by Chumeng Weng
In early September, when stores were sluggish from the August heat and new students started to invade the city again, I got a chance to escape to the north of Italy. Trieste, a city bordered by Slovenia and the Adriatic Sea, has impressed me with its multicultural background and a scenic view. To skip the lonely planet kind of introduction, I’ll jump to saying that Trieste is also the hometown of Carla Movia who is a promising graduate student and teaching assistant of Alchimia. She is a jeweler, an artist, a generous host during my trip, and above all a dear friend.
Carla Movia participated in a project titled Artefatto, the result of a yearly open call for participation addressed to young emerging artists from all over the world under 31 years old and based on a different theme each year. The project was initiated by the Youth Aggregation Centres of the Municipality of Trieste as a result of a networking between educational institutions, cultural organizations, local communities and their younger generations. The Municipality of Trieste supported and enhanced this event through an art exhibition and several collateral activities such as ARTEFATTO zoom!
The 11th edition of Artefatto included the work of 40 artists, 8 of which were selected to be part of a show also in ARTEFATTO zoom, in different spaces of the city related to a number of curatorial choices.
The opening took place on September 9th with an ice installation by Fabio Ranzolin placed in the middle of the entrance of ITIS (Azienda pubblica di Servizi alla Persona). A nursing home is not normally associated to art activities. However this environment the artist chose spoke very directly to the topics he wanted to address: the personal experience with his mother suffering from the Alzheimer Disease. Two rows of wine glasses were placed on a block of ice with pure friction. Intensified dripping sound corresponding to the action was being constantly looped in the background. Each second the tension was stretched a bit more since the sound kept reminding the audiences that there would be a moment when the friction will no longer hold the glasses on the ice block as slowing melting away, and all would snap into a million of pieces. It was not a site specific piece but was extremely fitting with the artist’s intention. It was beautiful to perceive the strong collaboration, the support and solidarity existing between very different sectors of the city.
After this opening event, four exhibitions inaugurated too, all only for one hour, and in four locations. Artworks used a variety of media, and locations seemed to have always been carefully chosen in relation to the content of the exhibitions. It really felt as an exhibition organized by and for young people, jumping around locations on high heels and never complaining, even though I wonder what it meant for the artists to have a one hour only show.
Carla Movia was one of the 8 finalists, and exhibited some of her brooches (part of her graduate work) at the art gallery EContemporary in a show curated by Elena Cantori. Amongst all paintings, sculptures, photographs, videos and installations, jewellery sounded like an odd field to be included. However, and fortunately, to discuss whether or not contemporary jewellery belonged to the visual arts world seemed rather unnecessary at this point. For it is not the medium that determines whether or not something should be considered as art. In fact the most important aspect here seemed to be whether the artworks were capable of communicating the artists’ thoughts and research to the public in a creative way. Artists didn’t need a million dollar idea to start with, but an originality in their proposed answer to the general thematic framework. Carla Movia’s jewellery pieces were perfectly responding to this context. Her collection of brooches is made out of cans composed of containers and lids. They are a vivid illustration of marginalized individuals evaluated due to pre-established prejudices and processes of stereotyping. Stripped off of their original functions as cans, they become brooches, portraits, sculptures and recordings of a statement. Most importantly, they become a symbol of our societal norms. Movia does not only represent an issue, but also encourages a moment of reflection to a public that is essentially implicated in the problem.
I find that the world of contemporary jewellery takes itself too seriously. Why are we often so persistent in our need to define what we do and where we belong to? Is it self reassurance we need, to justify the fact that we produce a type of jewellery that has nothing to do with the traditional jewellery making doctrine? Movia in this case did not trouble herself with defining the boundaries of contemporary jewellery or contemporary art. She did not even have the intention to blur disciplinary borders or to be a “jewellery activist” of sort. To be fair not everyone has an instinctual understanding of her works and it’s not easy to reach the conceptual and formal qualities she achieved. Her work is the result of years of practice, research and discussion. Movia studied at Alchimia for five years and to some extent Alchimia can really be considered more than a jewellery school, as the questions you face during your studies there become existential, philosophical, they put into questions a lot of who you are and what you do, leading to continuously reconsidering yourself.
All the artists participating in the show at Econtemporary gallery had to personally introduce their work before an audience. Movia’s talent in talking about her work proved once again how Alchimia’s students are armed from head to toe to defend their work. Movia was able to talk about her project in just a few sentences like a veteran that talked about her war badges all the time.
I felt lucky to be a fellow classmate of Movia and see how her thoughts and works have developed over the past two years. Of course not all of us have her strength and mentality, and not all of us are interested in creating relations between jewellery techniques, worldwide conflicts and self recognition. But Alchimia over the past years has achieved so much in the contemporary jewellery scene. With her students being awarded all around the world and the school being nominated at different fairs and competitions…prospective students flock into the school like mad worshippers. The quality of teaching is not a guarantee for success, we as students also need to put in a huge amount of effort and energy. It always is a mutual interaction that leads to collaboration as well as conflict.
Best of luck to all the young artists out there, stay young, stay hungry.
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.