ON HYBRIDITY, HUMAN NATURE AND THE FUTURE OF JEWELLERY.

Alchimia Blog is excited to present a newly commissioned essay by Indian Munich-based philosopher and cultural theorist Pravu Mazumdar, examining the nature and future of art jewelry in relation to contemporary culture. A thought experiment, an act of wishful thinking towards jewelry as a discipline, as a philosophical rumination, and as a primary component of human life.

Munich, May 2016

Dear Jewellery,

I am quite aware that contemporary exchanges concerning your true nature are a kind of mined territory to be treaded carefully. One is well adviced not to forget that your contours are supposed to be sharp and that there is a constant need of drawing lines between you and other genres. One learns for instance never to accept any confusion between you and painting, sculpture, or photography in miniature, or – worse still – designer products or Modeschmuck. From time to time one is also reminded never to reduce you to the outcome of a mere craft. Aren’t you so much more as you glide across our skies on your conceptualist wings powered by instinct, intellect and all those formidable theories? And then there are of course the repeated injunctions not to confuse you with mere adornment – despite the fact that such distinctions are still so far removed from common evidence. For, outside a narrow circle of specialists, one does continue – with an innocence so typical of the thoughtless – to associate you with the vanity of a wearer expressed within the context of a social event. No idea, why this is so. I simply take it as a kind of philosophical mystery in need of closer scrutiny.

But it suddenly strikes me that you do lead a rather bashful existence among your cousins in the world of the arts, don’t you? Just look at the amount of media coverage painting, sculpture, opera, cinema, theater receive, whereas you are hardly ever seriously discussed, at least in meainstream journals. I guess this issues from the uncertainties related to your status, which in turn generates what seems to be a widespread need to situate, define and distinguish you from whatever you run the risk of getting mixed up with.

But isn’t there a strange contradiction in all such efforts? On the one hand everybody seems to recognise you instinctively: as part of that ancient package we seem to have inherited from our paleolithic ancestors and as an element of our collective unconscious structured by those archetypes proposed by C. G. Jung so many decades ago for a better understanding of human nature. On the other hand – and precisely due to the common and collective nature of our relation to you – there seems to be a strange aura of vulgarity around you, as if you were something like an anthropological undergarment to be ashamed of or in any case not worth reflecting on. While talking on freedom, exploitation, environment, terrorism, migration – all those powerful issues concerning us as global citizens of the 21. century –, we keep forgetting to talk about you – and for that matter our own bodies, which you have been so fatefully connected with since the dawn of our existence.

But, dear Jewellery, maybe things are far easier than all of this. Maybe you are simply everybody’s business, maybe that’s the way we are and there is no need to grope for any deeper reasons. In this vein I can only wish you a powerful return to our bodies and minds.

Yours

As I pause before signing this letter, I suddenly find myself caught up in a maelstrom of doubts. For who am I to you actually? I am aware that I am neither a maker nor a wearer nor a collector, but maybe just someone who has been struck – and undone – by the possibility that you might hold some of the answers to the mystery that I am to myself. So, instead of concluding this letter, I might as well continue my ramblings along more general lines and switch over to the third person …

 JEWELLERY SIDELINED 

Despite decades of critique, experiment and flights of conceptual imagination, jewellery continues to be admired or disdained as mere decoration, rather than being taken as what it has been for enormous stretches of human history: a technique of enhancement peculiar to human animals, rooted in a daily practice of fabricating one’s own image and generating more being. Inherent in such a practice is the art of appearance, which can easily pass for one of the most fundamental art forms accompanying human existence.

In fact, there seems to be a basic connection between the art of appearance and culture as such, if the latter is taken as a collection of techniques and rituals designed to enable collective living. These techiques not only support us in our elementary project of survival as we cross over from non-being to being, but also help us to distinguish our own cultural mode from those of others and thus delimit our cultural identity issuing from the specificities of our own practices of excess beyond all survival. The art of apprearance can be taken as one of the most ancient unconscious traditions at the threshold of all culture.

In tune with this tradition, human animals employ camouflage in two different senses. On the one hand they use camouflage to conceal themselves from powers that surpass and threaten them, the prime concern being survival. On the other hand they use camouflage in order to be more than what their adverseries are by appearing to be more than what they actually are. This second type of camouflaging is in use, when we mask ourselves with an image of ourselves in the context of our daily social interactions. To the extent that such images include symbolic elements, the art of appearing involves participation in the biological powers of stronger organisms through contact or substitution. One can drape oneself in the skin of a more powerful animal or arrange constellations of claws and teeth across one’s surface. In archaic techniques of appearance, masks, dress and jewellery are applied in order to transform a finite and mortal organism into something beyond itself. The application of symbols indicates an urge not only towards survival, but also towards excess, understood as the drive, the act and the experience of exceeding oneself.

In such a context, jewellery is optimally qualified to produce enhancement. Adornment is the degree zero of enhancement and is often expressive of the power of the powerless. As long as women are opressed, they are expected to be made pretty through jewellery. As long as elementary needs like dignity and participation are sidelined by the dispositives of consumerism, things like necklaces, brooches, rings will spiral down to mere adornment. The moment jewellery finds its place in the contemporary world as an act of resistance and as an expression of autonomy with respect to a norm, it triggers off the ancient project of self-enhancement.

I guess, such political constellations explain, why, despite the diatribes against Modeschmuck, jewellery continues to be seen as mere adornment, while evoking the typical highbrowed rejection from serious people in responses like: “I don’t care much about jewellery or appearances, because I am preoccupied with more adult concerns.” That obviously explains the absence of jewellery in the reflections of philosophers and sociologists and – in a compensatory manner – its exaggerated presence in social anthropology, which is primarily concerned with forms of pre-modern life that are already marginalised before being subjected to the ethnological gaze …

 JEWELLERY AND ME

Take my case for instance. During my long liaison with philosophy, I never encountered jewellery as an object of theoretical enquiry. Nobody wrote about it, nobody discussed it, nobody seemed to be even aware that jewellery is not only something to be made or worn or admired on a body, but also something to be thought about. It figured at most in a metaphorical sense in terms like „Redeschmuck“, understood as tropes or figures functioning as techniques of enhancement of speech effects. Prominent philosophers like Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Foucault have reflected at length on art, but they never left the well trodden territories of traditionally acknowledged art forms like music, painting, literature. With respect to jewellery, not much more can be heard than an eloquent theoretical silence. One finds for instance the short essay by Georg Simmel titled “Psychologie des Schmucks”, written around 1908[1]; a small piece by Roland Barthes called “Des joyaux aux bijoux”, published around 1961[2]; and some stray allusions to jewellery in the unpublished writings of Walter Benjamin[3], who was anyway intrigued by visual practices like photography and cinema that also took a while to get recognised as art. That is all. Simmel and Barthes were both philosophically interested in the everyday aspects of modern life like fashion, popular culture and media, which is why they seemed to feel a brief need to turn their theoretical spotlights on jewellery. And then there are the architects Gottfried Semper[4] in the mid nineteenth and Adolph Loos[5] in the early twentieth century, who made some fundamental remarks on jewellery and ornamentation. The question is therefore not: “What is jewelry?”, but: “Why is jewellery absent in mainstream discourses?”

My own reflections on jewellery were sparked off by chance in personal encounters. I literally stumbled into the world of contemporary jewellery without intending to and was struck by the powerful thinking inscribed into the works I happened to experience. Since then I have been writing on jewellery as a philosopher. All my texts are rooted in intense exchanges with makers, which certainly left their imprint on my philosophical enquiries in general. So it did not come as a surprise that at the start of an Australian lecture the issue of my identity surfaced once more. My host turned what was supposed to be an introduction to my person into the question: “Who are you actually? What is a guy like you doing in the world of jewellery?” I found the question justified, since I am in fact neither a maker, nor a wearer, nor a collector, and could only respond by comparing myself to the augures of old, who would probe into the entrails of living organisms to gather knowledge of the future. Similarly, I dissect the bodies of jewellery objects to read in their structure and composition what it means to be human at this hour of history.

