Category Archives: Repair Society

In the sixties and early seventies you thought you won victories

In the sixties and early seventies you thought you won victories. You were happy. Things changed. No backlash in sight.

That was not true for long. Elementary fights for rights had to be taken again. Things, concepts thought to be evident just disappeared.

Were they destroyed or could they be repaired? Must you begin from scratch or is something to be learned from looking backward or at least recognised?

If you think there is something to repair, you have to study the object or concept observant. What is its history? You have to learn about its history, the way of constructing it and how it was used before.

I will pay attention to the concept of work. You all know what is said about work in the capitalist society. Marx and Engels have told about power and exploitation. But still there is much to reflect on today about what work is in a qualitative meaning.

Work is in a way a social act, has a content of reform and creation. This is a concept to repair.

In the sixties the French philosopher André Gorz was an inspiring questioner of the concept. He was an important source of inspiration for Modellen, a model for a qualitative society, which opened at Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm in autumn 1968. Together with a Danish student at the Academy of Art in Copenhagen Palle Nielsen I wrote a letter to the director of the museum, asking for place to install a room for the creative play of children.

The concept “a qualitative society” was borrowed from André Gorz, questioning “what is work for?”

Why do you work, for what do we need work? What constitutes necessities? In the Model children were our guides into a society of creative, social activities.

The concept of work rise the questions, what is work for? What shall I produce more than things? Skill, necessities, beauty, wellbeing, social empathy? What is worth to work for?

A product represent work. Meaningful work? Work shaping meaning? Worth to repair? What meaning does repairing contributes?

I got once much inspired by a book Per Myrströms Pannkakor circa 12 stycken just to reflect on what things represents in skill and work and poetry.

Almost fifty years have gone since the joyful fight for alternatives in the sixties. So much disintegrated. You could always ask, what was the meaning? It is hard to answer. You will always have to find the meaning within yourself as a social creature. Never stop asking.

The world is much darker, but in the confidence in creative, collective work we could repair utopias hidden in everyday life.

Gunilla Lundahl

Repair Society Talks 3

SHOW n TELL: Inviting Charlotta Kjerrström from Kretsloppsateljén.
Moderator: Johanna Tysk

During this show and tell, Charlotta showed examples of repaired objects she had worked on as part of her studio “Kretsloppsateljén” (“Life cycle studio”) in Örebro. This studio is set up at a local school, making use of the handicraft equipment available outside of school hours, and invites in residents from the area to learn, share, and have their objects repaired. Charlotta also shared her reasons for repair, which are environmental, economic, nostalgic, as well as rooted in a respect for “those who made the objects and the materials we borrowed from the earth”.

Skärmavbild 2015-12-02 kl. 16.24.51Skärmavbild 2015-12-02 kl. 16.25.11

Repair Society Talks 2

EXPERIMENT STHLM + REPAIR: Inviting curator Jan Rydén from Färgfabriken
Moderators: Jonatan Lennman & Johanna Tysk

Experiment Stockholm is an on-going project that raises questions about and seeks to examine and experiment with strategies and solutions for dealing with the challenges of a rapidly growing Stockholm region, set at the art centre Färgfabriken. During the talk we discussed their repair of the missing communication links between art, politics, urban planning and architecture. Their methods and strategies include inviting a diverse mix of collaboration partners and stakeholders from the art sphere as well as the commercial and public sector. They also seek to use art to access all senses in an open process without too narrowly defined goals, opening up for the opportunity to ask questions. The process includes feedback loops to take the research further, hence the ambition of a broad inclusion of stakeholders, also politicians.

Skärmavbild 2015-12-02 kl. 16.24.21Skärmavbild 2015-12-02 kl. 16.24.40

Repair Society Talks 1

REPAIR AND THE SOCIAL: Inviting Kupan, Röda Korset  
and Demokratipiloterna.
Moderators: Johanna Tysk & Jonatan Lennman.

This talkinvited two local non-profits repairing and selling objects with the help of people with a history of drug abuse or long-term unemployment. We discussed topics like; How do you repair people? How is the material doing of repair connected to the repair of self-esteem, loneliness, a missing sense of community? During the talk, we mapped methods and strategies in relation to these questions. These included offering spaces designed to make people feel welcome regardless of who they are, provide work training, let people teach each other, as well as offer a wide variety of social activities.

