Jewellers Behaving Badly is an ongoing investigation into the ‘community’ that surrounds Contemporary Jewellery: Who are we, and what do we think about? Part 2 of this project is Shhh… Don’t Tell… a survey of the jewellery secrets of contemporary jewellery buyers - that rare and wonderful breed of person who invests in a living artistic project, a contemporary jewel…. If you are one of these people - click here to take the survey….
Jewellers: Please share your anonymous secret with me!
For the theory junkies: The Jewellers Behaving Badly Proposal for Radiant Pavilion 2017
‘Jeweller's Behaving Badly’ is a map of my jeweller peers and friends, and their deep, dark secrets. An exploration of the idea that we are all closely connected within a community by our profession, but also remain isolated as individuals by our private secrets and insecurities. It is also an opportunity for me to investigate the historical form and idea of a locket.
I was struck by the close community culture amongst jewellers, both local and visiting as they attended the inaugural Radiant Pavilion festival. There was an immense joy around this event for and about our shared passion and pursuit, as groups of jewellers travelled across Melbourne, bumping into each other repeatedly at one opening or another over the week. But the desire to revel with abandon, fuelled by gallery provisions of alcohol, was initially countered by the keeping-up-appearances requirements of politeness and appropriate behaviour that professional, organised culture entails. Politeness prevailed, of course, but throughout the festival, it began to fray slightly at the edges as Jewellers relaxed into themselves and became intoxicated by their involvement in the celebration: we spoke slightly louder, had just one more glass, took a sneaky second brooch from the street, left wine rings on the tops of and bumped into display cabinets, and began trying on the pieces from gallery walls. Jewellers began behaving badly.
Pravu Mazdumar wrote for Alchimia blog in 2016 about jewellery being part of the art of appearance that individuals must use to identify themselves and to be recognisable and active participants in a community. Omar Calabrese, in examining the history of artists’ self portraiture, concludes that the depiction of one’s self is inevitably grounded in, and challenges principle elements “(philosophical, social, artistic, figurative and linguistic)” of the culture we operate from. Another essay by Soojin Lee on Yayoi Kusama investigates the idea of an artist’s public persona as a “medium of art and politics” itself, crafted with the same level of intent as any other artwork they produce. I am interested in pursuing these three arguments through a simultaneous investigation of the history and architecture of the locket - as its most didactic example of portrait jewellery (e.g. picture lockets) and other functional forms (e.g. scent lockets), identifying and enabling the wearer to participate within their community and culture - with an exploration of the public and private identities of jewellers.
If jewellery can be explored and understood as a product and producer of culture - that people decorate themselves and each other to indicate social belonging, status and other symbols of culture, then it seems doubly interesting to examine the culture and expressions of jewellers themselves. The public personas of artists and makers seem to have become increasingly prominent elements of success in the market, and with the advent of social media, it is easier, as well as ever more expected for artists themselves to curate and present their own media self-portrait, rather than relying on the promotional efforts of their representing galleries. This portrait goes out to the consuming public, to institutions, but also to our peer community of jewellers. I believe that as much artistic and conceptual effort is being driven into the creation of this public persona as goes into works of jewellery produced. This is a social phenomenon of display and belonging - an investment in the ‘art of appearance’. Much of the Melbourne based contemporary jewellery community that I am aware of, operates on a self-motivated, self driven energy. Jewellers create galleries, exhibitions, and opportunities for themselves and other jewellers. Jewellers attend each other’s openings and follow other jewellers on instagram. It is a highly organised, insulated culture, which actively promotes and protects the jewellers who are part of it, and the contemporary jewellery that they make. Like any culture, it also actively sorts and dissuades elements and behaviours that are not appropriate to its goal. This is where I latch on - I am interested in social disobedience and disruption. Especially the ‘I can’t help it’ kind, that pushes its way through that calm and composed exterior to trip us up with ‘accidental’ glitches. Because it is so often these failures and secrets that actually bring us closer, make us laugh more at our humanity, and tighten our community relationships.
I expect the work I am proposing for Radiant Pavilion 2017 to evolve in form over the coming year in response to my research on lockets, their forms, purpose and meanings, and in response to the stories and participation of the jewellers who agree to share their confessions with me. The work will portray on the one hand, media-ready, posed studio portraits of my jeweller-participants, juxtaposed with the deep, dark confessions collected and displayed anonymously. As the work develops, it will result in a single piece, the portraits ‘networked’ together that will be worn by jewellers as they attend exhibitions, openings and events, around and throughout the Radiant Pavilion festival. I’d love jewellers to add to the #jewellersbehavingbadly to record and revel in our bad behaviour during the festival. And I'll be documenting my own adventures via @jewellersbehavingbadly