The most striking aspect of my cooperation with makers till now has been the structural hybridity that has never been absent in our technical and intellectual exchanges. When a goldsmith and a writer join hands, their radically different work-worlds are inscribed into whatever they produce. The sheer heterogenity of the processes, materials, forms, interpretations connected to their normal daily work generates, at the end of their exchanges, a collage of their incompatible worlds. This was a recurrent experience, which attained a kind of climax, when a group of jewellers and metalsmiths answered a set of theoretical questions set by me in the mode of objects. These were presented at a Munich exhibition, in which the questions as well as my analyses of the object-answers also figured as exhibits crafted from the materiality of words. The space of the show became like a cloud chamber, in which the trajectories and transitions from the words to the materials used in the exhibits, like copper, porcelain, textiles, could be felt almost physically.[6]

A HYBRID WORLD

In the first chapter of his esssay on symmetrical anthropology, “Nous n’avons jamais été moderns”, Bruno Latour goes through a long list of news items and reads in them the hybridity of the world as it presents itself to contemporary knowledge.[7] Such media based mainstream discourses, probably the strongest factor informing our contemporary sense of reality, have us constantly crossing the boundaries between nature and culture, as we switch from biology to politics, from politics to economics, from economics to medicine etc. in our daily preoccupations with the global threats assailing us in our contemporary world. The analytical technique engineered by Latour and his friends, known as the Actor-Network-Theory (ANT), in fact does away with the more or less occult idea of society or the social and focusses instead on hybrid constellations of human actors and non-human elements. To understand sociologically the communication processes unfolding in a round table discussion, we need to go beyond traditional sociology and take not only the human actors, but also the table itself into account.

This is not entirely new. In the late sixties of the twentieth century Jean Baudrillard designed a sociology of furniture.[8] In the mid-seventies, Michel Foucault defined the dispositve as a collection of heterogenous objects like laws, documents, architectures, bodies, etc., stringed together by a common strategic purpose.[9] His famous example was the sexuality dispositive, connecting knowledges, institutions, practices, bodies to generate a fiction called sex, which we are urged to talk about incessantly. In the eighties, Donna Haraway unfolded a fictional ontology based on the idea of the cyborg, the Cybernetic Organisms populating our contemporary world and constantly crossing the boundaries we have got used to draw between nature/culture, organisms/machines and materialities/immaterialities.[10] Acccording to Haraway, human existence in the contemporary world is better characterised by the ontological mode of the cyborg. More recently, the physicist and gender theorist, Karen Barad, has proposed that we determine the apparatus in scientific experiments as a hybrid constellation of human agencies and non human objects.[11] In the philosophical movement called The New Realism led by people like Maurizio Ferraris and Markus Gabriel, reality is nothing other than the events breaking into the constructivist fictions of a unified and interconnected world and manifesting itself as the heterogenity and plurality of fields of meaning coexisting and succeeding each other.[12] The experience of the hybrid seems to be inseparable from our collective contemporary experience.

JEWELLERY AND HYBRIDITY: A WISHFUL THINKING

I guess one can take off from such ideas and learn to see jewellery as something that is much more than an object produced by a maker, attached to a body and displayed at a social event. Instead, one can see it as part of a dispositive connecting objects, bodies, gazes, events, institutions to generate appearance through surfaces of enhancement and the interactional energies specific to them.

From its earliest manifesations on, jewellery has functioned as an intermediary. The actual work of art resulting from the process of making, wearing and displaying it is neither the biological body of the wearer nor an object attached to the body, but the hybrid entity of an animal organism draped in metals, minerals, etc., to attain something like a temporary enhancement associated with a particular moment in time. Jewellery has always taken up its position in the intermediary space between Haraway’s opposing spheres, which according to her vision of the cyborg are being challenged and overcome in the contemporary world. Placed between the body and the world, jewellery is neither something merely biological, nor purely social, nor as distantly objective as the mountains or the stars. It is neither only natural nor only cultural, neither only animal nor only mechanical or artifactual, neither only material nor only immaterial. It is simply an intermediary, understood as the medium of hybridity of a materially and symbolically enhanced organism.

My own ongoing involvement with jewellery has, as mentioned earlier, resulted from more or less coincidental encounters between the heterogenous worlds of makers and the writer that I am, so that I was constantly faced with the issue of hybridity in questions like: How do words and metals tally? How does the materiality of a text relate to the language of a material? Are there structural homologies beween the logic of enchainement of ideas and the material techniques of enchainement in jewellery?[13] If words can respond to objects – which is what I am constantly expected to implement as a writer – can also objects respond to words?[14] In this sense, my experience of jewellery has had me zigzagging between an outer circle of hybridity issuing from the interdisciplinary nature of my collaboration with makers and an inner circle centered on the inherent hybridity of jewellery itself. I guess, this experience has been seminal for my approach and my choice of the works feeding my ongoing enquiries within the wider horizon of a philosophical diagnosis of the present.

There are innumerable examples for the inherent hybridity of jewellery in contemporary works. One can find hybridity on the level of the material, as in the case of the Heart brooches of Peter Bauhuis (Germany), made of silver but perceiveable in their surface appearance as weathered pebbles. The same holds for the gold bracelets in David Bielander’s (Switzerland) Cardboard Series, in which the gold is visually indistinguishable from cardboard. Another example is the ice jewellery of Kirsten Haydon (New Zealand), in which tiny glass reflector beads are sprinkled on metal surfaces to give them the look of ice and to evoke reminiscences of Antarctic expanses. Such works enact and manifest a hybridity between the haptic and the visual: what can be touched and weighed, is not what can be seen in the same object.

1

Peter Bauhuis (2003), Heart brooches, silver

2

David Bielander (2015), Cardboard 2015, bracelets, silver, white gold staples

3

David Bielander (2015), Diana with watch, Cardboard 2015, bracelet, silver, white gold staples

4

Kirsten Haydon (2011), ice plane, brooch, enamel, photo transfer, reflector beads, copper, silver, steel, 80x80x10mm. Photo credit: Jeremy Dillon

5

Kirsten Haydon (2011), ice movement, 2011, neckpiece, enamel, reflector beads, copper, silver, 390x200x30mm. Photo credit : Jeremy Dillon

Haydon’s work also represents a hybridity in scale, as she captures the vastness and sublimity of Antarctic ice landscapes within the anthropomorphic proportions of jewellery. The same can be observed in the Façades brooches/neck pieces by Beatrice Brovia (Italy) and Nicholas Chang (Hongkong), made of marble extracted from the Carrara massif and cut down to the proportions of jewellery and then sculpted to produce the look of soft cotton fabric and the optical illusion of lightness. The effect is heightened through the mode of presentation, in which the anthropomorphic scale of jewellery is visually confronted with photographic reminiscences of the great Carrara range as its background and source.

