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The path of Alchimia’s MFA 2015/2016 is reaching an exciting conclusion.

A moment of critical analyses took place, where students presented their final projects in their entirety (including collection, exhibition plans, books, texts and website proposals) to their core tutors Lucy Sarneel (jewelry practice), Riccardo Lami (cultural theory), Antonia Alampi (curatorial practice) and of course Doris Maninger and Lucia Massei (course directors).

These moments are paramount in Alchimia’s pedagogical approach, training students in presenting and packaging projects before a variety of audiences, in using different performative methods, and in achieving a more independent professional practice. Furthermore the presence of tutors with not necessarily alienated positions allows for a broader discussion to happen, with a more holistic response to their presentations.

Enjoy the images of these moments, and be excited with us about their upcoming solo-shows.

Stay tuned.

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Alchimia

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Lillian Mattuschka through a performative lecture literally unveiled her collection and her exhibition ideas, that include jewelry pieces, video installations and performances. Her new research revolves around issues of social behavior and constrictions, and the invisible norms that define and direct our interactions with our urban and social environment.

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Chumeng Weng in her new collection moved from a more personal and biographical representation of fear to a broader and rather humoristic reflection on what determines our psychological discomforts.  Motion and sarcasm are paramount tools for her, and the question she seems to pose here might be how to neutralize fear’s paralyzing power.

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Carla Movia enacted an introductory performance to speak of the stereotypes that we (often also unconsciously) apply to people, based on their appearance, cultural identity or geographical  belonging. Her project is a complex reflection on notions of collectivity, mobility, anonymity and standardization.

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Lumy Noguez worked on an exceptionally accurate presentation that addressed the multiple aspects that define her collection, and what her pieces want to achieve. She moved from her research process to the social, chemical, and esthetic aspects of moulds and to how her jewelry pieces recreate the fungus’ microcosms while coherently manifesting on unexpected parts of a wearer’s body.

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Marissa Ryan Racht‘s presentation was composed of jewelry pieces, photographs and drawings blowing in the wind. An uncanny feeling was produced in her environment, one meant to speak of the binary oppositions that exist between a romantic and rather ordinary sense of beauty and the uncomfortable underlying traction of a certain sense of seduction. Madness and its possible domestication seemed at the core of her formal attempts.

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Francesco Coda has a light and fantastical imagination. His presentation highlighted how at the core of his collection is a triangular relation: one that exists thanks to a fantasy applied to existing objects and memories of other people. A legal contract finally crowns a relation between the jewelry world of the past and that of the future.

an interview by Daria Borovkova

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STUDIO|Nedda, Eternum Coffee & Tea set, 2013, (c) Johan Blommaert

In 2015 Alchimia launched its new MFA program, finalized with solo-shows of its participants happening in Barcelona, Prague, Torino, Antwerp and Florence. Three out of six students, Daria Borovkova, Lavinia Rossetti and Giulia Savino were tutored by Nedda El-Asmar, an acclaimed Belgian designer and professor at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp.

In order to introduce Nedda without being dogmatic about jewellery talk, this interview is more of a conversation between a tutor and one of her students, where both reflect, together, on jewellery and beyond.

Daria: I want to start from the very beginning of your professional career. You have studied jewellery design and silver-smithing at the Royal Academy of Arts in Anwerp and completed your education at the Royal College of Art in London. As a student did you notice any major differences between the pedagogical approaches of these two institutions?

Nedda: Well, these are two institutions that you cannot compare, particularly at that time, because the Royal College of Art has only a Master degree. And at the time of my studies at the Academy the system of Bachelor and Master didn’t even exist, it was introduced almost 10 years ago, so it was different. However, what I have learned at the Academy is to manage and to be creative with what I had, so that was stimulating. On the other hand, at The Royal College I got a lot of input through, for instance, many and different lectures, and it gave me lots of possibilities for networking afterwards. Many new technologies were available there. So I find it impossible to compare, they were two completely different types of educations in fact.

Daria: Which one do you think influenced you the most as a professional?

Nedda: The Royal College came four years after the Academy, so at that point I understood better what I was doing and going to do. We approached production and making multiples, which made me realize that I didn’t have to make all my pieces one by one by hand, or think of them as unique. There were great facilities for producing work, and that was very influential as I started to design for companies. But managing everything myself and doing handwork has been very important as well for the way I approach my projects.

