhibition making is a wasteful affair, and in the industry some show fabrication materials are recycled by galleries and museums but often huge amount of waste are generated in the process. The idea made us review what is involved in the making of an exhibition, not just the exhibition furniture but also signage and the publication. For example, instead of using vinyl lettering which has now become a norm, we decided to hand paint the main signage. After considering other options such as laser cutting waste materials we settled with hand painting, then realised that in the past that’s what would have been normal practice. The exhibition furniture pieces are all made from reclaimed wood. Originally, the idea was to use timber reclaimed from pallet crates. In the process, we have learned about what the painted pallets mean, and also that some are not suitable for reuse as they could have a traces of toxic materials. We changed our plan when it turned out that we did not have enough pallets. We decided to substitute part of the structure with reclaimed floorboard that we happened to have – left over from another project. At the end of the exhibition, all of the exhibition furniture will be given away or sold, or taken apart to be used for other projects.
The zero waste approach extends to the production method of the publication, which are printed and bound by ourselves on the on-demand basis. It is made from reclaimed papers that are mostly collected from various departments in Camberwell College of Arts.