6

Beatrice Brovia, Nicholas Chang (2011), necklace, Carrara marble, PVC, silver

One can also observe hybridity on the level of production technique, form and narrative, as in the works of Robert Baines (Australia, Phoenician gold hoard) or Peter Bauhuis (Germany, Gallium hoard of Obertraun), in which ancient metallurgical techniques are applied to produce a kind of pseudo-historical jewellery that is subsequently displayed in the context of invented narratives. This leads to a disconcerting hybridity in the status of the objects, resulting from carefully constructed historical fictions injected into a real and contemporary artistic practice.[15]

7

Robert Baines (1997-2008), The Gold Hoard from The Phoenician Colony Settlement at Freshwater Point on the Queensland Coast. Gold Jewellery from the Bronze Age, Phoenician (?), approx. 2. half of 7th century BC., gold. Foto: Gary Sommerfeld

8

Peter Bauhuis (2011), The Gallium Hoard of Obertraun, Gallium

As a last example, I would like to mention the occurence of hybridity on the level of function. This can be observed in Johanna Zellmer’s (Germany/New Zealand) jewellery and passport project Forged, in which the metal of a coin symbol is hammered and flattened out, perforated with the passport number of a participant and then attached to the participant’s ear with the plastic tubing of a hearing aid. This produces the effect that the passport number punched into the metal is projected onto the neck of the wearer as an image of dotted light reminiscent of neon ads. The actual piece of jewellery resulting from such a process is thus a hybrid object functioning as adornment and political intervention at the same time, as it enacts a return of the deep data of an individual wearer, monopolised by the modern state and symbolically condensed to a passport number, back to the surface.[16]

9

Johanna Zellmer (2013), Forged, copper alloy, plastic tubing, archival satin fine art paper

To sum up, I see in contemporary jewellery a strong potential for the employment of hybridity as a mode of political and cognitive intervention. Unfurling the hybridity coiled up within the folds of jewellery would involve crossing boundaries in a zigzag movement between what seems to be incompatible spheres. I dream of great collaborative projects, in which studios and laboratories work together and jewellers cooperate not only with philosophers, but also with natural scientists, economists, politicians, health scientists, environmentalists, etc. in order to produce objects that are not only to be worn and seen, but also to be read as a contribution to our contemporary understanding of what it means to be human under the abyssmal conditions of our globalised order of things.

Pravu Mazumdar studied physics in New Delhi and Munich and has a doctorate in Philosophy from the University of Stuttgart, West Germany. He writes in German and English, and his books, which use themes like migration and consumerism to unfold a diagnosis of modernity, are closely connected to French Postmodernism, in particular the philosophy of Michel Foucault. His essay on jewellery was published in 2015 under the title: Gold und Geist: Prolegomena zu einer Philosophie des Schmucks (“Gold and Mind: Prolegomena towards a Philosophy of Jewellery”), Berlin: Matthes & Seitz.

[1] Georg Simmel, „Psychologie des Schmucks“ in Aufsätze und Abhandlungen 1901-1908, vol. II, ed. by Alessandro Cavalli u. Volkhard Krech in Gesamtausgabe, ed. by Otthein Rammstedt, vol. 8, Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp, 1993, pp. 385-393.

[2] „Des joyaux aux bijoux“ in Roland Barthes, Oeuvre complètes, vol. I, 1942-1965, ed. by Éric Marty, Paris: Éditions du seuil, 1993, pp. 911-914.

[3] See for example Walter Benjamin, Gesammelte Schriften, ed. by Rolf Tiedemann & Hermann Schweppenhäuser, vol. II.3, Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp, 1977, p. 958.

[4] Semper, Gottfried, Über die formelle Gesetzmässigkeit des Schmuckes und dessen Bedeutung als Kunstsymbol, Zürich: Meyer & Zeller, 1856.

[5] Loos defined aesthetic progress as „the trajectory of culture from the ornament to the loss of ornament“. See Adolph Loos, Trotzdem (1900-1930), ed. by A. Opel, Vienna, 1982, p. 92. (Transl. by P. M.)

[6] The show, titled Answering Pravu, took place in Munich in March, 2015. The seven participating artists – from Stockholm, London and Munich – were Tobias Birgersson, Henrik Brandt, David Clarke, Frederik Ingemansson, Magnus Liljedahl, Karen Pontppidan, Miro Sazdic.

[7] Bruno Latour, Nous n’avons jamais été modernes. Essai d’anthropologie symétrique, Paris: Éditions La Découverte, 1991.

[8] Baudrillard, Jean (1968), Das Ding und das Ich (Le système des objets, dt.) Gespräch mit der täglichen Umwelt, Wien: Europaverlag, 1974.

[9] See „Le jeu de Michel Foucault (entretien sur l’Histoire de la sexualité)“ in Michel Foucault, Dits et écrits, III, ed. by Daniel Defert and François Ewald in cooperation with Jacques Lagrange, Paris: Gallimard, 1994, no. 206: pp. 298-329.

[10] Donna Haraway, „A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century“, in Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, New York: Routledge, 1991, pp.149-181.

[11] Karen Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning, Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2007.

[12] See Markus Gabriel (ed.), Der Neue Realismus, Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2014.

[13] I have tried to address some aspects of this question in „Wearing the world. Some reflections on jewellery and metaphysics“ in Manon van Kouswijk, Hanging Around, Hoofddorp: Uitgeverij Boek, 2010

[14] This question essentially motivated the experimental Project Answering Pravu mentioned above.

[15] I have discussed these works in detail in Gold und Geist, Berlin: Matthes & Seitz, 2015.

[16] See Pravu Mazumdar, „Returning to the Surface“ in Johanna Zellmer, Forged, Cologne & New York: Darling Publications, 2015: pp. 9 – 59.

ADORNMENT Invito digitale 1

 

ADORNMENT – CONTEMPORARY JEWELRY EXHIBITION

The shape of wearable art

Opening Thursday, May 26, 2016 at 19.00

From Monday to Sunday 10.00 – 20.00

May 25 – June 26, 2016

Venice in a Bottle Gallery

Castello1794
30122 Venice

Alchimia is proud to announce its participation in Adornment, an exhibition reflecting on the fine line between jewellery, design and art, taking place at Venice in a Bottle Gallery from May 25 to June 26, during the Venice Architecture Biennale 2016.

Programmed within the largest event on design in Venice Design.Ve and curated by Ilaria Ruggiero, the exhibition has been made possible thanks to the support of Alchimia and under the patronage of the Associazione Gioiello Contemporaneo.

Design.Ve is the brainchild of Francesca Giubilei and Luca Berta – independent curators, gallery owners and founders of Veniceartfactory – lives of the contribution of an international scientific committee composed by Joris Montens, Ilaria Ruggiero, Francesca Valente, Nannet van der Kleijn, Micaela Zucconi and benefits from the advice of AtemporaryStudio, to offer an unprecedented look on design.
Design.Ve exists as a diffused festival where installations in the urban texture interact with exhibitions, and where traditional craftsmanship meets modern experimentation. Emerging designers and international design brands will carry out a new city map in Design Walks Through Venice.

Adornment – Contemporary Jewelry Exhibition represents, within the festival, the section devoted to contemporary jewelry. With the intention of creating an annual event in the Venetian cultural programming, this year’s theme is ‘The shape of wearable art’: a jewel that explores the typical formal boundaries of the body to challenge stereotyped notions and expectations.

The exhibition expands the fluid and wide boundaries of wearable art, seeking the original meaning of the ornament as a symbol of deep identification and belonging to a specific community, from the social to the spiritual level. Especially this year, pieces were selected for their shapes, their design and their clever use of materials, for challenging the conventional space of the body and entering into new and unexpected forms of dialogue, able to unveil new senses and meanings tied to the identity of the individual, as a single human being or as part of a community.

Lucia Massei, Director of the school, says: “the jewel represents the gift par excellence. It is one of the oldest responses to an aesthetic and emotional human impulse; it has a special potentiality of communication, and allows to better define the identity of the wearer within a social context.”

On display will be 14 international artists and designers: Rosalba Balsamo, Florence Croisier, Clara del Papa, Marion Delarue, Eleonora Ghilardi, Elie Hirsch, Florence Jaquet, Laberintho, Chiara Lucato, Letizia Maggio, Paola Mirai, Ōki Izumi, Nazan Pak and Caterina Zanca.

