A small domestic crisis

Built Close to the Water (Safeway) – tiles, grout, mortar, redguard, diaper box, pvc pipes, bath fixtures, old spigot, hot wheels track [2020]

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Photographed by Nina Johnson

In Eve Sedgwick’s essay, “Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading”, she says, “…knowledge does, rather than simply is…”. Shifting the focus from the question of how do we know that a particular piece of knowledge is true, to the further question of what does knowledge do?

As a handyman and a caretaker I spend most of my time negotiating small domestic crises in my home and other people’s homes. I occupy a world of quick fixes, of deferred maintenance and goldfish crackers, of not enough sleep; and of symptoms that bely problems that are far bigger than any individual–like crappy healthcare and expensive childcare, and old buildings.
When I see a leak in a pipe, I know it’s usually because the plumbing system is old and the pipes are wearing thin and need to be replaced. But I also know that for most people that’s not an option, so I patch the pipe and keep things going a little longer, knowing that eventually, after enough patches, it will be as if the whole system has been replaced. I get involved with systemic issues, like a failing plumbing system, and work with them contextually in a way that serves the people I’m working for.

To further explore the question—what does knowledge do? I took Eve Sedgwick’s model of a reparative reading process and mapped it onto the work I do in homes and with people. Inspired by the strange and sometimes mystical body of knowledge embedded in the work of care-takers, baby-whisperers, and fixers, these objects and interventions were made to bring together disparate and visually incongruent systems (plumbing system, tiling system, shipping system, lighting system) to perform absurd functions, and to do things they were most likely not intended to do. Like a cardboard box that holds water; long lasting tiles protecting the integrity of disposable shopping bags; a stone used to mend a cracked stud in a load-bearing wall. They are meant to challenge existing systems (the systems that I know how to work with) to function contextually, and to challenge them on day-to-day level, creating openings for failure and revision.