Daria: As a young designer you were picked up very quickly by different companies, Hermès, Puiforcat, Villeroy & Boch, just to name a few. Was it difficult to find a balance between their guidelines and policies and establishing your personal style? Did their identity influence your practice? And how much space is there for individual creative freedom?

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Nedda El-Asmar, Selle Bartabas for Hermès, 2001, ©Rousseau

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Nedda El-Asmar, Criollo for Carl Mertens, 2006, (c) Wolf&Wolf

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Nedda El-Asmar, Demianka for Hermès, 2006, (c) Patrick Burban

Nedda: I didn’t have any strict guidelines and ever since I started designing for those companies, I try to find the balance between their style and my own. It is important and challenging to keep this in mind, so that the company is happy with the outcome and that I can recognise myself in it. Up until now, to be honest, we still have a lot of freedom (since 2008 Nedda is working together with Eric Indekeu, ed). We are given projects because the companies know what kind of work we do, we have an identity. We hardly have guidelines, we are just asked to design cutlery, for example, as simple as that.

Daria: You won the ‘Belgian Designer of the Year 2007’ award amongst many more. What is essential in a well designed object for you?

Nedda: Well, it all depends on what it has to be. Something functional should be functional of course. If it’s a spoon for daily use, so not a conceptual spoon, then you have to be able to eat your soup comfortably with it. Also the proportions, weight and other aspects are important. And then the aesthetics. And for me the aesthetic part is something that makes you want to cherish your object. You should be enjoying to use it daily, to have it around you and to keep it for quite a while. It shouldn’t be just another spoon that next year you would like to replace. So in one way or another, the aesthetics should be ‘timeless’.

Daria: Do you apply then the same criteria to a jewellery piece?

Nedda: Yes. For example in the only commercial line we’ve done so far (DIAMANTI PER TUTTI, 2014) the setting is designed so as to make the diamond visible only to the owner. Thus, it can intimately speak to the memory of the person the owner received it from or maybe the moment he got it for himself. They are very simple aesthetic pieces with a story behind them. Not all my products have a story to tell, but a lot of them do.

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STUDIO|Nedda, Diamanti Per Tutti, 2014

Daria: You teach at the Jewellery Department of the Royal Academy in Antwerp since nine years. And you don’t design jewellery, or barely. Is your approach to jewellery making, as a teacher, similar to the process of cutlery design, for example? In some way they share something, they are both body related.

Nedda: I see both, jewellery and cutlery, as some sort of decoration, be it for the body or the table. Both are also body related, but a spoon is still more functional, because it has to fit well in the hand and when you put it in your mouth, it has to be comfortable. When it comes to teaching, I don’t think it makes any difference to me, because I’ve always been surrounded and educated by jewellery designers. If I were educated as a product designer then I think my approach would have been different.

Daria: I find it very interesting that you can bring your knowledge of designing objects into jewellery thinking and tutoring.

Nedda: What I find interesting is doing multiples and working with others, here I mean designing and making everything together as a team in class. And I think it’s something you have to offer to your students so at least they understand, vividly, that there are other ways, other than making unique pieces. It’s an exercise that I consider quite important.

Daria: Since you teach in a Jewellery Department, do you have your own definition of what jewellery is nowadays?

Nedda: There are so many different ways of approaching jewelry today. You have artists, like Ai Weiwei or Erwin Wurm, who are commissioned to design jewellery. Then there are, of course, the jewellery designers and makers: some of them are very conceptual, others are making more body related pieces. What jewellery is and if it belongs to fine arts or crafts is a discussion that I don’t find necessary anymore.

Daria: But do you see any limitations? Honestly, anything can be a jewellery piece?

Nedda: For example, almost anything can be a brooch. In theory, you just need to put a pin on the back. And that’s where the limitations can start. You can feel if the pin is really part of the piece or not. And if it’s not, then why should it be a brooch? At that point, let it be what it’s good for.

Daria: And what if the jewellery piece is absolutely not wearable and not even meant for the body?

Nedda: If it’s too heavy or too difficult to wear, it’s fine, it has its place as well. I wouldn’t see any problem even if it was made just for a photo-shoot or if it was meant to exist as an ephemeral statement on the body.

Daria: You tutor only MFA students. Can you talk about this role?