Alchimia presents a selection of works realized by the graduating students of its MFA in Jewellery and Body Ornament: Daria Borovkova, Enrica Prazzoli, Lavinia Rossetti, Federica Sala, Giulia Savino and María Ignacia Walker Guzmán.

The use of experimental techniques and unusual materials as well as both formal and aesthetic philosophical research, enhance the expressive and communicative potential of these works. From the socio-cultural investigation made by Daria Borovkova to the futuristic vision of Enrica Prazzoli, jewellery finds new lives and expressions: the research on memory and belonging conduced by Lavinia Rossetti is alternated with the more introspective and psychological approach of Federica SalaGiulia Savino, in her necklaces, offers a representation of identity linked to the mapping of spaces and psyches, while María Ignacia Walker Guzmán is committed to a mystical and alchemical study of the body.

Generally, the works in the exhibition vary, ranging from delicate and minimal creations to sculptures. With her jewel Florence Croisier draws the body almost as weaving a cloth, proposing a graphic, clean, linear and subtle work thanks to the high quality of the materials she uses; Florence Jaquet with her Literary Jewels and Chiara Lucato in her collection The Storyteller, intervene in shapes to invade the body through stories that are layered in the folds of the paper and in the delicacy of a magic lantern; Elie Hirsch and Ōki Izumi interpret two conceptual opposites of jewellery sculpture, the first tied to a primordial era, warm and archetypal, almost tribal, while the second focuses on the heavenly purity of geometric and light transparency of glass; Eleonora Ghilardi and Letizia Maggio have different and original visions of the ceramic and porcelain jewelry, which is here interpreted in various forms, styles and techniques; Rosalba Balsamo and Paola Mirai work in a futurist and contemporary direction, experimenting with techniques and materials, and giving priority to plastic and aesthetic design. Marion Delarue develops her research straddling Eastern symbolism and introspection, working on the energy of jewelries and treating them as potential amulets; clean lines and attention to geometry characterize the creations of both Nazan Pak and Caterina Zanca, the first attracted to soft, enveloping shapes, the second dedicated to conceptual and minimal compositions that alternate and play with spaces and materials, emptiness and fullness. The goldsmith tradition finds, finally, new expressive potential in the contemporary creations by Clara del Papa and Laberintho, whose jewelry echoes styles of past epochs.

The exhibition will open on May 26 at 19.00, while on May 25 the Design.Ve initiative will officially open with a press preview over the day at Palazzo Loredan from 11.00 to 17.00 and an opening cocktail from 19.00 to 21.00.

 

For further information and high resolution images contact:

Ilaria Ruggiero: adornmentexhibition@gmail.com, ph: 39 347 93 963 000

Organization and production

Ilaria Ruggiero | Claudia Capodiferro

INITIATIVE REALIZED WHITIN THE RPOGRAM OF DESIGN.VE

Design fringe festival dedicated to the contemporary and international cutting-edge design scene, presented on the occasion of the Venice Architecture Biennale 2016.

SPONSOR

ALCHIMIA – CONTEMPORARY JEWELLERY SCHOOL was founded in 1998 in Florence by Doris Maninger and Lucia Massei, its current Director. The method of ALCHIMIA draws on the revision and adoption of traditional techniques and carefully selected materials combined with experimental and groundbreaking approaches to jewellery design. By adopting the technological developments of our time and the most experimental cultural trends, Alchimia encourages its students to enhance their talents and develop a personal and innovative creative language. www.alchimia.it

PATROCINIO

ASSOCIAZIONE GIOIELLO CONTEMPORANEO is a nonprofit organization founded in Trieste in 2004 by a group of professionals to build new opportunities for development and redevelopment of the jewelry industry. Enhances and promotes the culture of contemporary jewelry meant as: artistic research, innovation of the concept of ornament, experimenting with new materials and technology, study and actualization of the historical heritage of knowledge and skill. www.agc-it.org

PARTNER

i+i studio was established in 2007 by the will of Giorgia Chinellato and Federico Frison to broaden their professional experience and offer service rooted in historical center of the city of Venice, directing their interest to the design, redevelopment, restoration and the establishment of interior spaces.  They follow customers accompanying them step by step in the design process and construction: from the preliminary idea, preparing and launching the authorization procedures, Supervision, accounting and worksite safety coordinating contractors, businesses and craftsmen in the development and realization of the work.

Vini Piovene Porto Godi – Piovene Porto Godi family produces wine and olive oil in Toara, in one of the best areas of the Berici Hills. The choice has always been for grapes of the territory, as the Tai Rosso. The respect of time is the secret to obtain high quality wines. The company also offers hospitality. Those who want the experience of living in a country house in the hills of Vicenza, can stop in the old mill or in the colombara.

www.piovene.com

Dates: 19 to 23 July 2016
30 hours
Cost: 700 euro + 22% VAT
Deadline for enrollment: June 13, 2016

This workshop, led by British jewelry artist Patrick Davison, will be focused on a variety of mixed metal processes. The different methods will involve working with wire, sheet and tube. Participants will explore the diverse ways in which mixed metal work can be approached, including soldering and fusing.

An introduction to working with wire will start the course. Techniques including twisting and weaving will be covered, each revealing a different pattern and texture depending on which technique is used. Each individual process will be taught in great detail, highlighting the rich effects that can be gained by applying quite simple changes to each approach.

The techniques participants will engage with are different to the well-known process of Mokume Gane. In fact, the course focus lies in constructing a material, allowing its structure, naturally created during its making, to be integral to the final pattern. Mokume Gane will also be discussed but with the intention to find new approaches to working with it.

Understanding solder alloys will be very important for some of the techniques, so an introduction to making solder will be an important part of the course. It is essential for some of the other techniques the course deals with, to make or own solder wire – anyway  a useful skill both to save time and money in the workshop. Participants will look at each of the results from different approaches, acquiring the capacity to design with mixed metals, and the knowledge on the mechanical properties of the materials and the aesthetic challenges they pose.

Finally, each student will be able to generate a great understanding of a range of techniques, with a steady focus during the last days to make a piece of jewellery. Knowledge of forming and finishing will be covered, resulting in a firm foundation of mixed metal working skills.

Patrick Davison studied at the Glasgow School of Art and at Alchimia Jewellery School in Florence with the tutorship of Ruudt Peters. Patrick was awarded a silver medal at the 2010 Goldsmiths’ Craftsmanship and Design Awards.

 

ring 2

by Marissa Ryan Racht

 This past fall Lucy Sarneel became the main advising tutor for Alchimia’s second year MFA program. Marissa Ryan Racht, one of her students and an on-going contributor to Alchimia’s blog, has been asked to interview her. The outcome is a short story on her practice as an internationally acclaimed jewelry maker, as a professor and as a mother.


Lucy is not a very egocentric artist. I could tell she was a bit hesitant to talk about herself, beginning by saying that others will probably be able to tell me better who she is, but agreed to give it a try.

After one basic year and three years of technical jewelry training at the art academy in Maastricht, she felt the need for greater artistic challenge. Gradually it became clear to her, that technique is a means to intent, not the intent in itself.” The fact that Onno Boekhoudt was head of the jewelry department of the Gerrit Rietveld Academy at that time, made her continue to study there for another four years, finishing in 1989. After the academy, things went well; lots of opportunities to show her work and some grants that supported her artistic development, without too much pressure on earning money (Oh – the Netherlands!).