Skärmavbild 2015-12-02 kl. 16.23.34


Skärmavbild 2015-12-02 kl. 16.33.00




Helen Runting interview

Thursday 1st October 2015, Ringvagen 141,
Conversation with Helen,

Iris : Hej Helen, can you tell me a bit about your current practice as a PhD student at KTH?

Helen : My research is in the research group Critical studies in Architecture; we work with critical theory, architectural theory, queer theory, gender theory in order to look at architecture practice, to look at the canon, and to address architectural theory as a field. I work with a group of very inspiring people. My background is actually in urban planning, so I come to architecture somehow as an outsider. I also have a master in urban design, which I would say is the “basted child” of planning and architecture.

I: So does that mean that in your research you would focus more on the urban scale than architectural scale?

H : Actually, I’m really interested in architectural aesthetics, I think. I’m looking at the scale of the building, and am interested in trying to position the way in which architecture has changed in Sweden in the past fifteen years, in line with a kind of shift that I see in public policy and governance—a shift that we might describe under the terms of a “neoliberal” term.

I: With which thoughts did you come today to the Repair Society workshop set by Joanna?

H: I think it’s really interesting with the polemic position she seems to be taking—the rejection of recycling, for instance. I would see that as like having a lot of potential in terms of a critique of the consumer society within which we find ourselves. At the same time, I’m wondering within the international repair society how we deal with a contemporary mode of capitalism that is not just about mass consumption, and mass production, but the linking of production and consumption. So, for instance, in a participatory action like the one that is being staged today, there’s a lot of free labor that is going into this and I think that’s something that needs to be factored in the light of the “repair” that’s being done. Maybe that’s something we could talk about a little bit because I would need to think about my position. This is the link that interests me at least at the moment: the way in which production and consumption can no longer be thought separately. Feedbacks loops exist between the two, in a relation that has evolved even in the last five maybe ten years, that has changed the face of how we “perform” capitalism.

I: And I think it’s interesting to remember yesterday we were discussing about that link between production and consumption, and how much our generation or the one of our parents can relate differently to repair. Maybe we just have to rethink that link.

H: Maybe in terms of our grandparents generation, they had a direct experience of shortage: of limited resources. I assume that our kids’ generation will experience that very viscerally, very deep, in every single aspect of their existence as we start to run short of some of the stuff we take for granted. At the same time, it’s interesting to discuss repair at this present moment. There are two things I think are complicated in this issue. The first is an austerity politics in Europe, wherein we are being told to expect less from the state and being encouraged to be more “self-sufficient.” And that position can be linked to a kind of (entrepreneurial) individualism that I find problematic. So, austerity politics is one way we could take on this discussion further. But on the other hand, if we don’t experience finiteness in our daily lives – because we are privileged to live in a city like Stockholm and be in an academic context – how do we stimulate, or how do we make that real for us, without falling back on a kind of dystopian narrative, without imagining a future where we all turn into “preppers”… I’m thinking of the American TV series Preppers, a reality TV series that pits different families against each other, they get scored on how well they prepare for an apocalypse (you know, they get their kids outside of their beds in the middle of the night to do, like, safety drills and they have huge basements full of can food). That whole imaginary is very much relying on a kind of cold war paranoia. So I wonder how one could produce the notion of finiteness of limits without falling back on the mechanism of fear. I think those two things—austerity politics and a dystopian narrative—would be the two threats that would be interesting to avoid in this project.

I: I think it’s interesting to question the mentality, how we relate to repair, how it can unconsciously be linked to threat or fear, and I think it’s about changing the way we perceive it. I’m obviously linking that to architectural heritage, which you have mentioned before. And considering what was existing what was here before, is sometimes a question in itself. I think it is sometimes a luxury to repair a building, and it feels easier for some reasons to say “well let’s build something totally new.” I think it would be interesting to hear your point of view on this particular question.