Nedda: For me it’s about finding out with the students what they really want to do, what they want to express, to coach them along this path and to support them. Whether it’s something conceptual or very commercial, I motivate students to go deeper and do something that is different from what is already out there, because there are always possibilities to develop projects in a much more thorough way. What I find important is that by the time they graduate, even if they achieved only half of what they hoped for, they know what they want to do and how to continue.

Daria: You teach, give workshops and develop design projects in many different countries, in Europe and the Middle East. Do you think that design and jewellery, as disciplines, reflect the process of globalisation and that they are increasingly losing their cultural specificities?

Nedda: Now everything is globalized. And this is happening to jewellery design as well. The community of contemporary makers is very small. Many of them come to Europe to study and they start to reflect on their cultural identity, there is a lot of mutual influence.

Daria: Your roots are from a totally different cultural context than Belgium – from Palestine. Did you ever directly address your cultural heritage in any of your projects?

Nedda: I do it when necessary and when it makes sense. Like in the case of a water pipe that was commissioned to me by a French company called Airdiem. The same goes for Zeri Crafts, whom we’ve designed incense burners for. In both projects there is a cultural aspect that I know very well, also because these products are sold in the Gulf States, and so that link and that feeling to it is coherent with the object and its aims.

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Nedda El-Asmar,  Narghile for Airdiem, 2006, (C) L. Pironneau

Daria: How did it feel to be working on these cross-cultural projects?

Nedda: It’s part of me, so it’s natural. I think if somebody asked me to do something for a Japanese market, I would have to do much more research, it would be different.

Daria: What inspires you?

Nedda: It all depends. It can be a word or just the object itself, it can be the shape, it can be nature. For me it can be anything!

Daria: Are you inspired by food and cooking since you design cutlery and many other objects which are somehow related to this?

Nedda: Well, maybe indirectly. The projects I’m doing are often food related. I think it’s just the way I work – I like noticing, trying out and mixing things. For example, when I designed Appetize (a set of forks and spoons for appetizers) it was because at receptions I always wondered why there was just one type of spoon with a bent handle for serving appetizers. And that is how I came to the idea of making something different.

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Nedda El-Asmar, HTS for Hermès, 2005, (c) Patrick Burban

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Nedda El-Asmar, Virgule for Puiforcat, 2005

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Nedda El-Asmar, Appetize for Gense, 2006

Daria: Then what about one of your iconic pieces – a condom holder. How did you come up with the idea? What is the story behind it?

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Nedda El-Asmar, Condomholder, 1992, (c) Wolf&Wolf

Nedda: I’ve designed that in 1991-1992. It was the project for a multiple that we had to do at the Royal College of Art. We had to look for a product that was a gap in the market. And at that moment AIDS had just been revealed. Using condoms had to become a part of your daily hygiene, like brushing your teeth, so everybody had to carry them. And I thought that you had elegant powder boxes, cigarette cases, etc., so I decided to make something precious for condoms, because love is a beautiful thing, why should you have to hide it?

Daria: You have recognizable aesthetics – simple, elegant and very sophisticated. Some define it as feminine. How do you feel about it?

Nedda: Well, maybe it’s just because people like to put labels, I also have pieces that are not that feminine. Sometimes I wonder, if there was no name next to my objects would you still refer to them as oriental and feminine?

Daria: And when it comes to jewellery, do you think that contemporary jewellery is gender specific?

Nedda: It’s the same situation as with globalization. There is an androgynous nature that is very prominent today, whereas before it was more gender-specific. I think this all has to do with the development of modern society and a certain degree of cosmopolitanism.

Daria: I have also noticed that many young jewellers today don’t limit themselves to jewellery making, but they also create objects and use other mediums of artistic expression. Why do you think this happens? Is it historically rooted or is it a recent phenomenon?

Nedda: I think it has to do with the fact that everyone wants to try a bit of everything. And in terms of education as well, some schools became some sort of a mixture of all departments. Back in the days it was different, you finished the Academy and you knew what you would be doing for the years to come. Nowadays everything has changed. And it’s not making things easier, on the contrary, it’s making life more difficult. A lot of people are very confused and I think that might be one of the reasons why people try a bit of everything, because some are not confident enough.

Daria: The contemporary jewellery world is very small and especially there are very few public and private institutions devoted to it, while the number of students and practitioners is growing. What strategies do you suggest your students to adopt in order to be noticed and find their own place?