She later met her partner, painter Jelle Kampen, and in 1995 and 1997 their daughters were born. “This was an indescribable experience and a huge change in my way of living and working.” The birthing experience is life changing, “you suddenly have an entirely new role. There is much less time to work. It changes your whole psyche.” Before kids she had more time, and especially more time for doubt. After having children she found herself becoming much more decisive – “decisions began to come more naturally and effectively. You develop a greater sense of living in that moment.” Plus, the imaginative world of children can be very inspiring. “The freedom, the lust for life and impulsiveness of expression…it’s a wonderful learning experience.”

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Her oldest daughter made this jewelry piece for her in her studio when she was around 7 years old. It says: ” isn’t it beautiful?”

For many years Lucy’s practice as a professional maker was mainly developing in the studio, while having a few wage earning-jobs, and being a mother. In 2009 she began teaching on a regular basis at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy until 2014.

Teaching at the Rietveld Academy was intensive and interesting, but she desired to dive deeper into her own work, so left the position to dedicate more time to her own studio practice. The balance between these two roles is fragile, and never easy to handle, there is a constant risk of one taking over the other. However, the challenge proposed by Doris Maninger and Lucia Massei last year to become tutor of Alchimia’s MFA was accepted with pleasure: “I admire Doris and Lucia for establishing Alchimia from the heart, independently and non-bureaucratically, and developing it to such a high level as it is now.”

She enjoys the contact with the students, and is intrigued by what occupies them and their working-processes, finding it an enriching search. She notes, “…to follow a course of study like this is a very courageous choice!” Meetings are intense, but articulated in workshops throughout the years, so getting used to the incidental contact with the students was no easy task, while becoming accustomed to the more distant interaction. However “the teaching staff keeps each other informed by e-mail about lessons, which is important in order to understand the input that the students are getting.”

Lucy finds it a rewarding challenge to give the right feedback to a student and a pleasure when she sees it work out well. Questioning and listening are essential aspects of teaching. As a professor she tries to “crawl into someone else’s skin” in order to understand their reasons, and to be able to give appropriate suggestions to help developing further. “The warm, relaxed atmosphere at Alchimia is wonderful and contributes to an open attitude.”

She hopes the students will develop a dialogue between the idea, the material, and the form, by evaluating attempts and failures, while doing and reflecting, and thinking in possibilities rather than solutions. This way of working opens personal potential and ways of looking, while teaching the students to rely on themselves and to convince others of the value of their work. Lucy personally strives for a strong and authentic visual language with a consciousness to the realm of the jewelry field. “The work is the vehicle for communication with the world and leads to certain situations in which it is positioned and shown.” She is interested in the way people live their lives – how they try to master this incomprehensible life with an inevitable end. By miming the evil, for instance, in the image below to the left, of an Austrian Krampus…

 

…or by beautifying (as in the image above to the right) “people express themselves and their surroundings and everything in between these two options, they establish their place in the universe.”

Image on the left: Iris ApfelAmerican businesswoman, interior designer, and fashion icon. Image on the right: Woman from Marken, ca. 1940-50

She believes that body ornament and related matters provide rhythm in life stages and identity. Objects of unintended beauty from daily life, folk-art, curiosities, bring her wonder.

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A farmer wearing a milk stool, image by Lucy Sarneel.

“The intimacy between a person and a jewelry piece/object and the private in the public intrigues me.”

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Photo taken in Mexico in 2010 by Lucy Sarneel.

“Traditions and ceremonies: how they transform through time: on the one hand people want to keep things as they are, but at the same time society changes and asks for anticipation which is a complex process.”

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Cover image of “How to Wrap Five More Eggs: Traditional Japanese Packaging” by Hideyuki Oka and Michikazu Sakai, Published January 1st 1975 by Weatherhill Inc.

Her work results from trying to understand the world around her, “people and animals are being sacrificed for what purpose, really?” She is looking for fields of tension in the form of ideas and materials as a metaphor for life in the quest for balance between forces and ideas of role-patterns by which we are influenced.

“Aren’t we all jugglers, trying to keep all the balls in the air? The extremely big element (the ball) brings the whole in physical balance, but into visual imbalance. The ball is at rest.”

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Lucy Sarneel, Juggler’s Moment #2, necklace, 2014. Materials: zinc, polyester ribbon, acrylic paint, varnish, bamboo fibre, foam clay. Dimensions: 57 x 10 x 7 cm, courtesy of a private collection, Australia.

Recently she was invited to contribute to an artist’s project: Spakenburgse Divas, a combination of photo-series, theatrical documentaries, performances, workshops and publications about the inspiring role of Dutch traditional women’s costumes in Dutch art and how incorporating them into contemporary art, though the tradition is being lost, may help them to live on in a certain way.

The artists have been working together for 16 years with three women from Spakenburg who have committed themselves to art. They regard these women as guardians of traditions. Lucy is one of eight artists working on the project and was asked to enrich two of the kraplappen with her signature style and the artist Joseph Beuys as an inspiration. The two force-fielded kraplappen are meant to signify eight professors from the Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands. The project is scheduled to be exhibited at the end of May.

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Lucy Sarneel, Juggler’s moment #6, necklace, 2016. Materials: zinc, part of metal plate from thé flea market,wood (back side) bio-bamboo, acrylic paint, varnish, polyester ribbon, foam clay. Dimensions: 55 x 10 x 8 cm. Courtesy of the artist.

 

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This is an image of a woman in the traditional costume of Spakenburg, wearing Juggler’s Moment #6. Part of the project Het Wilde Oog/ Wout Nooitgedagt. Image provided by the artist.

Lucy is curious about people’s fascination with branding – a word initially deriving from burning an owner’s sign into the skin of an animal. Just like traditional tribal tattoos (indicating to which tribe one belongs to), people surround themselves with logos and brands, communicating who they are and which corporations they belong to. “They work hard to be able to buy things or services that they don’t really need. It’s a strange situation…”

Society becomes structured in a tribal way, now the light of the computer replaces the light of the campfire. We have evolved, but not as much as we think we have. We are still driven by prehistoric instincts. Lucy would like to think that we are all somehow searching for significance, and for her making jewelry is a way to communicate this need and to share it with others. It’s also a matter of playing for her – putting the seriousness of life into perspective and enjoying that moment. A smell, a sound, a flower or the sun on the face – all reasons for wanting to make. “…the idea that this thing that I make has the mission to be intimately connected with a person gives it an extra dimension; the giving.”

We also talked about materials. “The value that is attributed to jewelry (still) is strongly connected to the belief that its powers lie in the qualities of the form (symbol) and of its materials”. Zinc is an important element for her. The grey-tone reminds her of the Dutch sky and sea, it’s not a color, but the reflected light between black and white, light and dark, it relates to the subconscious. Zinc (or most often zinc-plated steel, because zinc protects steel from rusting) is omnipresent in urban environments, used as architectural details like turrets, dormers or rain-pipes. In the past, in domestic environments – buckets, washboards, and bathtubs were often made of zinc. For her it is an association with daily-life and “secure feeling”.

Making constructions of this kind is a challenge. Zinc easily tears and burns and the tin solder that is used has a very low melting point. When soldering one part there is a risk of another part collapsing, because the solder melts throughout the piece.

She also explores other materials. They seduce her and “it is a pleasure to apply them, to make them on my own and give them a meaning in a piece of jewelry. Sometimes the materials are autonomous objects; like for instance antique chest-patches of traditional Dutch costumes or objects like wooden knobs and peanut bowls.”

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Lucy Sarneel’s studio. Image provided by the artist.

Gradually materials we associate with “the exotic” entered her work; like bamboo, seeds, wood and bone. She feels drawn to cultures with rituals, magical thinking and close relations to nature giving shape to something beyond ourselves.“There’s an aspect of strange and at the same time familiar, looking at for instance, a nkisi mpya, which has to do with an affinity for Catholic artifacts.”

