“Placed between the body and the world…” Pravu Mazumdar

By cloelea, Jul 11 2017 

Schliemann’s wife wearing what it was supposed to be Helen of Troy’s jewels

“Dear Jewellery,”

People continue “… to associate you with the vanity of a wearer expressed within the context of a social event… there seems to be a strange aura of vulgarity around you, as if you were something like an anthropological undergarment to be ashamed of or in any case not worth reflecting on”.

As the Indian Munich-based philosopher Pravu Mazumdar puts it (in: Wishful Thinking. On hybridity, human nature and the future of jewellery).

I would like to mention this very interesting article about (amongst other things) how jewellery is generally perceived (as an insignificant element of life, a futility that is not useful to talk about) and about trying to reach a definition of jewellery that would satisfy it deeper meaning.

“From its earliest manifestations on, jewellery has functioned as an intermediary. The actual work of art resulting from the process of making, wearing and displaying it, is neither the biological body of the wearer nor an object attached to the body, but the hybrid entity of an animal organism draped in metals, minerals, etc., to attain something like a temporary enhancement associated with a particular moment in time” (Pravu Mazumdar).

What I like about his definition is that it included the act of wearing and the wearer as part of the jewellery. In my opinion, jewellery is not just an object of its own: that would not be jewellery, it would only be an artefact of display, an art piece or an ornament. Jewellery is and exists only as part of someone’s body and hence someone’s existence.

“Jewellery is optimally qualified to produce enhancement. Adornment is the degree zero of enhancement and is often expressive of the power of the powerless. As long as women are oppressed, they are expected to be made pretty through jewellery. As long as elementary needs like dignity and participation are side-lined by the dispositive of consumerism, things like necklaces, brooches, rings will spiral down to mere adornment. The moment jewellery finds its place in the contemporary world as an act of resistance and as an expression of autonomy with respect to a norm, it triggers off the ancient project of self-enhancement” (Pravu Mazumdar).

This “project of self-enhancement” (wearing jewellery) as it was thought of in prehistoric times should be understood as : “… an urge not only towards survival, but also towards excess, understood as the drive, the act and the experience of exceeding oneself” (Pravu Mazumdar).

“Placed between the body and the world, jewellery is neither something merely biological, nor purely social, nor as distantly objective as the mountains or the stars. It is neither only natural nor only cultural, neither only animal nor only mechanical or artifactual, neither only material nor only immaterial. It is simply an intermediary, understood as the medium of hybridity of a materially and symbolically enhanced organism” (Pravu Mazumdar).

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