E: It is such a fine balance because to repair something is to value it. But I think it’s also to reinvent it. There is no going “back.” It can never be restored to its original historical situation: that’s passed. The question would be how can this engaged practice of repair will maintain or produce a utopian spirit. As an urban planner, I believe very strongly in the need to imagine a future that could be different from the present. And this is where preservation as a field is so complicated from a planning perspective, because it’s about valuing the existing, and valuing that which could persist across a human lifetime, or several, valuing the kind of labor that went into the production of the material environment.


But at the same time, we need to leave things open to positive change, because there is no return to an idealized past. We live in a city, much of which was built (you know, Stockholm has got so many layers to it) in the eighteen century, the nineteenth century, which was a time of huge class divides, of massive inequality. I’m not willing to discount the kind of interventions made by Modernism—which were based on destruction, I acknowledge that—purely because they destroyed. I think there was an idea there of initiating structural changes that would improve the lives of people. And I think we have to keep that tension in play. We have to leave open the possibility that we could also make something new that is better.


Repair maybe as a concept can be open in that way, because if we admit that we can’t restore anything, then maybe it’s about the process of reinvention. And that might reopen it to “the thinking of a utopian thought.” I hope. And perhaps that brings us back of what the future means to us. If we act now on the basis of the anticipation, and a romanticization of a situation of shortage, a dystopian scenario, I’m not sure that we’re open to the full possibility that might be present in the present.

I: I think it’s interesting that you talk about utopia, because when I think about utopia, it has always been an ideal imagined outside of any reality, not linked to any existing situation. Maybe the utopia is about caring and reinventing something that is already here.
E: Exactly. You said the word “care” and that is important here; there’s a whole feminist tradition, and a feminist scholarship around the term of care that I think could be really relevant to this project. What we’re talking about then is maybe a concept of repair that’s not based on an impulsive fear, so maybe there needs to be some kind of desire here, a set of values, or even an ideology, upon which repair is undertaken. And perhaps notions like “hope,” or “generosity,” or “reciprocity,” might be an interesting starting point. Because for me that also speaks of a dynamics of power that’s present here. Within urban planning I think one of the most crucial questions is for whom we act, because planners always act on behalf of a society with a democratically decided mandate act. So, the question of “For whom? On the behalf of whom do we make decisions?” is always critical. I think that if you undertake a project like this, it’s interesting to think about whose objects and whose values are being repaired in the space? And what that exchange could be? I don’t think we have to entirely discard the Marxist tradition of talking about class, about those power relations, in acknowledging the privilege of this situation, and how there can be a consideration of class and gender that’s built in into the acts themselves.


That leads us to a discussion around gentrification. Because this part of Södermalm is obviously undergoing massive change, as we see the old rental structures being dissolved in the face of the shared-ownership tenure “bostadsrätt” system that generally necessitates enormous housing loans is being taken out for very small apartments. And I think that might be another interesting field, and that’s a discussion we could have talked about all day today and the whole of tomorrow. I wonder whether within this situation of massive social economic change, I’m just trying to think of what “repair” might mean. As Maurizio Lazzarato writes, debt is an exchange of the fruits of future labor for something right now, whereas what you are doing is saying “we’re gonna reinvest our labor in repairing this so that it will persist.” It’s a very different model maybe. There’s no credit there. In terms of gentrification, do you discuss the effect of sitting in this gallery in this neighbourhood and what that does? You have the map on the wall behind us, it shows a scene staged for some kind of battle of an urban identity, over the good life? How do you see the impact of this project?

I: I think yesterday when we were discussing with the locals of the neighbourhood, they spontaneously all talked about gentrification, and the rent which were getting higher. So it is about opening a consciousness, and thinking about Repairing together. Of course it came in terms of objects, broken cups, but when it comes to a less literal sense of repairing the impact is hard to estimate.
E: I would read Repair Society as a critic of consumption society idea but maybe the question of what needs to be repaired can be far more open in a critical sense, wherein it can open a new territory… The question “What needs to be repaired?” is deeply powerful. What do we demand to be repaired on our behalf? The answer to that question might not be a cup. There is a value in the question itself. And when I was speaking earlier about the potential of looking at the relation between this project and the official or democratic structure of planning, and planning regulation, maybe that’s another field where an intervention could be made here. If the repair society is coming into being, we can ask: Which regulations need to be repaired, not relaxed, not removed, but reinvigorated, which new regulatory mechanism might be required? And that’s why my suggestion was to provide some kind of documentation that would fit directly into the planning system. But it could be a critical documentation also: Which policies need to revisited, which urban development policies would need to shift, change, perhaps not to open up, perhaps not relaxed, perhaps not become more flexible, but even to become more hard?