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Nkisi mpya. Image provided by the artist.

She plays with the suggestion of pure, natural materials, which are in fact artificial or come from commercial products that use nature as a marketing strategy. Another reason for applying artificial materials with a natural appearance is that we mostly see what we want to see, not what is actually there. It’s about the relation with matter through a body of thought.

The raffia is plastic, the wood is micro-paper or plastic, the bamboo comes from a fly-screen, the dried fruits and seeds from a perfumed potpourri mixture one can buy in home-decoration shops, the drawings on the metal are made with a permanent marker, zinc is painted in a zinc-grey tone, etc.

Imagination is the magic matter for Lucy.

 

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Food offering in Bali. Image provided by the artist.

“Balinese people make these food offerings daily to thank the gods for every new day. Although they are ephemeral, they are made with a lot of attention and dedication.”

This series of Daily Offers are referring to this tradition and at the same time to the commercial world with its seductive daily offerings in the shops.

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Lucy Sarneel, Daily Offer #4, necklace, 2015. Materials: zinc, plastic, bamboo, acrylic paint, varnish, nylon thread, nylon raffia. Dimensions: 32 cm x 14 cm x 5,5 cm. Courtesy of a private collection, Australia.

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Lucy Sarneel, Daily Offer #6, necklace, 2015. Materials: nylon raffia, nylon thread, zinc, artificial ivory, plastic, acrylic paint, varnish. Dimensions: 30 x 17 x 5,8 cm. Courtesy of the collection of the China Academy of Arts-Folk Art Museum, Hangzhou, China.

“An offering also indicates a sacrifice, which is more and more real in our world when you think about the difficult situation that many people today are experiencing. I’m currently working on this aspect.”

This is a piece she recently made, Waiting for the Sun.

 

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Lucy Sarneel, WAITING FOR THE SUN, necklace, 2016. Materials: zinc, leather, nylon thread, 33 x 15,5 x 2,5 cm. Courtesy Galerie Marzee, Netherlands.

“It’s about shutting yourself off from the misery in the world. The shape of the pair of glasses derives from a plastic part from a pair I found on the street. Whose eyes looked through it and what intent did they have in mind? Although, at the same time, it’s about the lust for life which makes us look for the positive sides of it.”

Her advice for someone finishing their studies and entering into the professional field of contemporary jewelry is that you need an inner necessity and passion for your practice as a jewelry artist. We need each other to make ourselves visible; artists, collectors, museum-directors, curators, gallerists, writers, teachers, colleagues, audiences, bloggers etc. “It’s wonderful to be in charge of your own cosmos, but it’s also a tough job.” Lucy encourages us to take chances, push boundaries, and try to connect with others through the work. Concentrate on what we expect from ourselves instead of what others expect from us. We need to give ourselves time to grow, because it’s a never-ending, enriching learning process. In this sense, a profound lesson in Lucy’s story, work, world-view and teaching is that we should allow ourselves the freedom to see and take in the simple and honest aspects of daily life, whether good or bad, and react to them in a natural and non-self-conscious way in our work.

Marissa Racht is a jewelry artist based in Florence. She is currently attending the second year of the MFA in Contemporary Jewelry and Body Ornament at Alchimia, tutored by Lucy Sarnee

 

 

Alchimia’s second year MFA team of students visited Schmuck 2016 with its curatorial studies tutor Antonia Alampi. They spent their time analyzing and closely discussing a select number of exhibitions among the more than 70 organized for this year’s event.

Our team of experts has been asked to act as critics: by reviewing an exhibition from the perspective of its infrastructure, by tracing and discussing parallels between exhibitions, or by discussing this year’s jewelry week in relation to previous ones.

With the participation of Lillian Mattuschka, Marissa Racht Ryan and Francesco Coda.

What you are reading is Part II of the study. To read Part I, please click here.

 Marissa Ryan Racht

There were a few trends that I noticed this year as apposed to last. I should note that last year was my first one visiting Schmuck, so everything was new and impressive to my virgin “Schmuck eyes”. This year I noticed that in several exhibitions there were many of the same exact works as last year. Some of those who offered the same pieces, also put less effort and care into their actual display, hence they were doubly disappointing. I can’t imagine that this is a great career move for the artists. It almost seems a better policy to not show at all rather than reshow the same pieces for several years consecutively.

Thematically, something that really stood out for me at the 2016 Schmuck Fair was the presence of the smart phone. It seemed like something emerging from an anthropological study. Not only was every person you encountered taking photos, using apps, navigating with their smart phones, but the concepts behind several of the works were based on the use of them in contemporary society.

A prime example of this trend was one of the three winners of Schmuck at the fair. It is by a woman artist from New Zealand, Moniek Schrijer. What I gathered from the information provided at the awards ceremony is that this piece references the Rosetta Stone. With it, she is imagining a future far from now, where our smart phones have long since ceased functioning, and when we happen to question their meaning and past function as we encounter them as an archaeological discovery.

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“Tablet Of”, Neckpiece, 2015, Porcelain slate, gold, black Nephrite beads, steel wire 8.5 x 13.08 cm

The piece “This is the approximate size of an iPhone screen” by artist Emil Gustafsson, also in the main exhibition of Schmuck in the fair, is another example of this trend. Predictably enough, when doing a little research to find out a bit more information on this work’s concept, I gleamed that one of the artist’s main inspirations are the studies by anthropologist Edward T. Hall titled “The Hidden Dimension” (1966), “a study of the physical distance people maintain between each other in different contexts and cultures”. [To read more about it click here]. What this piece seems to be talking about is the fact that our focus on digital communication is robbing us of the natural, physical and visual cues that helped us develop as a species.

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“This is the approximate size of an iPhone screen”, brooch, 2015, acrylic, steel, silver, rubber, aluminum, 5 x 8.9 x 1.6 cm

There were a few other works referencing the smart phone topic, but I also want to mention a glaring, even if probably not intentional, parallel. At the end of a grueling day, having visited what seemed like hundreds of exhibitions, we made a brief stop at Gallerie Thomas Modern. This exhibition featured the works of two prominent 20th century artists. It honored the 30th anniversary of the death of Joseph Beuys and the 10th anniversary of the death of Nam June Paik. Both artists’ practice heavily focuses on the technological advances of their generations and their psychic effects on us as people.

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JOSEPH BEUYS Erdtelephon (Earth Telephone) 1968 Telephone, cords, clump of earth with grass on wooden board. Signed and dated in pencil on wooden board, verso: “Joseph Beuys 68” (photo courtesy of: http://www.zwirnerandwirth.com)

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Nam June Paik: Lächelnder Buddha (Buddha Looking at Old Candle TV), 1992. Metallmonitor, Bronze, Kerze © Nam June Paik Estate

As two key contributors of Fluxus (an artistic movement that started in the 50s whose political aim was to have an agency over society through their art): “They focus on the events of everyday life and reject the concept of “high art” for new, more accessible forms that can be interactive and even playful in their irony [Fluxus, Joan Rothfess, 2005].” As jewelry artists we are constantly trying to consider our works’ physical interaction with the wearer and viewers. Now, I’m not sure if the pieces I mentioned are trying to change the world, but they certainly seem to be addressing our cultural dependences and the proliferation of this particular technology. Maybe they are “poking” us à la Facebook in an attempt to look up from our digital/screen worlds and take notice of the material world in front of our eyes – or maybe I’m just reading into things like an old lady talking to the kids about how things were back in my day…

Lillian Mattuschka

 After two weeks of dwelling I finally came up with a personal view, the prism of a student that, for the fourth year, flies to Munich to see what is new in the jewellery world and ends up wondering where this field or little community wants to go, and even asking what this field has to say anyway.