Nedda: Well, it all depends on what your work is like. Each time there’s a different strategy. I think what is important is to understand that your direction could change or shift afterwards, but to stay focused and not try to do too much at the same time.

Daria: And finally, can you share the best advice you were given during your studies which you still find relevant today in your work?

Nedda: Well, my tutor at the Academy Jean Lemmens once said that the most important thing is to look around. Look and look and look. And continue looking. I think that’s what is important, to look around. Look at what is happening, be eager to learn. I love seeing what others are doing, how they are doing it, be it in Fine Arts or other fields. It’s about knowing what is going on and not setting boundaries. It’s about absorbing, about keeping your eyes open and being open to everything that passes by and try to do something with it.

Daria Borovkova is a russian Florence-based jewelry designer. She has an international background and working experience as a visual merchandiser and interior designer and in 2015 graduated from the MFA program of Alchimia. Her jewellery has been exhibited in Europe and in the United States.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are happy to announce some exciting new additions to our dream team of staff members.

Jorge Manilla will be the new main tutor of Alchimia’s first year MFA program, while Benjamin Lignel will be the new tutor in curating and creative writing for Alchimia’s second year MFA program.

Read below about their stunning professional experience. For more information Alchimia is at your disposal (easy: info@alchimia.it).

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Alchimia

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Jorge Manilla is originally from Mexico but lives and works in Belgium.
Grown up in a family of goldsmiths and engravers, he studied visual arts at the Academy of San Carlos, in Mexico and received a higher technical jewellery training at the Academy of Craft and Design from the Mexican Institute of Fine Arts.
In 2003 he earned a Bachelor degree in sculpture at The Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent and one year later he enrolled at St Lucas University College of Art and Design where he received a Master degree in Jewellery and Silversmithing in 2006.
Alongside his professional activities as an artist, he is right now working as researcher and doing his PhD under the title Other Bodies Design at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. He also teaches at different Art and Design universities around the world .
His work investigates his environment – religion, emotions, relationships and the meaning of life.
His dark forms and shapes create a barrier between the meanings of the objects and the outside world. Black implies self-control and discipline, independence and a strong will. It gives an impression of authority and power. To the artist black relates to something hidden, the secretive and the unknown, and as a result it creates an air of mystery. It keeps things bottled up inside, hidden from the world. For Manilla black is the end, but the end always implies a new beginning.

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Benjamin Lignel is an artist, writer and curator. He is a co-founder of la garantie, association pour le bijou, a French association with a mission to study and promote jewellery. In this capacity, he co-curated “Also known as jewellery”, a exhibition of French contemporary jewellery that traveled seven cities, and helped program and organise the 44th Zimmerhof symposium (2012) in Germany as well as “Bijou(x). Les Pratiques contemporaine à l’épreuve de leur discours” (2014) a two-day symposium hosted by the Paris College of Art, in Paris. in 2014, he organised Différence et Répétition, a research-by-exhibition project that was shown in Norway and France. He became a member of Think Tank. A European Initiative for the Applied Arts, in 2009, and was appointed editor of Art Jewelry Forum in january 2013. He has just edited a third book under AJF’s imprint, dedicated to jewellery in the wider cultural realm, titled On and Off, and is currently working on a book on jewelry an gender with Namita Wiggers. Ben conducts workshops extensively on writing, curating and jewelry, and is a guest teacher at the Nürnberg Academy of Fine Arts since 2013.

 

NEW CRAFT

Curated by Stefano Micelli

Fabbrica del Vapore, Via Procaccini 4, Milano

02.04 – 12.09

XXI Triennale International Exhibition

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Entrance to the exhibition at Fabbrica del Vapore. Photo by Federica Sala

 The Milano Triennale International Exhibition is back after 20 years with a challenging program of exhibitions, special events and lectures that are happening all around the city since early Spring inside museums, universities and important cultural spaces. The aim of this project is to try to analyze from different perspectives the world of design in its contemporaneity.

