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.
“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.
“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.
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)
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…
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.
“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?
“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).
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.
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.
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.