I grew up in Australia, in the 1980s. This was a time of kind of intense focus on recycling for instance, and also on littering. When we were in primary school the punishment for doing something bad was like “go outside and pick up five pieces of litter”. And I think that was an attempt in Australia to adjust generationally an attitude towards waste that actually became really important to everyone born in the seventies, eighties, nineties. It was enforced from above in a strange way, but it was also culturally instilled in us: suddenly from then on, waste had to be considered differently. So if the Repair Society is a critique or a development or a call to step beyond recycling into another realm where we don’t discard it all, I wonder what kind of rules might need to be set on our behalves. The first step might be to considered what kind of questions need to be asked…



Museum of Repair

Museum of Repair
a temporary museum that collects the repaired, instead of searching for the prepared

All the unique objects that managed to attain a new life through special processes, all the relationships that were renewed instead of disposed, all the things that weren’t thrown away when broken. We admire the craft of repairing and we want to highlight knowledge and experience about it.

See link for more:   Museum of Repair- Repair Society





Interview (with Joanna van der Zanden)

Questions for interview round-up session ‘Repair Society Ringfägen’

This interview will function as a kind of report on our workshop, with links to relevant images and articles.


With regards to the meaning of repair, one of the issues that were frequently discussed was the need for a kind of social repair and the lack of a ‘neutral’ public space for genuine encounters. You investigated the topic of repair ‘en public’ and invited the neighbours in our studio. The door was open and you welcomed passers by in with coffee and cake. Some neighbours came in to ask questions on our research. Some contributed by sharing knowledge or an opinion. Others also attended the lectures or interviews. And many people stopped by the window and started to read the information on Repair Society really carefully. Most encounters were unprepared end spontaneous, but it felt like our space kind of belonged in this neighbourhood. At least no one was offended.

[question to all students participated]:

What do you think the impact of the Repair Society space (discursive platform?) – as you programmed it – could have been if we could have had more time? And how did you experience the encounters, and what kind of reactions did you receive back?

Johanna & Jonatan: If we had more time, then we could have possibly established a steady group of neighbors to collaborate with and deepen our research. We could have facilitated and enhanced their collaboration with each other, for example working together with Återvinnarna and/or Dynamo to offer more skill-sharing workshops. This way, we could have strengthened the local network of repair skills and needs, and maybe assisted in facilitating connections to establish a more permanent space for the ideas and activities that were initiated during our work, to live on.

From the gentrification perspective, our research also could have assisted in strengthening the local community identity, starting from the already existing structures, network and values connected to repair. These include for instance the informal network and support system connecting shop owners, landlords and tenants around the block where we did our research, as well as a general high interest and knowledge around repair in the neighborhood. By highlighting community structures and values in connection to these topics, we could have assisted in building a stronger resilience against the forces of gentrification, and allow the change that the neighborhood is going through to happen in a way that has more respect for the existing identity and history of the place.

We experienced the encounters we had with the local community as positive and relaxed. Many were positive to the initiative, and we seemed to fill a function in terms of offering a space for spontaneous interactions with “strangers” and no need for commercial transaction. People enjoyed reflecting on repair, it seems it was a good way to enter a conversation on larger societal issues that people see and feel passionately about. Many expressed that they would have liked for an initiative like this to have a more permanent presence in the neighborhood.

 [Question to Johanna and Jonathan]

You organised the dialogues with three locally social network organisations: Kupun, Democratic Pilotilla and Äter Vinnara. What are your conclusions in how their work is related to repair? What kind of methods, tools, or services do they use?

