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My brother Ralph bought a car used from a dealer. It had been repaired after a collision, but the repair was not evident. He uses the car for commuting. It had a new bumper fascia put on it as part of the repair but the fascia was painted without first applying a bonding agent to the plastic.. The fascia is the soft part of the bumper. The paint is peeling off of it. For someone wanting a neat car, this car has become grungy.

Last year a construction "barrel" ( I one of those orange and white stripped affairs designed to damage cars in construction zones), blew in front of the car on the highway. Ralph did not report it or file an insurance claim. It would have been a hassle and life is busy. The barrel ripped the fascia. He now thinks that maybe he should have filed a claim. So it goes.

A few days ago he drilled some holes on either side of the tear in the bumper fascia and connected the two sides together with plastic cable ties. The cable ties are white. The fascia without the paint is black. According to Ralph, " the cable ties are what I had". This got me thinking of repairs, how they are made, and why they are made, and how they are perceived. Right now the categorization slicing instrument in my brain is slicing "repair" into five different kinds.

Coverup. (also known by the name "Buyer Beware Repair") This is the kind of repair that is not supposed to be seen. Cars are often fixed after collisions so that you cannot see the repair. The same brother had the case of repair that he did not see and he bought a different car with damage. In Thailand 30 years ago we saw cracked water jars being skillfully repaired in the city of Ratchaburi with cement and then covered with skillful trompe l'oeil painting. These repairs cover a perhaps functionally deficient product so that it looks undamaged. If you are tuned in to the idea of " buyer beware" then this sort of covering up of defects is acceptable. If you believe that the seller should point out faults in a product then they are not acceptable repairs, unless we are first told of them.

Image: Rathcaburi could be stills from Koh Kred Video Tape clip 04 on Koh Kred.

Dis-appearance: In Phon Bok Thailand Stoneware mortars that have chips or surface details that are not perfect have them covered up with super glue covered with ashes. These repairs cover only cosmetic "flaws" that would lower the price because of appearances. Mortars that have functional defects are used for landfill, to make decorative walls, they are not sold. The mortars have to take a lot of abuse and are not expensive. If damaged they are not worth the hassle. Even the makers do not try to cover up functional defects. This would lower the value of their products.

Image Phon Bok

Just Repair: This is just a repair. No, or little consideration is made concerning the repair. It is just repaired. Nothing is covered up or concealed. This is the kind of repair that is held in high regard by Soetsu Yanagi when discussing Korean wooden bowls. It has a stance of honesty, of thusness, it is what it is. The bowls are turned from green wood. When they crack, they are repaired. This is what my brother did. He repaired his bumper with available cable ties. No cover up, no intent to do anything but make it functional.

Image Ralph Katz

 Intentious Repair: 

This is a Just Repair specifically made with the intent of looking like a just repair. Pretentiously, rather than just making the repair, the intent is to make it look like you did not care about appearances. You not only might not care, you want others to know that you don't. Louis does these. The picture of a bumper posted to the web by a sophisticated artist, even if the art is music, makes me wonder if Ralph's qualifies as intentious. I have not asked. Either way it has sparked my interest. I have appreciated it. The bumper, at least in my mind is interesting. Appreciated it enriches life. I have shirts that I bought in 1989 in Thailand. In Thai the name of the shirts seems to be "humble shirts". I wore mine every wash until they got fairly worn. Others would say "worn out", but I prefer "broken in". After that I wore them on non-school days. My personal feeling is that these shirts still have use with a little repair, and that long use is as functional, maybe more functional than recycling. So I have repaired these shirts. They are repaired rather funkily, wow spell check has "funkily"! The repairs are so obvious and perhaps overdone that they might go beyond intentious into the next category, The Conspicuous Elevation of Repair Repair.

Image Louis Maw Hawm Shirt.

(Conspicuous) Elevated Repair, Kintsugi.

Kintsugi is a Japanese repair technique often used on ceramics using urishi lacquer, a natural resin. It is water proof and holds up to mild heat. The repair resin, made from the sap of the urishi tree, is sometimes filled with iron oxide, but the upper layers are often instead filled or surfaced with gold powder. This makes the repair, a record of the objects history and its breaking, obvious. It makes the damage obvious, making it impossible to ignore. It holds, displays, asserts that use becomes tangible part of an object. In highlighting use and wear it elevated repair seems to demand that bowls are drunk from and not just displayed that you know it and that you remember.

Rather than coverup, rather than mourning the inevitable, kitsugi is an affirmative joyful appreciation of the mutual arising of creation and destruction, wear and tear, and eventual breaking of ceramics. The atmospheric firing of ceramics leaves a trace of its time in the kiln, the use then repair is just another page in the history of the work. Art is often made in a way the reveals the process of making. With tea ware in Japan there is recognition that who has drunk tea from a bowl, how it is stored, and in what manner it is handled becomes a part of the work. So does the wear. Raku, a firing technique, and shino, a type of glaze both leave a surface with a fine network of cracks. This allows tea to stain the cracks and sometimes the clay body, overtime changing the appearance and making it appear worn before there really is any wear. While most of the Japanese aesthetics surrounding tea ware stresses a quiet understated natural feel, Kintsugi seems almost diametrically opposed to this. The contrast creates a sense of importance of the issues surrounding the repair .The gold, bright, valuable, associated with the aristocracy, seems wildly antithetical to the humble nature works that are repaired. On its visual soapbox, kitsugi loudly speaks, "I am a repair" . It is an unassailable statement affirming use as an aspect of an object and aesthetics. If you don't understand this, the gold slaps you in the face with the message.

(Look up boro repair and shashiko Japanese clothing repair. Goro Suzuki, purposefully broken)

But all of these repair techniques, and their associated intent are in some ways the same. Each tells a story, each leaves an impression of intent, or lack of it. Each expresses an attitude on the topic of mutual arising. Each tells of human nature. The difference is in the way we perceive and the way we appreciate them, and in our understanding of the intent of the person who repaired it. The difference, for the most part resides in the viewer. It is the viewer that appreciates, the creates the great value of the repair.

Non Repair Repair This is repair after intentionally breaking an object, or making an object specifically to look as if it is repaired. See Goro Suzuki. Its function is often to teach appreciation of repair.

RElation? to teaware's shift from being curated from folk pots to purposefully made to be "funky"

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Page last modified on July 08, 2023, at 01:07 AM