Friday, December 26, 2014

On Repair and Revision

For the past few years, I've been fortunate enough to teach writing at an art school. One particular joy (among many) is that my classes are comprised of artists and designers; I love to hear from both camps (which overlap, certainly). This past semester, we spoke quite a bit about "design thinking"--that mix of thinking creatively and critically.

We always discuss art and design manifestos, and I just came across "The Fixer's Manifesto" (offered by Sugru, a company which makes a "moudable glue"--very cool!). The manifesto applauds the ability to mend make an object last longer. I love the declaration that "A fixed thing is a beautiful thing."

Part of The Fixer's Manifesto (by Sugru)

I'm not at all handy. I find a way to destroy almost every box I open, and sequential assembly does not come naturally to me. When I was younger, I was notoriously awful at the "spatial relations" and "mechanical reasoning" sections of aptitude tests--my brain just isn't inclined to put stuff together.

However, I absolutely value good design and objects that are meaningful and long-lasting. And even the smallest of repairs or tweaks can change the way we interact with things--a sweater becomes the sweater with the buttons that you lovingly replaced; tarnish can be rubbed from silver.

Adapting this rule as an artist is slightly trickier. I don't think that every poem I draft deserves to be "fixed," although many require a new button or a little superglue. A poem is not a "product," exactly; it doesn't solve a specific problem or need. However, a poem is a thing--a thing that the maker or user (reader?) might not need or use in the same way over time.

Is obsolescence an issue when it comes to art? (There's an art gallery in L.A.that I love called Obsolete). I lean toward saying that it is...but I don't know that we're burdened with the same ethical concerns that designers are in this regard.

What do you think about all this, friends?

1 comment

  1. Potentially fascinating discussion, Hannah, given our culture's proclivity to move on to the next thing and the next, often with little regard for its value or use. We can and do ask design to fulfill some practical function and still admire it as art, abandon it and then bring it back into our lives because of some cultural shift that produces a new appreciation. And new readers, on discovering poems, may given them life again or find comfort in words that earlier held no particular meaning. I think, too, of how recent current events have fostered numerous calls for poems on race; in this regard, the poems are fulfilling some function and in the future may do so by showing us where we were and how far (or not) we have come.


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