New Craft is an exhibition that belongs to this intense and very ambitious program and takes place at the Fabbrica del Vapore, a former industrial building today devoted to contemporary culture, nearby the Monumentale graveyard of Milan. The aim of this endeavor is to share with the audience a reflection about one of the biggest and at the same time most exciting challenges design is facing nowadays: innovation through craftsmanship. In fact, if on the one hand we are facing the never ending opportunities offered by new technologies, on the other being a relevant designer today seems to mean also to go back to craftsmanship. Here, what becomes clear is that the unique essence of craft has finally been reconsidered (hurrah!) as something more meaningful and more valuable  than what can be achieved via mass production. Being able to produce new products using old techniques seems to be the objective many designers are trying to achieve. Thus the big challenge for a new generation of designers is creating a new type of technology to produce new forms of craft. The purpose of using old machines and studying traditional techniques is to give birth to new industrial/craft projects in which the speed and precision of the machines is combined with the uniqueness and customization of handmade piecesMany design theorists are raising attention on these new aspects of the discipline, trying to understand the how and the why of what is better known as a “self-production phenomena”, “fab-lab” and “makers”. At the same time, it’s important not to forget the industries that have invested into the design & engineering field, trying to merge mass production, with the high quality of the final outcomes and technical research towards innovation.

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New Craft – central hall exhibition at Fabbrica del Vapore. Photo © Inexhibit

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A large x-shaped concrete table located in the middle of the great hall. Photo © Inexhibit

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Photo by Federica Sala

 New Craft tries to didactically organize and narrate all the manifold aspects that are part and parcel of this research field today, showing products as diverse as bicycles and clothes, pots, cars, site-specific installations, processes of production (3D printing, 3D cutting, new typography machines) and (Yes!) jewelry piecesThe audience is able to interact with different tools, creating objects that become part of the exhibition too. 

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Artifacts made during the exhibitionPhoto © Inexhibit

 If the general aim of this event is pretty clear and well organized through a very defined path, sometimes the choice of the objects is too much. What I mean here is that the selection of pieces seems to be presenting too often objects belonging to the same collections, designers or brands rather than trying to really show the different possible outcomes the use of new craft techniques can lead to by involving a wider range of practitioners. Furthermore the amount of objects is overwhelming, so for me the famous “less is more” would have worked better on the overall, giving to the different pieces more space to breath but also more importance. 

 The jewellery section featured the work of Stefano Marchetti, Monica Castiglioni, Paola Volpi and Stefania Lucchetta.  While the first represents the highest form of goldsmithing skills rethought into more contemporary forms, the others base their work on the use of new technologies such as synterization and 3D printing together with a deep experimentation with new materials. I perfectly know and understand that each of the products presented in the exhibition is no more than a hint to a bigger world, but also in this case, the selection and the variety of the jewellery pieces could have been better shown and presented: Marchetti’s pieces are detached from the others and in the case of Lucchetta and Volpi the display seems to refer to a shop window rather than to an exhibition space. This means the the particularities and values of each piece are not highlighted, making it very hard for an audience to really appreciate the nuances of each piece.

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Exhibition view of the jewellery section. Photo by Federica Sala

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Exhibition view of the jewelry section. Photo by Federica Sala

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Stefano Marchetti’s pieces. Photo by Federica Sala

For instance Lucchetta’s work is the result of complicated 3D sketches and repeated patterns that could be nice to show close to one of the pieces. This is because the material choices she makes are relevant, and a consequence of the production process in relation to the visual final effects she wants to achieve. I know this as a professional in the field, but who else?

Anyhow, looking at the jewellery presentations from a distance, the contraposition of these images gives a strong feeling, especially looking at Marchetti’s work whose presence in this exhibition is remarkable and important for all of us: contemporary jewellery exists here and could also be like this!

Federica Sala is a jewelry artist based in Milan. In 2015 she graduated from Alchimia’s MFA program and recently won the Marzee Price 2016.

Mid August has passed, and you are probably trying to enjoy the few days left of this summer….so while you hurry to the beach or to that beautiful path into the mountains, or leisure in the luxurious greens of some not-so-hot spot, here we share with you what some of our students have been doing, because in the end vacation can get boring, too. At least for Alchimists.

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In Amsterdam, guided by their MFA tutor Lucy Sarneel, the students of our second year MFA program have been presenting a pop-up exhibition titled “Moments of Perspective”, introducing to a diverse cultural crowd their two-years long research and a number of statements around it. In essence this was a moment to try-out ideas regarding the difficult task of thinking in and through space their jewelry pieces, while also having to mediate them to an audience. Their texts were the product of a three-days workshop with AJF editor in chief Benjamin Lignel, who worked with them on creative writing, meaning analyzing and experimenting with the many ways in which a work can exist and be described through words, thinking of language as a powerful form of craft, part and parcel of the students’ collections.