Johanna & Jonatan: All three organizations work materially with repair; repairing and reselling textiles, furniture, porcelain etc. They also have a social mission connected to “repair”, by putting much focus on building self-esteem and self worth in those who have a history of unemployment and/or drug abuse. Their methods include offering spaces designed to make people feel welcome regardless of who they are, provide work training, let people teach each other, as well as offer a wide variety of social activities.

 [Question to Iris:]

In your conversation with researcher Helen Runting (link to the interview) you mention repair in relation to architecture. One of the current issues in Ringfägen is gentrification, rising rentals and the lack of transparency in decision-making processes concerning public space. As Helen Runting is pointing out, we need to ask the question: “What needs to be repaired?”. And who decides upon what to repair. From your conversations with locals what needs to be repaired? And what is your personal opinion as an architect on issues like gentrification and repair?

 [Question to Nefeli]

You invited the Argentinean architect Mauricio Corbalan for a skype interview whom you met because of your personal research on crisis. Mauricio has seen the effects of the crisis in Argentina, up till today, and mentioned the lost opportunity of left wing politics by creating consumers instead of pro-sumers. Another concern he mentioned was that we have lost our relationship with nature (theory of good living). And in order to be able to survive we should all ‘learn how to be Indians again’. In relation to repair, could you explain what he means by this and from your own research practice on crisis what is your personal view on repair?

[Question to all students whom like to say something about this topic]

One of the ideas to develop within our studio space was to open a museum of repair. Do you think showing broken and repaired objects had a function within our search for the meaning of repair? And if so, in what way? Could you imagine a bigger project, travelling maybe, with the title The museum of repair? Is museum maybe not to inactive word?

Johanna & Jonatan: Yes, the word museum is perhaps too connected with past tense to work as inspiration for repair.  We do believe however that including and building  a collection of repaired objects in an open research context such as ours, is a good idea, adding to the overall concept and providing examples, inspiration, validation of people´s craft and skills, and a good point of entry into the project for uninitiated visitors.

Nefeli: I think  the museum’s of repair most interesting function(s) was the “building” of a more intimate threshold of experiences around repair,  gathering personal perspectives on how people have been engaging with the matter of Repair. I believe that objects have a very high expressive capacity and can tell many versatile stories so i believe that presenting broken objects can start a lot of discussions, ideas and reflections giving also the opportunity to meet the visitors in a more relaxed setting. I can very easily imagine a “touring” museum within which a wide spectrum of people contribute with entries and continue the dialogue.

In my perspective the word museum is not inactive, on the contrary, I believe it adds a playful “controversy ”to the proposal. While many times you would expect to go to a museum to see a refined piece of art in a “contained” environment here the two words game (museum-repair) is used to signify something else. Instead of concentrating in something very well prepared and polished, the focus now is on what has been broken and into the ways it has been repaired. It gives an emphasis on those special objects and entries that people contributed with and “calls” for a shifting of attention towards. Also it indicates that the process will be more interactive. As indeed it happened- in the Museum of Repair the entries were collected with a sense of intimacy and personal engagement. A nice way I think to connote that we don’t have to search all the time for the innovative, the new, the glamorous but we could invest energy and care to what matter to us.

[Question to Magnus and or others?]

The challenge in relation to repair is to relate to what has been done in other times. In other words to relate to history. You invited Gunilla Lundahl, journalist and activist to reflect on what we were doing. In the end of the ‘60s she was an important ‘cultural’ activist who opened the doors of the Modernat Museem for utopian thinking by inviting children. The project was called Modellen, turning the museum into a playground (maybe more info here), a neutral space to discover. In her talk Gunilla asked the question: “Did our action had more meaning because the museum was involved?”. What is your opinion and do you see a relation with our loose way of programming the Repair Society space and opening the doors to anyone interested? Is there a broader future for this?

Johanna & Jonatan: The art world definitely has the power of elevating projects into a different dimension, where the art context can amplify the importance of a project with ambitions of changing society. The question is of course if this also increases the impact of the project, for example in comparison to working towards similar goals in a grass roots political manner. We believe that the best “results” come when the art world works in collaboration with grassroots organizations (and/or other actors engaged in the same issues), drawing the best of strategies, processes and methods from both spheres.