Celebrating damage

I was really struck by this detail from the story of the slave-trader statue that was spray-painted and then dumped into Bristol harbour by protesters a couple of years ago. After his swim, he was fished out and sent off for restoration. One of the restorers told the BBC:

"Our main concern is making sure that we can conserve the paint, the graffiti that’s on him now, because that’s actually become the most fragile part of the sculpture.

“It has become part of the story of the object, of the statue, so our job is to try and retain that as much as possible, while stabilising the statue for the long term.”


I have to admit I’ve mainly thought about these things simply as “cool” before, but now that my partner started studying art restoration (like mentioned before), it’s also been interesting to hear that those things (what should you conserve / restore and how) are something professionals actively debate about, and are subject to trends as anything.

For example, a 15th century painting everyone knows may have been “conserved” half a dozen times during its lifetime (I may be exaggerating here, but to that effect anyway). To put it bluntly, until relatively recently, that usually meant doing pretty heavy restoration work / repainting to make the painting look like it ought to have looked like new, so that people could enjoy it in all its original glory. So by now, the painting may have half a dozen not so subtle additional layers of paint on top of the original artist’s work.

The current main trend (depending on country) in conservation seems to actually conserve: retain the object in its current state and stabilize it to prevent more damage, as with the statue you mention. But in the case of the painting, should you aim to keep it so that the painting will look like how it does right now with all the layers of history? Try to reveal the original layers? Something between that? How would you conserve (or indeed, restore) something that was badly conserved / restored before - is that part of its history? (Also see: the Ecce Homo fresco in Spain)

In case of the sculpture, someone / some people have decided that the latest graffiti layer is a part of the statue now. I suppose in other circumstances, someone else may have chosen otherwise, but subjectively that’s a decision I like a lot.

I guess that applies to anything else too - something that you buy new will have the scars that you cause, but something you acquired used that looks old and busted may have been restored completely more than once during its lifetime anyway. So being careful with restoration means you’re actually “conserving” something in its non-original state. (Which, again, is a matter of taste as we aren’t talking about museum pieces, but a fun thing to think about as well.)


I just took out my beloved H4n to test a Cold Gold stethoscopic microphone I’ve not used in a while and noted, with this thread in mind, the condition it’s in. I’d long since stopped noticing, but it’s the most weathered bit of tech I have (quite normal for a field recorder I’m sure).

The microphone snapped off after a drop had left it bent and I tried to correct it by crudely pushing it back into alignment. Fortunately I never really used the onboard mics.

And there’s only so much flipping a little SD card flap can take!


interesting thread.
I was diagnosed with OCD in my late teens and a lot of my day to day issues centres around this idea of “perfection” …i have found that, if I buy something second hand, because those scratches came to me pre made… I dont suffer at all and can move on with it falling into the “tools” catagory of my brain, where as , if something is new to me (like my lovely norns and grid) then I really do suffer with anxiety over gaining scratches and cracks…as happened to me a few weeks go when my norns fell off the seat i had left my bag on after a show.

I contacted the seller and they where super kind in providing me with a replacement face to replace the damaged one… but here is the twist…

I find that, now that I HAVE the means to fix the damage, my mind is at rest again , so , for now, I am able to keep useing the damaged faceplate without worry, as I know I CAN swap the face out when it becomes too beat up… odd I know, but there you go :slight_smile:


the first cut is the deepest


We had a thread about original boxes. I went into it with opinionated against original boxes, and came out still against original boxes, but much enriched thanks to the insights from all the good people.

Wicked looking blue device, whatever it is.

My Digitone.

These two have taken some good patina, especially the PO-16 Factory on the right which literally is my first-ever-music-gear and I’ve carried it in my pocket for a few years every single day. A friend.

It’s nice to know an instrument well enough even if user feedback is gone on a smashed screen. Here’s Friendship Dub on the PO-16 with huge amounts Pools reverb on norns.

Screen Wreckers Dub


Still a tiny bit related to old and damaged, can I admit that I like original boxes and - sometimes - even people who save the cool ones?

Quite a while ago I bought a Matra Alice, which is basically a French licensed version of TRS-80 MC-10, a relatively unremarkable 8-bit computer except for the cheerful bright red color in the specific French version and, well, actually, can you name another bright red computer?

Only, the box cover and ad material artwork was drawn by Jean Giraud aka Moebius, who happens to be one of my favourite graphic novel artists and illustrators ever, and for some reason I get goosebumps from the specific picture. I still don’t own a promotional poster, so sometimes I value the box more than what’s inside.