This activity is part of a pedagogical process that supports students in going public, addressing holistically the many aspects that constitute the profession of a contemporary jewelry maker.

Enjoy images (and the rest of the holidays), and more soon.

Yours,

Alchimia

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Chumeng Weng

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Marissa Ryan Racht

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Lumy Nouguez

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Carla Movia

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Lilian Mattuschka

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Francesco Coda

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  • all photos by Chumeng Weng and Marissa Ryan Racht

Unveiled was an exhibition organized by the second year BFA students of Alchimia. The end result of this endeavour was very Alchimish, a term that has grown to describe the multicultural environment the institution is so distinctly famous for. In essence, you could see the personal development of each student branching out from the Alchimia tree, a strong correlation between their practices, like interlocking roots underneath the rainforest. The students categorized themselves into 4 sections based on material research, social commentary, narrative and emotional voyage. This illustrated the many creative possibilities contemporary jewellery offers, and how individuality can shine through a community.

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Ziji Zhang, Do You Feel the Power?, brooches, 2016, wood, silver, steel. Photo by Diana Pantea

Upon entering the visitors were greeted by Zac Zhang’s countless blue and red wooden brooches puzzling together in a squared frame. The combination of these two colors reminded me of the two extremities of a magnet. The forces of repulsion and attraction between the magnetic poles were strong enough to cause all the color blocks to jiggle in a chaotic yet rhythmic way. Zac dressed himself in a black skin-tight costume while pinning the brooches on one side of his suit. Like one of those American superheroes coming alive from comic books, his powers didn’t allow him to be placed alongside the common beings. Hence he had to stand alone, with freedom and solitude.

After passing through this one-man show, visitors were flanked by two rows of artists’ statements on the corridor wall. I wonder if the other students could have borrowed some of Zac’s superpowers given they seemed to be almost afraid of misunderstanding, as they decided to release long explanations about their work before presenting it. I think that it would have been more intriguing if the students wrote shorter introductory texts, since most people, including myself, are usually eager to see the real thing first (and of course to get their wine, positioned only at the far end of the exhibition space).

I felt a surge of quietness flowing into me while walking through the white fabrics that fell freely over the many benches-turned-tables. My eyes could follow the curves of the white valleys converging into each series of work. It was as if I was walking through an archive room that only opens once in a while. Somehow the setting established an oppressed and remote atmosphere that resonated with most of the works presented, giving the visitors some clues of what to expect next.

Ziwei Yi created a bag of secrets to be filled by visitors, an interactive tool that became a way to speak about the core aspect of her work, dealing with hidden personal stories. In an accompanying book, Yi showed respect to the many people that trusted her with their secrets by binding the page containing content inward, making it readable only through an active gesture of incision. It was a beautiful symbolic act, inviting people to take a distance from their personal traumas, naughty memories and whatsoever. To her right, Margaret Muncheimer presented a series of miniature Wunderkammer filled with found objects stripped from their primal functions and meanings. With the same respect Yi has given to people, Muncheimer created a moment of recognition for the many objects that we often overlook.

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Ziwei Yi, The Memoir of Tata, pendants and interactive bag for secrets, 2016, mixed materials. Photo by Chumeng Weng

 
 On the other side of the white drapery hill was Vanessa Karla and her research on dyed rice paper. She was the only student revealing the secret of her ingredients by displaying some pieces in progress, forming a never ending circle of experimentation and evolution. To the left of her pieces one could detect another kind of devotion, one very different from Karla’s. Eleonora Natali realized pieces entirely focused on only one form and its many meanings, that of the labyrinth. There was not much variation, both material and style wise. I tried to follow the paths of her labyrinths visually, which led me to nowhere since reaching a valid exit is not the point of her works. Her pieces favour no one, nor herself. They exist for no answer, nor question. The rigid lines that formed the paths through the maze continuously reminded me of how much she struggled in a journey of her own. But she persisted to walk through, maybe circling around but never stopping, and I felt a huge respect for her extremely focused approach and discipline.
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Vanessa Karla, (Un)controlled, material experiment, 2016, rice paper, sepia ink. Photo by Chumeng Weng