I’ll walk you through an example, the exhibition “Everyday Epics”, taking place at the Kunstpavillion. The artists were Alexander Blank, Kiko Gianocca, Jing He, Sophie Hanagrath, Jiro Kamata and Florian Weichsberger. We arrived at the exhibition on Friday after lunch, with a beautiful weather, the sun was shining over the squared pavilion and we were lucky because we were almost the only ones visiting at that time. We were immediately overwhelmed by the natural light shining trough the glass ceiling. The room was filled with wooden tables, used to show the work of Munich Academy’s top former students. The only things not on a table were a more conceptual work and a video both realized by Jing He and presented and screened on a wall.

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“everyday epics”, exhibition view, photo from jirokamata.com

 

Flashback to last year: same place, same people, same pieces?! The only difference was the display (shiny tables instead). In 2015 this exhibition was the favourite of almost every Alchimia student. Clearly last year’s setting table captured attention, so my question at this point is: was the table stronger than the pieces? This year’s setting was indeed less glamorous than the previous one – maybe the artists wanted to give more attention to their pieces?

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“Lux is the Dealer”, exhibition view, photo from photo from http://www.jirokamata.com

Just as in 2015, all you had as exhibition hand-out was an A4 paper with titles, dates and opening hours, numbers related to the works with very synthetic information and especially with no artist statement, nor any kind of introduction to the show more generally. My obvious questions relate to why these artists, why together, why this title, and if (or not) there was anything they had in common except for having shared the same professor during their studies. Think with me. Last year’s show in this space featured the same artists, almost the same pieces, but with the title “Lux is the Dealer”. So what becomes clear is only that (YES!) it is the table (and the lights) that making the difference.

A show is made up by different elements that should work together in order to enhance the works, to tell a story or transmit a statement. In this show I had a hard time understanding what the artists wanted to say. I am a jewelry student, so who if not someone like me should be able to understand this language? In essence I think that the artists should be more generous with information, and in exhibition making, helping generic visitors, peer artists, collectors, readers, etc…making the substance of their work more legible, and not change direction in random order, depending on the moods (and colors) of the weather (or the tables).

Francesco Coda

I will focus on the exhibitions “everyday epics” and “Lux is the Dealer”, realized in 2016 and 2015 respectively, both taking place at the Kunstpavillon in Munich, and both featuring works by former students of Otto Künzli.

“Lux is the Dealer” had been set up on one single very long table in black plexiglass, crossing diagonally the entire room. Light was generated by several light bulbs on the table that reflected light in reverse – a perfect method for pieces such as those by Jiro Kamata, mirror necklaces whose colors became even brighter and more fluorescent during the evening. The exhibition’s title was hang on the wall in a blue neon, adding to the suggestive environment, bearing a quite strong visual impact.

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All photos: “Lux is the Dealer”, exhibition view, photo from photo from http://www.jirokamata.com

Based on last year’s experience, my expectations towards the 2016 edition of the show were very high, given it was featuring basically the same artists. Surprisingly, many pieces were just the same as the previous year’s, the exhibition was very sober, all was arranged on several plywood tables, accompanied by a leaflet with only very basic information. Fortunately many artists were present and generous when talking about their work. In the evening the space was re-organized to host a party, and it was quite amazing how much more interesting the space looked in this different configuration.

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All photos: “everyday epics”, exhibition view, photo from jirokamata.com

All in all I think that too often in jewelry exhibitions we find tables or plinths as a main solution for the display of our pieces, while I really hope we will put a little more effort in finding new creative ways of presenting our work.

 

Dates: 25 to 29 July 2016
30 hours
Cost: 700 euro + 22% VAT
Deadline for enrollment: June 20, 2016

Due to popular demand and success, Alchimia offers again a workshop on filigree from July 25 to 29 2016, with Susanne Matsché (www.susannematsche.com), an Austrian-American-German jeweller, specialized in this very particular method adapted to contemporary jewelry.

Take some time, just like this ancient technique requires, to carefully read Susanne’s account over her encounter with filigree, and the richness of its possible creative uses, in contemporary jewelry and beyond.

* When I went studying to Moscow as a young exchange student from Vienna (previously I had studied design for 2 years), I came across filigree which was hugely popular in the jewelry department there, and at first it seemed oddly exotic…but a good teacher managed to draw my attention to the magic of it. He taught me its secrets and I dived into the world of silver ornaments – one year of intense technical training. When I came back to Austria I experienced a cultural shock, and the pieces I had made were shocking for the department (not their style at all)! It took me a while, but after creating a few special pieces, I processed this clash. 

Ever since, filigree has played an important role in my works. Up to this day I am directly or indirectly influenced by this experience. Handing on my knowledge in the filigree workshops I teach, and introducing the technique to students of contemporary jewelry, is so interesting because I can perceive the wide variety of approaches to this ancient technique and the amazing different paths on which the students are taking the fine wires.

* The fine silver wire with which we work in the workshops is very soft, it has an almost textile quality, suggesting associations with techniques usually untypical for metalwork, like stitching, weaving, binding, wrapping…

Due to its softness the wire/the fine silver elements can also be used in a very organic way, as if the parts of the piece of jewelry were growing and flowing. Sometimes I see a vine and I think of various wires winding around the rigid structure of the fence…

* I find it intriguing to start out from a thin plain wire, like a first line in a sketch, and to first build a two dimensional surface from there, then moving on to the third dimension. Working with filigree is also about the excitement of working up all the elements from scratch (even the special solder) into a delicate, three-dimensional piece, which is a great source of inspiration for the students’ work and an opportunity for them to integrate this knowledge into their own previously acquired set of skills.
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* In contemporary jewelry there is an overall tendency to create large, sculptural pieces. Working with this fine technique is definitely a challenge, because one’s attention gets drawn to the detail. A colleague of mine, who had never seen my work in real life, was amazed to find that some of the pieces he had seen in pictures were actually smaller than he had thought. The intricacy of this technique and the effort and time it takes to create large surfaces, can be an interesting motivation to “think smaller” (and this doesn’t necessarily have to always refer to the physical size of the piece).
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* The roots of the filigree technique in jewelry lie in ancient mediterranean cultures (the Phoenician, Etruscan and Greek Empires). With the rise of the Constantine Empire in the first millennium BC, the technique was introduced to Eastern Europe and the Caucasus. Filigree was, and still is, used in many parts of Latin America (as introduced by the colonial powers) and the Oriental world (from Northern Africa all the way to the Arab peninsula) as well as Asia. Filigree was also practiced throughout Europe (from Portugal, Spain and Italy, through the Alpine regions, all the way to Scandinavia, the Baltic states and the Balkans). In many parts of central and Western Europe today however, the technique is barely used anymore. The high cost of labour made it hard to produce and its distinctive style became generally unpopular in mainstream jewelry in Europe during the 20th century. 

Since ancient times the challenge of this technique was “to use minimal amount of precious metal to create an object of maximum size” (Oppi Untracht, “Traditional Jewelry of India”) and it remains an interesting challenge for today’s young jewelers and a sure source of inspiration!

*Among the things I always find inspiring is to look at traditional pieces and costumes from all around the world. Often they involve filigree. It is not only inspiring to study the actual pieces, but also the context and the way they were worn. One of my favorite examples is the national costume of Zeeland (a region in the Netherlands) where women wear the most amazing headgears.

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* In today’s world full of efficiency and simplifications, it can be rewarding to take some time for a closer look at such an ancient and intricate technique, which is so slow and so loaded with ornaments. I find that taking this step “backward”, can lead to unexpected steps forward/sidewards/inwards,… or it can lead to an in-depth examination of the present (work), with its underlying ideas and approaches.