Thank you, thank you, thank you. Sometimes i wonder if id go out to smoke, sometimes i wonder if the person i might like has cat allergies. Then im happy i live by myself.

What 5 years of daily hand friction can do.


It is a MXR Ten Band EQ, I guess it is 40 years old and comes with a power chord. :open_mouth:
It still works fine. I bought it 5 years ago for really cheap due to its “pre-loved” look.

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On the topic of original boxes though: I like to keep the original boxes, but not for the reason a lot of people do.
The original box for a product is… well, it’s specifically designed for that product, so they always provide a good set of packaging for storage or long distance traveling later on. It’s nice to keep, as a “just in case”.


the brass wearing through the paint on the edges of my Leica M6 is something I truly appreciate.
there is something really beautiful to me about one material giving way to another.


I don’t think we can have a celebrating damage thread without at least one picture of ‘Old Black’:

Neil Young has been playing this none stop for 50+ years now and it shows.

Apparently he doesn’t even like his tech changing the strings unless absolutely necessary (I agree… hate bright and trebly new strings).

Seeing him live with Old Black and his old Fender Tweeds, Echoplex etc. (which he’s also been using for years) at full blast is one of the most visceral sounds I’ve ever heard.


There’s a really nice book called Instrument (by Pat Graham) that has a lot of great photos of musical instruments and texts about them mostly written by the musicians themselves (including Ian McKaye, Johnny Marr, John McEntire, Steve Albini, Thurston Moore, Kim Gordon, Steve Shelley, etc.).

It contains great examples of celebrated damage on instruments that have been played and loved by musicians…



Great thread! Here’s my e-mu pk6, which worked like a tank for hundreds of gigs, from classic rock coverbands to noise shows. It didn’t exactly have the name recognition of a Nord or Korg, but it sounded great! It got sprayed with paint when the rehearsal space was a house that someone was renovating, and at one point the power switch even broke off (fortunately said renovator was pretty handy and replaced it for me). This puppy still works, and I still use it from time to time!


A few months ago I was in a discord voice chat with some friends and I was whiting about having nicked my new sm7b and my friend said “products are meant to be used”. He said it so matter of factly, like it was obvious, that damage is just a part of use and fetishizing mint condition is missing the point. He was right.


I’m a little late on this and i missed it earlier but this brings up a really interesting question:
What’s more important?

What the piece of art was when it was made?
Or what it is now?

That’s an interesting question that has to be answered whenever deciding to restore or conserve a piece, and I think it’s something that needs to be answered individually for each piece.

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The underside of my grandmother’s recipe box. It banged around on her kitchen counter for 50 years and has banged around on mine for 20 more.


The artist Stefan Betke alias Pole built their sound around a defect Waldorf 4-pole filter.

From FACT magazine interview in 2009 with Justin Toland

How would you describe your working methods at that time?

“Since all the tracks were based on this broken filter that just crackles and hisses randomly this was very often the beginning of the recording of a track – that gave the rhythm structure, the main part. And then I simply started with some basslines or some atmospheres. In general, I’m really working more in atmospheres than in song structures.”

What’s the story with the filter? How did it actually get broken? I’ve read a couple of different accounts.

“This is a very old story: it was a present from Thomas Fehlmann and Gudrun Gut and it fell on the floor and broke. First it didn’t do anything, so I forgot it in the corner. I thought about taking it to a repair place, weeks went by and I didn’t do it. And by accident I turned it on again and it started making all these crackles and hisses – it was running in the back of a track I was working on, still with beats and everything, and I thought this is a nice atmosphere in the background, so I muted the beats and the crackles came more upfront and I thought this might be a good possibility to create something different – not working with beats but with randomly made crackles and noises.”

Did that sometimes present a problem where it would make crackles and noises you liked and then the next time it wouldn’t do the same thing?

“There was only one way of doing it actually – I had to keep the machine running when I liked the loop and I worked on the track for a few days with this machine running and never turned it off and then I recorded straight to the DAT machine. When I turned it off and restarted it was a totally different beat, so it was not really re-doable – it was just for the moment.”

Pole’s 1 (1998, Kiff SM) got me into dub music in early 00s. Stefan Betke was also recording engineer at Dubplates & Mastering, set up by Basic Channel.

If you don’t know Pole’s music, check e.g. the track Kirschenessen


Pole’s one of my long time inspiration sources as well. (And I assume the second reason, after the more obvious Daft Punk and Homework, why 4-pole is so expensive these days…)

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