Proceeding to the mid section of the exhibition, here three collections with great simplicity were topped off with Clara Nguyen’s complex reinterpretation of the wilderness. All collections in this section were producing a sound, name it a whisper or just noise. They also shared a kind of nostalgia towards interaction. Bonnie Hsu utilized the softness of cotton cloth and the brittleness of maple wood to play a childhood melody. The smooth wires of Anna Hui seemed to be so effortlessly bended with the fingers of God, they were evoking a longing for intimacy in human relationships. Similarly, Lina Gorbach used pictures that highlighted the function and the purpose of each piece in relation to the other. I particularly appreciated the quietness of the pictures and the slight hint of humor in her accompanying book. Without the images, the pieces would have been so minimal and out of context that they might have only resembled well designed objects. However, I would have loved to see the pieces coming out of their beautifully executed box as it was too intimidating to pick them up and try them on.
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 Lina Gorbach, The Space between the Two, Objects, 2016, mixed material. Photo by Kawin Leenutaphong

Amongst many weighty topics, Marisa Leenutaphong managed to break through by juxtaposing her seriousness in craftsmanship with the absurdity in combining recognizable human forms with other creatures. Her work evoked in me a curiosity that I hadn’t felt since childhood, yet if I were a child I would definitely not have understood her sarcastic charm that only stings the so called grown-ups.

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Marisa Leenutaphong, Snake snake fish fish, pendant and brooch, 2016, silver, ribbon, toy doll parts. Photo by Kawin Leenutaphong

 In a total pastel pink setting that evoked the stereotypical female characteristics, Daria Olejniczak reflected on the idea of the female body perfection. Her seemingly aynonmous fashion-magazine-styled book achieved a strong criticality by posing sharp rhetorical questions. However, there was something missing in her pieces, the bitterness was lost in their beautiful appearence, with too smooth edges and soft elements. Differently, Irene Belfi took on a rather neutral standpoint by exploring the purity of materials and the sensory reactions corresponding to them. Her work proofed the importance of collaboration amongst different disciplines. I admire the flexibility of her approach and would love to be as courageous as she is when approaching others.
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Irene Belfi, Con-tatto, bracelet, 2016, mixed materials. Photo by Kawin Leenutaphong

Finally, at the far end of the exhibition space, a row of iron plates and compressed copper bracelets strangely showed how a man can endure to be cut and torn without crying out loud. The sensibility behind Yanis Turcarelli’s pieces has a strong feminine touch that many great male jewellers possess, think for example of Ruudt Peters, Alexander Blank, or Kiko Gianocca. It seemed to be a fit choice to have him concluding the exhibition since his work is extremely emotional and personal, which guided the visitor’s back to the exhibition’s beginning and general thematic framework. Turcarelli has certainly put a plug into a bathtub full of whatever emotion the visitors have been accumulating thus far, leaving it floating and then sinking into the bottom of their hearts.

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Yanis Turcarelli, Chrysalis, bracelet, 2016, copper. Photo by Chumeng Weng

As a whole all the works were carefully thought through and well executed. As a student myself, I feel for them, struggling between technique and conceptual development, while being in a process of learning to master both aspects. Like all effective antidotes, the distinctive Alchimish language brought to the experience its own side effects. Most of the works were very solemn, sometimes even emotionally too heavy. Fortunately those pieces were counteracted by some lighter or less melodramatic moods. All in all, the show was conceptually rigorous, its own title acting as a real keyword through it. The process of unveiling, whatever the motivation and the subject being undressed, and whether or not one liked this nudeness, was an honest presentation of their two years experience.

In a separate room, the first year BFA students were showcasing their body of works created in homage to other artists. Their exhibition, titled Echo, was a fairly standard set up where students laid out their creations on one side and accompanying books on another. These students are still quite new with jewellery making, but you could notice their enthusiasm and professionalism in the metal working, their love and care for details, despite tiny mistakes.

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Echo, exhibition view.  Photo by Chumeng Weng

Chumeng Weng lived and studied in Shenyang, China for 18 years before studying fine art in Canada. Still looking for a better self, she spent one year in technical jewellery making until attending Alchimia where not only her perception of jewellery has been altered greatly but also her philosophy towards ways of living has been reinterpreted.