* The word “filigree” is often used not only in relation to jewelry, but in general to poetically describe something fine, light, fragile and delicate, regardless of the dimensions. Many things, from sugar decoration for cakes to the work of the ingenious engineer Gustave Eiffel are all associated with “filigree.” When entering the German word “filigran” into an internet search engine, apart form jewelry one finds entries about insects, botany, tattoos, even construction of concrete bridges. No matter what size, “filigree/filigran” is a fascinating principle dealing with the use of the structure’s lightness to create space. Therefore, I believe that inspiration for fine pieces can be found anywhere, on the streets, in a hardware store, on a map, in a forest…

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BY THE 2ND YEAR ALCHIMIA MFA STUDENTS

Alchimia’s second year MFA team of students visited Schmuck 2016 with its curatorial studies tutor Antonia Alampi. They spent their time analyzing and closely discussing a select number of exhibitions among the more than 70 organized for this year’s event.

Our team of experts has been asked to act as critics: by reviewing an exhibition from the perspective of its infrastructure, by tracing and discussing parallels between exhibitions, or by tracing parallels and discussing this year’s jewelry week in relation to previous ones.

With the participation of Carla Movia, Lumy Noguez, and Chumeng Weng.

Check out our blog for next week’s Part II.

LUMY NOGUEZ

I’ve selected three exhibitions that have particularly interested me from different perspectives.

Hibernate – Helena Lehtinen, Eija Mustonen and Tarja Tuupanen

Beautifully made, featuring exceptional pieces in terms of technique, with a very straight-forward display: each work had next to it the pages of a book focusing both on the piece itself and on the exhibition as a whole, sewing together the different elements. Even
though it was a group show you could experience the strength of the individual practices by having in depth information about each one of them. The display was simple but tasteful and it related well to the show above by Ketli Tiitsar & Kristi Paap, with the organizers and artists being particularly warm and generous in responding to questions or clearing out doubts.

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Hibernate, photo by Lumy Noguez

By Royal Appointment – The Dialogue collective

This group really curated every detail! They transformed or created furniture in a cheap, but striking way. They thought about themselves as part of the exhibition, dressing up and performing in it, and had a thorough explanation about each artistic approach, and their display stratagems were always personal, but also relating well to the overall group decisions. The mode of (free) distribution they found via the use of funny brochures/pins was ingenious. The only weak point I found were the pieces themselves! Which I believe is one of the most important aspects. I had the impression that some of them focused a lot on making a good exhibition, but ultimately didn’t develop their own pieces as much. I think that all elements should be balanced, because what is the point of making a great and complete display when the quality of the pieces is missing and the exhibition ends up swallowing up your own work? Unless of course your intention is making of the exhibition itself a piece, but then it is necessary to make sure that the public understands that. This highlights the difficulty of being the artist and the curator of your own show.

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By Royal Appointment, all photos by Lumy Noguez

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Unbearable lightness – Federica Sala

This exhibition, more than anything else, was an inspiration for me. It was great to see this place completely transformed since last year. Even though the place is very characterized, it was conceptually related to the pieces. The light and the rough tables highlighted the elegant and striking contrast and tension that the works are all about. The artist did a good job in advertising her work inside and outside of the exhibition space, and in realizing “valuable” and “affordable” versions for everything so as to address and target different audiences. Such as the two versions of the book, or by realizing edition pieces (that were successfully very quickly sold) in addition to the more expensive ones.

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Unbearable Lightness, all photos by Lumy Nogues

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CHUMENG WENG

The exhibition (IM)PRINT left some imprints on me. It took place in easy!upstream, a project space that is clean, quiet and elongated. It featured twelve artists, which is a lot of people, with different cultural and educational backgrounds. The exhibition discussed the act of leaving an imprint on something in life, through different medias. The artists’ individual works remained autonomous and undisturbed by each other thanks to the dimension, but also the coherent use, of the white exhibition space. The works presented were extremely diverse: books, posters, prints, videos etc, all sorts of expressions that are usually not attached to conventional ideas about jewelry, all tied by the same topic, imprint. Of course there were artists that use jewelry as a medium (e.g. Nils Hint’s forged iron cut out and David Clarke’s pewter cutlery),  interestingly and perfectly relating to the overall theme.

A work by Japanese artist Yuka Oyama closed the exhibition, “Helmet – River” a performance film in which a group of collectives wearing white coveralls and helmets paint a carpet sized canvas together, a video-installation without any apparent relation to jewelry. The effect was ambiguous, and I find it too ambitious to expect the audience to be able to trace a connection between the film and the rest of the exhibition, without any linguistic or visual explanation of it. Whether intentional or not, the video had been set up in the back of the space at a converging point – a possible good conclusion, if my mind hadn’t  just been too exhausted from looking into the details of all the other pieces. But details is what jewelry is about…

(IM)PRINT is one of the few exhibitions that triggered my curiosity about the artists and the idea behind each piece. Most of them were extremely legible, however it would have been an added value if there were some knowledge shared about the artist and the circumstances that inspired him/her in creating the works. Ironically, little information was presented not for conceptual purposes, but due to a lack of preparation. On the other hand if there were explanations about everything it would have taken forever to read through the exhibition. An alternative could always be to select fewer artists.

I found this information lacking also in many other exhibitions. I felt like everyone was trying to be ‘conceptual’ by hiding their statements. Whereas when there were people explaining the ideas behind the works, the quality of the pieces seemed to not be as interesting as their concepts. I found students’ works being more conservative in comparison to last year’s MJW, with the exception of the exhibition by the students of the Central Saint Martins at Vitsœ Munich, titled “Shelf-Life”. The exhibition space was beautifully utilized and the pieces were interesting. The handout was an empty book cover, a quite original idea working well with the exhibition.

The auction was something new this year. It is a nice idea to provide an alternative to galleries and to bring in different ways of selling works or bringing in a diverse audience to the scene, even though most bidders seemed still to come from the same contemporary jewelry bubble. Adversely, an auction really needs more professional auctioneers, more viewable display systems for the pieces and a better conclusion for the audience – in general, a better organization.

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(IM)PRINT, photo by Chumeng Weng

CARLA MOVIA

The exhibition Hibernate, located in the basement of the 84ghz building, for me was a great example of a capturing and coherent show. Hibernate is not only the name of the book, but also the name of the collective formed by Helena Lehtinen, Eija Mustonen, and Tarja Tuupanen, three Finnish jewelry artists who have been working together since 1999.The exhibition itself was only part of the event as its book-launch was actually its real purpose, a quite nice inversion of trajectory.

The space, with its silence and “emptiness”, immersed me in a special mood immediately upon arrival. The first thing you could see was a pile of books with a plain white cover, which immediately struck my curiosity. Images of landscapes, jewelry pieces, landscapes and pieces, all somehow subtle and quiet, populate the books’ pages; I could understand the jewelry pieces just by looking at these images, with their magic and peace. The book depicts the work of the three artists and their surroundings, what Helena, Eija and Tarja see and live everyday. I bought the book to continue my journey through the show.

The second room was the exhibition space. It was darkened; the only source of light being a line of plain light bulbs placed on a narrow white table on which the pieces and the open books were laid. Once again, even in the space of the exhibition, the images completed the pieces and vice versa. Walking through the space, while looking at the pieces, I felt the same peace and quietness that the book evoked just a few minutes earlier. There were objects and jewelry, both made by very contrasting materials, but still speaking the same language. The strength of metal talked to the fragility of the thin chalkboards, black and white talked to colors, creating a harmonious dialogical atmosphere.

After going through the whole exhibition Eija, one of the artists, approached us explaining what the exhibition and their collective are about. Once again, everything she was depicting was retraceable in the book, display and pieces. Her explanation was the closure to a pleasant and fascinating exhibition.

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