It was as the global economic collapse was gathering momentum that Proteus Gowanus launched the first exhibition of its 2008/09 theme, Mend. From mending a piece of fabric to pondering global scarcity, the yearlong exhibition of art, artifacts, books and events considered the varieties of fixing, healing, mending from a variety of perspectives and disciplines at a time when “fixing things,” from the mundane to the profound, seemed increasingly out of our reach.
In a culture that increasingly resorts to throwing things away when they break, we began by exploring the disappearing skills and tools of repair, from darning socks and repairing shoes to fixing watches and mending clothing, including stitching, spinning, and knitting. We looked at the methods and tools of saving, recycling, conserving and archiving, from books to household refuse. We looked at art, books and objects related to regeneration of the environment, of the human body (surgery, medicine, death), and of society’s ills, including a library of books about social visionaries.
Also during the Mend year, our publishing arm, Proteotypes, published a book of essays about the Brooklyn social visionary Alfred Tredway White, produced in collaboration with the Brooklyn Historical Society. The book explores White’s many contributions to “mending” the lives of NYC residents in the early 1900s.
Also during the Mend year, we established The Fixers’ Collective, a social experiment in improvisational fixing and mending, that continues its activities in the Proteus workshop at the back of the gallery. See the Fixers’ Collective page for details.
.Mend Correspondents: Joanna Ebenstein, Janice Everett, Lydia Matthews, Herbert Pfostl and Martin Skoble Contributors: Ellen Banks-Feld, Jenny Bevill, Jen Bervin, Mariella Bisson, Stephanie Brody-Lederman, Rosamond Casey, Sasha Chavchavadze, Libby Clarke, Donna Maria De Creeft, Ellen Driscoll, Laure Drogoul, Joanna Ebenstein, Janice Everett, Charles Goldman, Paula Hayes, Sophie Herbert, Jeanne Liotta, David Mahfouda, Susan Newmark, Heidi Nielson, Jim Nightlinger, Debra Pearlman, Pam Peterson, Herbert Pfostl, Chris Piazza, Tamara Pittman, Karla Roberts, Esther K Smith, Andrea Spiros, Alan Rosner, Lance Rutledge, Naftali Beane Rutter, Jeffrey Schiff, Erik Schurink, Tony Stanzione, Sally Mara Sturman, Annette Tacconelli, Robert The, Wendy Walker, James Walsh, Matthew Wills, The Brooklyn Museum Libraries and Archives.
Cheap fossil fuel allows us to pay distant others to process our food for us, to entertain us and to (try to) solve our problems, with the result that there is very little we know how to accomplish for ourselves. Think for a moment of all the things you suddenly need to do for yourself when the power goes out.
—Michael Pollan, “Why Bother?” NYT Magazine, 4-20-08
Wendy’s favourite time for sewing and darning was after they had all gone to bed. Then, as she expressed it, she had a breathing time for herself; and she occupied it in making new things for them, and putting double pieces on the knees, for they were all most frightfully hard on their knees. When she sat down to a basketful of their stockings, every heel with a hole in it, she would fling up her arms and exclaim, “Oh dear, I am sure I sometimes think spinsters are to be envied!”
—Peter Pan, J M Barrie 1911
Pity Taraska’s gone…He was worth his weight in gold. Patch your boots or repair your watch – he’d do anything.
—Dr. Zhivago, Boris Pasternak