 

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On an undefined moment in time in early June of this year Sana Khalil, a graduate student of Alchimia’s MFA program, realized her final exhibition as a performative and multi-media event for a rather accidental audience. An impromptu jewelry intervention into the real world one could say, with no text nor official invitation released. All we got, and here we stands for her Alchimia tutors, was a chaotic account in retrospect, along with images and two carefully packaged texts addressing her work, her motivation and wider references.

What we do know is that a sit-in the street was forced by police and the weather to take place in a small private space in Via San Jacopo, in Florence. Wooden balls, a projector, a computer, hammers and candles where the main components of the event. A sound and video recording violence, bombing and cutting acted as a scenography for the scene. A few people heard, watched and were forced to hammer the wooden balls as a group. As Sana Khalil wrote “nothing changed not the shape of the balls, nor nothing else in the world. Except they realized that they are part of this big game. I didn’t show my jewellery pieces I just wanted it to be an affirmation of the fact that we are all vulnerable in front of such big events and I wanted people to understand that this is what I am trying to say.

Her unconventional and modest presentation was no real surprise, Khalil’s way of operating into the jewelry field seems like an ongoing attempt to challenge its very premises and norms.

Below, just like us, in a fictional act of imagination backwards, you can build your own narrative through the few traces and clues Khalil has decided to share with you.

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An Introduction. By Lynn Darwish

Sana Khalil was born in 1985 in Beirut, Lebanon, where she lived, studied, and worked until 2011, at which point she went to Italy to pursue her studies at the contemporary jewellery school, Alchimia. Her body of work draws on intersections of power, war trauma, and vulnerability. Khalil began exploring her artwork with natural materials, such as wood and iron, by way of cutting and carving. Always with sophisticated care, she made wooden half-spheres, or rather domes, representing religious, political and economic powers, as well representing fear and death. Looking more closely, it is almost as if Sana Khalil’s domes are subjected to shock treatments. They are etched, hammered, and burnt with a violence that could have only emerged through the harsh realities of war and conflict in Lebanon, but also from Khalil’s experiences of alienation and judgment in Europe. A sense of frustration and apathy often permeates her artistic process. After all, it could take hours of hammering before minor deformations begin to show. Cracks close back in on themselves. Domes, it seems, are difficult, if not impossible, to break. Could this be a confirmation of our solitary feelings of futility in facing the greater religious and economic powers? Perhaps. One thing we can be sure of, is that these intimate wounds, now exposed to the world, become affirmations of our feeling of helplessness, of our pain, and our defeat. And in this midst of all this, who knows, we may also find some strength.

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IN CONFLICT. Moments of Strike. By Nina Altrove Vasconcelos

“The Polemos is the father of all things”: written in a fragment by Heraclitus about two thousand five hundred years ago.

Polemos (Πόλεμος), in Greek mythology, was the demon of war, his daughter Alala was the personification of a battle cry.

In the history of man, war is the common denominator of all ages. In every country in the world reality is plural and contradictory, multiple and conflicting – which implies that a solution is never simple, and certainly not unified.

Every achievement of man, for better or for worse – beyond good and evil – has always been the result of a polemos, therefore conditioned by it.

In psychology, psychic conflict is a state of tension and imbalance in which the individual finds ones self when subjected to the pressure of trends, needs, and contrary motivations.
This type of internal conflict, does not necessarily have a ‘negative implication”: it can be beneficial when measuring means within ones self or among each other. It allows them to know their limits with others, and a curiosity for that which is different or a form of imbalance that can generate growth, maybe coming to balance through the knowledge of the extremes.

When a conflict instead degenerates, it is said that it explodes into war: the differences are no longer subject of discussion, but are the affront.
In this kind of war there are no winners, only losers.

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Sana Khalil comes from Lebanon, a country that is often found in a vicious cycle of conflict and war to the point of generating a paradox that lives off of its own political and religious differences, including homogenization, contradictions, tensions, and permanent negotiation.

To express this sense of frustration and hopeless inability to positively affect a type of society folded in on itself perpetrating the use of violence as a mechanism jammed, Sana Khalil uses a natural material such as wood, in the form of a dome for what the dome represents: power, both religious and economic.

The half spheres and wooden beads are subjected to shock treatments: etched, carved, hammered, burnt, with violence and always with sophisticated care, only to be left there, exposed to the world.

Other than self, and at the same time the most intimate part of ones self, the wounded part is exposed to become a symbol of helplessness, an affirmation of pain, and of defeat.

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All photos by Deema Murad.