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Tuesday, September 19, 2006 

make do and mend

So, on Saturday, I had a chance to sit down and talk for a bit with Hilary Jack while she was hanging out at the Conflux HQ presenting her latest work: "Make do and Mend" (also known as the umbrella project). Hilary and her friend and fellow artist Paul Harfleet came out from Manchester (yes, in the UK) to spend the week in New York for Conflux.

Hilary's project involves taking found items off the streets, repairing them, and then replacing them where she found them. It was initially done somewhat out of convenience: she found an umbrella on a subway on a rainy day, repaired it and used it, and then left it where she found it in case another subway user was unfortunate enough to be stuck without an umbrella.

For this execution of the project, Hilary picked up some items she found around the Conflux HQ a few days before her presentation. She ended up with quite a few umbrellas (it was a rainy week in NY), a couple pairs of pants she found in a gutter, a ring that had been run over by a few cars, and a gutted baseball. She repaired as many umbrellas as she could (although a few were too shot to be salvaged), took the pants to be dry cleaned, and took the ring to a jeweler. She couldn't find anybody who knew how to repair the baseball, but she's hoping to get that done eventually. After her exhibit at Conflux, I went with her to replace the items right where she found them.

She's not really sure what happens to these things after she puts them back, but she says that the process is what she cares about. She takes all these items that were almost built to break (how durable can you expect $2 umbrellas to be?) and repairs them, often at more cost than getting a new one. When she leaves them in the street, there's a good chance they will eventually be discarded anyway, but she will have done something, realistically quite futile, to augment the cycle of using and discarding cheap items in a consumer world.

I snapped some great photos, but the internet here is ridiculously slow tonight, so they will have to wait. More to come in the online magazine highlighting Hilary and other artists at Conflux.