Thursday, August 27, 2009

‘Get Yr Fix’ this Saturday in Williamsburg

The economic and climate crises have inspired in many a desire to reuse and repurpose old household objects, making them last longer, in order to use and spend less. But sometimes things break, prompting feelings of helplessness in those who aren’t sure how to fix them.
It’s this helplessness that the Brooklyn-based Fixers’ Collective tries to combat. It was started in March as a way for people to come together with their broken things and discuss how best to fix them. At Thursday night meetings, people come to art gallery/reading room Proteus Gowanus and put their broken objects on a communal table, sharing ideas with each other.
“We fix most of the stuff that comes,” artist David Mahfouda said. “We have a really high success rate.”
The collective is an idea that grew out of MEND, a year-long exhibit at Proteus Gowanus, where old tools were on display and one artist set up a station at which to fix books.
Mahfouda was one of the contributors to the exhibit, repairing a giant American flag that had been destroyed during celebrations in Union Square after President Obama was elected. “People were so excited that they made headbands and capes out of the flag,” he explained. Half of the flag was left after that night, and during MEND, Mahfouda was able to repair it, with donations and new fabric.
Some interesting challenges have come through the Fixers’ Collective. At last week’s meeting, Mahfouda said someone literally came in off the street and taught participants how to diagnose a stereo. Once, at an earlier meeting, someone brought in their iPod and an old rotary phone, their objective being to pick up the phone to hear music on their iPod. “It totally worked,” Mahfouda recalled. “It was pretty amazing.”
Fixing Fair
Fixers’ Collective meetings are usually small and low-key, with between five and 10 people at a time, all contributing $5 to participate. But this Saturday, the group will host its first major event, called “Get Yr Fix,” at VOD Space at 99 S. Sixth St. in Williamsburg.
The Collective has partnered with Sewing Rebellion and NYC Resistor for the fixing fair. Sewing Rebellion was started by a woman who calls herself Frau Fiber, Mahfouda said. She used to make clothes but decided instead to teach people how to sew and fix clothes for themselves. NYC Resistor is a Downtown Brooklyn-based group of tech designers who meet to share knowledge and build projects.
Attendees will be able to compete in individual fixing competitions, kind of like hot potato, said Mahfouda. Pairs will be given two objects to fix, with each person spending two minutes on one before passing it to their partner. The object is to be the one who actually fixes the object in the end.
“It’s kind of a faux competition,” Mahfouda explained. “Fixing can seem pretty mundane, we wanted to think about ways to popularize it and make it exciting.”
There will be a larger group competition — “kind of like Iron Chef or American Idol,” Mahfouda says — in which Fixers’ Collective will be pitted against Sewing Rebellion and NYC Resistor in front of a panel of judges.
“There will also be a barter auction, where people can auction their things off not for cash but for other people’s things,” Mahfouda said. The event, which is free, will feature live music from bands Band Practice and Too Big To Fail, will provide food and beverages for sale throughout, and will offer soldering, sewing and umbrella-fixing workshops. “It’s a fixing picnic with beer and hot dogs,” Mahfouda said.
He said that concern for the environment influenced the Fixers’ Collective, noting, “We’re going to be better off if we can consume a bit less.”
“Get Yr Fix” is this Saturday, Aug. 28 at VOD Space at 99 S. Sixth St. from 2 to 10 p.m. For questions and to RSVP, e-mail