By cloelea, May 12 2017
In his work, the Serbian conceptual artist Peter Skubic talks about whether it is essential for an item to be defined as jewellery, to be wearable and comfortable to wear and even to be visible or to exist in the long term. For some jewellery artists, wearability is not important or necessary anymore. “The myth of wearing jewellery is not real, since most jewellery is actually in showcases or hanging on walls…” (Peter Skubic).
Here are two examples of jewellery which defy our idea of jewellery:
The first one is a ring made of mercury by Peter Skubic: “Mercury is a metal which, under normal conditions on our planet Earth, is in a liquid state of aggregation. That is quite fascinating. Instead of melting metal, filling it into the casting mould and waiting for the metal to solidify, I fill mercury into the mould, cool it in carbon dioxide snow and remove the now solid metal from the mould. One can look at the ring, – that is what it is-, until it melts at normal temperature and loses its form. The form is only memory” (Peter Skubic).
The other one, called Taschenrecorder, and made by the Austrian artist Manfred Nisslmüller, is a series of eight cassettes (named Brosche, Visage (die Augen … die Nase …), Geräusche, Vögel am Bach, Lärm, Hundegebell, Musik, Kirchenglocken) and a pocket tape recorder, placed in a red box.
The idea is to listen to one of these tapes (in any situation you want, it is always available since you can have it in your pocket) and hear a word being repeated indefinitely, like: Brosche, Brosche, Brosche, Brosche, Brosche, Brosche, Brosche, Brosche, Brosche, Brosche, Brosche, Brosche, Brosche, Brosche, Brosche…
“You will discover that the meaning of the word progressively evaporates. It becomes a chant, an obsessive litany; it insinuates itself into your brain and will disturb you perhaps just enough to become this Störung, this disturbance, which stands for the whole history of the brooch” (Monika Brugger, jewellery artist and jewellery history teacher, for further insight: https://artjewelryforum.org/brosche-or-the-jewelry-without-object-of-manfred-nisslmuller).
“Taschenrecorder is an object which resists “classical” display strategies: that is to say worn, hung up, or suspended behind glass” (Monika Brugger). This is deeply conceptual jewellery, and in my opinion, more likely to be related to conceptual art than jewellery, even jewellery as an art form. It belongs to the art performance and installation category, a very trending art form, but I am not convinced that jewellery, as an art form, can incorporate such a category. There has to be a definite distinction between an item of jewellery and a piece of art otherwise jewellery loses its identity.
“The concept of jewellery as having a function only when being worn is something I abhor. A car is a car also when it is parked, and I would not judge the quality of a painting by its size matching the space above the couch. There are more pieces of art stored in depots than are displayed or in use” (Peter Skubic).
Manfred Nisslmüller created a series, entitled Die Garnitur (The Set), of earrings, ring, brooch, bracelet and choker necklace that were cast in lead: consequently they weighted from 2 kg for the earrings and up to 42.2 kg for the choker necklace! Not actually made to be worn but the possibility is there.
I think in order to be classified as jewellery, as opposed to art, an artefact should be wearable, not necessarily comfortable or easy to wear, but nonetheless wearable one way or another. This is most important because I think that jewellery should eventually belong to a wearer. It is an item meant for someone else to wear. Whether it is eventually worn or just looked at is not important, but the possibility is a prerequisite.