Finding my jewelleryness whakapapa – or the lineage to my conceptual development.
The next big project we are working towards in Handshake 3 is a show at The Dowse Art Museum curated by Sian van Dyk. In preparation for this event, Sian has invited us to ‘Reflect’ on how and why we do jewellery.
Having fully/partially resolved my last inquiry into molten metal, I am at the point where that line of investigation may have finished (or not) and an entirely new thought process needs to begin. There is a Maori proverb that comes to mind here for me, Ka mura, ka muri: I must look to the past to see where my future work is. The artists and key pieces that influenced my journey still inform everything I do.
Looking back there are a few significant pieces or texts that can be seen as milestones in the development of my core contexts, the work that I have produced to date and the things that I strive to find or need to retain in future works.
Starting from the beginning (abridged – these ancestors have the loudest voice):
In 2004, I went to art school and learnt of Marcel Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’, which I was lucky enough to see recently in Sweden. About the same time I was looking at Andy Warhol’s Brillo boxes, Dick Frizzell’s fruit stall sign paintings, pop art and happenings.
My love of the readymade blossomed. Any thing has potential.
In 2005 I moved into the MIT jewellery department. One of the first brooches I remember making involved a vintage toy car that only needed me to add a new string and a brooch pin between the axels. As a brooch, it retained its function as a toy car. Most importantly, people always reached out to pull the string when I wore it. This reach out and touch interaction factor became a key context.
I learned about Otto Kunzli’s red dot and quickly found a red drawing pin to wear. A perfectly simple readymade that signified something had been ‘sold’. It was an easily recognisable language that was understood in fine art galleries everywhere.
I then moved on to making alien creatures with eyes and speakers attached. Communication devices that weren’t particularly wearable and didn’t make sound, but spoke of otherness.
Moving into silicone in 2006, I made the Tooty Hooter, a floppy alien creature that could be a spy microphone. Floppiness and wobbliness factors became very important because they got the attention of the viewer in the same way as string on a good readymade vintage racing car brooch.
In 2007, working at Masterworks, I encountered a Lisa Walker readymade that was essentially a piece of dirty green hose that she had wired a pin on. I loved the concept but found it very difficult to wear and I tried to wear it many times – it became phallic no matter how or where you wore it.
In 2008, reading Lisa Walker’s ‘unwearable’ there was a section on UHU glue. Shortly after that I encountered a tube of UHU with price tag still attached, so glued a safety pin on the back with UHU and called it a brooch. This has been one of the best viewer interaction devices ever. People always say things like “excuse me, do you know you have got some glue stuck to your shirt”.
In 2009 I made the Floppy Poppies brooch which captured the elemental perfectness of silicone and all it could bring to me and the viewer. The surrounding 4-5 years was more of the same but I never made anything better than the Floppy Poppy. I really pushed my silicone and found object pieces to death during Handshake 1 and very good things came of this.
In 2013 I made a snow brooch and got it on film. It is probably one of the best brooches I have ever made. Making videos wearable and making videos about jewelleryness has taken up much of my time since then.
I have also been obsessively melting metal which stems from an Otto Kunzli piece I saw on the Funaki website circa 2010: A melted blob of gold that had been flattened while wet. Elemental perfectness. I didnt know how he had done it so I tried to figure it out. Playing with wet metal is something I have been exploring on and off since then and what I decided to focus on leading up to the meteor shower I made for the Platina show.
There were things I had read about in books but not seen that were also very influential of course, especially during my last year at art school in 2007. I read something Liesbeth den Besten had written about Manfred Nisslmuller making a brooch with a tape deck hidden in his pocket repeating the word “brooch”. That idea absolutely that blew me away. Conceptual broochness. Also something Karl Fritsch wrote about his son Max painting a line around his arm and calling it a “conceptual bracelet”. This helped me contextualise a silicone bracelet that was stuck in a blob of Pinkysil I had smothered on it to make a mould. The bracelet had lost its physical braceletness and become a conceptual bracelet.
Rounding off (or naming) the concept of broochness and braceletness perfectly came with the word jewelleryness in Liesbeth den Besten’s article in Overview #16. “Jewelleryness” captures the vibe of the thing. It is in finding something that is screaming out to be worn. It is the reach out and touch factor, it is floppiness and wobbliness and viewer interaction. It is a language, it is a communication device. It is in just sticking a pin on it and calling it a brooch. It is in elemental perfectness. It is in knowing that something is jewellery because it has a hole in it. It is in projecting the jeweller’s eye view onto other things. It is about jewellery but does not necessarily need to be jewellery. Of course Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain was jewellery.
When we were in Sweden, Raewyn and I were walking across a bridge and I came up with a rather good quote “We didn’t come here to see jewellery, we came here to be jewellery”.
So I guess my path forward is all about jewelleryness and being jewellery. I will need to reflect on that some more…