Tag Archives: Benjamin Lignel

Please visit the original post ——–> HERE 

BL: Loved your enthusiastic scribbling on Bourriaud. I have a problem with your working hypothesis (as usual!?) but like your dauntless crusade!

Where I find you err (!?) is that (1) you assume that the similarities between art and jewelry are what will bring them closer (2) you use as ‘proof’ an example that is particularly unhelpful: Bourriaud’s relational aesthetics texts encapsulates a ‘meaningful departure from the norm’ amongst contemporary art makers: a way of engaging the public that is new, exciting, and representative of larger social concerns. However, while it is new and exciting for art, it is old (and exciting) for jewelry: i.e. jewelry, as you point out, has always relied on a form of public sharing to function. So in my eye, ‘relational’ is not how jewelry becomes more like art, but how art becomes more like jewelry.

KR: I am smiling. And I both agree and disagree with you. Yes, perhaps it is old and exciting for jewelry, but it doesn’t hurt to bring those qualities to the surface and compare it to something so concrete in contemporary art (has it been done?), so that at the very least, dummies who have never thought about jewelry, in its old sense or contemporary sense, can at least take a new kind of pleasure in it, or consider it (even just a tiny bit) to be something bigger and more complex than they ever gave it credit for.

It’s more like, hey everyone, you think this bourriaud relational shit is cool? well guess what: we’ve already been doing that for… ever. so maybe it is worth thinking about, or at the very least enjoying. oh and here’s a whole bunch of jewelry that you’ve never seen before, or even knew existed! you’re welcome. 

BL: I am smiling as well. Comparing is fine, and the way you express it there is more to the point, I think. I would urge you to envisage the possibility that what will make CJ more ‘like art’ is precisely what makes it different from art as we know it.

This dialogue was taken from email correspondance on April 30, 2013. Mr. Lignel is my editor at AJF. 

What Is It That You Do Exactly? | Art Jewelry Forum <—- click here!

forever young at gallery spektrum, 2012

HELLO READERS!  So happy to announce that after months of waiting, the article I wrote for AJF is finally published on their site. It addresses the lack of categorization within contemporary jewelry work and experiments with trying to do that by breaking apart the different types of exhibitions that we have. Give it a read and tell me what you think.

Here’s a quote I used from Bruce Althsuler to try and demonstrate contemporary jewelry’s relatively slow pace when it comes to dealing with new categories:

Institutional structures created at an earlier time to meet different needs are being called into question by new artistic media and by the use of the term contemporary to designate a particular kind of artwork. Alternative conceptions of the artwork and new technologies have created special problems of preservation and conservation. Broader social and political changes have generated new artistic categories and have broken down established national and ethnic divisions, all of which have affected how collections are built and their contents organized.”

(From Collecting the New) 

Looking at past and current exhibitions is one way we can begin to think about breaking down how we consider and value what is being made. It’s like working in reverse. Whether the exhibition initiative is institutional or independent, and even if the distinction between assembling, selecting, and curating is lost on exhibition organizers (as it most often is), sorting through various shows and analyzing the associations being forged between pieces and their authors can help us see more clearly what kind of work exists within the field. If certain exhibition types help us identify subgenres within contemporary jewelry, then makers and writers may subsequently discover better ways of defining the work at hand and explaining it to others. 

(quoting myself above)

Thank you both Damian Skinner and Benjamin Lignel for editing this piece




What does Contemporary Jewellery mean? 

Not very much, to anyone outside the profession; but the question is a helpful reminder that:

1/ in most countries, the debate will never find an audience outside the actual community that launched it;

2/ this is a simplistic label, falling short of the profession’s complex heritage and range of interests.

But it’s a tricky one, and I tried to list some of the ways one could answer it:

Contemporary Jewellery is a type of practice – understood as the contemporary offspring of a craft-based design activity that finds its origin in medieval workshops. Such a definition stresses contemporary jewellery’s historical past, and finds antecedents in the British and American Arts & Crafts movements, the renewed late XIXth century interest in manual skills (as a last stand against industrialisation), and the emergence of radical jewellery movements in the 60s: it underlines the notions of individuality, craftsmanship, and its troubled relationship to the production mainstream;

or a type of object: poised between high-street jewellery and art (the former’s glorified other, the latter’s poor relative), we know what it’s not (‘just’ manufactured artefacts for wearing), and what it wants to be (the expression of individual talent that reflects on, and sometimes influences, contemporary culture), much less what it is. 
A few distinctive characteristics, however, seem to be beyond debate: the human body as a general working area; an open attitude to methods and material that echoes art’s own agenda, complicated by the notion of wearability; the distinctiveness we associate with individual expression; and an emancipation from consumer goods’ vocation to ‘just’ satisfy consumer desires.

It could also be defined as a market (I follow here the argument that cultural artefacts are defined less by methods of production than by distribution, accessibility and ultimately, potential impact on a larger consumer base). In most countries, a limited number of galleries take care of both distribution and promotion – while the designer-maker is expected (if (s)he wants to make a living) to be represented by at least five galleries, and complement consignment sales by direct, off-the-anvil transactions. From my point of view, the Contemporary Jewellery market works in ways similar to the art market, but on a scale so small, that its lack of visibility questions its existence.

So then: most jewellers would agree that Contemporary Jewellery is a fast-evolving profession at a crossroad between craft, design, and art, currently ridged by identity concerns. However, I think that the problem, rather than one of identity, is one of image. Although the lack of an established definition has contributed to an extremely rich range of output -personal answers to a collective question- it seems that diversity stands in the way of a more cohesive front, one that would focus on explaining to people that there is a life after Cartier, Pomellato and Tiffany’s. And the unsuspecting public still lumps the practice together with its craft-based past, judges its production on a par with high-end (or any other) jewellery, and considers artistic ambition rather like a presumptuous fancy (unless one equates ‘artistic’ with ‘skilled’, ‘meaningful’ or ‘committed to self-expression’).

This happens at least for two reasons:

Firstly, there are not enough of us to rally a larger population to Contemporary Jewellery’s standards: exposure is limited by the output (there are comparatively few jewellery design programs, fewer graduates that stick to the trade, and not many pieces produced per year per jeweller). This scarcity of active jewellery makers is further complicated by our cultural antagonism with serial reproduction -and therefore, bigger distribution (1). A cynical bystander would add: this is a micro-profession, which means little appeal to the press, anaemic cultural budgets, no specific courses in the history of Contemporary Jewellery (to my knowledge), and therefore, no history. As a result, Contemporary Jewellery is always deemed a subsidiary activity, on the margin of mainstream jewellery creation. 
Secondly, designer-makers are by nature a/o trade, uncommunicative, or certainly not prone to enthusiastic pamphlet scribbling. Who’s ever heard of Contemporary Jewellery, outside its confidential network of galleries and specialised clientèle?

The situation, and this is my point, demands more than just communication: instead of shunning assertive promotion/information strategies (for fear of contamination?), we must resist inertia from within and without that confine Contemporary Jewellery to its ill-defined (but restricting) marginal position, and explore new means of proliferation.

So we should communicate more. And explain our intentions. But in the end, let us not be too intent on defining our practice as one thing only: if anything, I would even drop the ‘Contemporary’ or ‘Studio’ used to qualify this jewellery: whatever specific meaning it may have had is now superseded by a vague sense of institutionalised ‘otherness’.

Let’s be proud, and call it jewelry.