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From the Subjectivity of the Biennial to the Diversity of Curatorial Discourse. Art Jewellery is a Crucial Battlefield

Article  /  Critical ThinkingReviewCurating
Published: 05.06.2016
From the Subjectivity of the Biennial to the Diversity of Curatorial Discourse. Art Jewellery is a Crucial Battlefield.
Author:
Petra Bole
Edited by:
Klimt02
Edited at:
Gamischdorf
Edited on:
2016
Museum of Modern Art Ugo Carà, Muggia: Silvia Beccaria.
Museum of Modern Art Ugo Carà, Muggia: Silvia Beccaria

© By the author. Read Klimt02.net Copyright.

Intro
Exhibitions such as biennials provide a platform for artists, critics, and collectors to come together and interact, and where many new artworks are shown to the public for the first time.
 
IV International Biennial of Contemporary Jewellery
May 13 – June 6, 2016
Museo d’Arte Moderna Ugo Cará Muggia Italy, Palazzo Manzioli Isola and Gallery Drat Isola Slovenia


While today's art jewellery world continues to expand, with an increasing number of exhibitions, projects, workshops, jewellery weeks and educational programs, the form of the biennial remains relatively uncommon inside art jewellery world. The term biennial was popularised by the Venice Biennale, which was first held in 1895, and since then has been used for other artistic events, such as the Documenta, Manifesta, Bienal de São Paulo, and Berlin Biennale, among many others. In addition to being economically dynamic, most successful cities have to provide a wide range of cultural events, and biennials are just one of the ways to achieve this, as well as attracting a greater number of tourists, very similar to sports events or trade fairs. The Calendar of International Biennials (1) for the year 2016 contains a list of 42 biennales, held all around the world. Some are noted for their innovative installations, others for their impact on contemporary art, either globally or in a given country. However, if we turn to the art jewellery scene, which this year will only have METALLOphone in Lithuania and the FiloRosso Bijoux Biennial in Italy and Slovenia, then we may naturally wonder why there seems to be such little interest in having art jewellery biennials. In this text I would like to open a discussion about the importance of biennials, and the role of curators inside the art jewellery world. Exhibitions such as biennials provide a platform for artists, critics, and collectors to come together and interact, and where many new artworks are shown to the public for the first time. Biennials also provide an important site for academic and critical inquiry, and in this context two of the key tasks are to select the biennial theme and the curator, and it is this latter individual who we could compare to a star, or one who will shortly become one.
 
  • In each case the curator is someone who watches over something, suggesting an inherent relationship between care and control. Or, as the father of modern curators Harald Szeemann writes, "The word curator already contains the concept of care."

The development of the role of the curator is probably one of the most interesting phenomena in contemporary art. The word curator is of Latin origin (curare – taking care of), but the ‘idea has been around for as long as there were bodies of objects or knowledge to preserve and perpetuate. In English it evolved to mean "guardian" or "overseer", and its more active derivative “curating” is a neologism that only gained wider currency in recent decades. The term "curator" emerged in 1362 to signify people who cared for minors or lunatics, and in 1661 it began to denote "one in charge of a museum, library, zoo or other place of exhibit." (2) In each case the curator is someone who watches over something, suggesting an inherent relationship between care and control. Or, as the father of modern curators Harald Szeemann writes, "The word curator already contains the concept of care." (3) But what exactly is Szeemann referring to here? This has a number of implications that influence how the role of the curator has been understood through its development and various forms of operation. As noted by the art historian Terry Smith, there are a number of impulses that are reshaping modern curatorial thinking (4), such as the desire to be innovative within exhibition formats, with the curator working as a researcher, engaged in activist curating and extending the practice into educational activities – all of this, of course, besides the main goal of curators in this context, which is research and writing about art. The Croatian philosopher Boris Buden, who wrote ‘Towards the Heterosphere: Curator as Translator’, discussing Walter Benjamin’s ‘The Task of the Translator’, stated that the supplementary and indirect location of the curator might be understood as an inhibitor of immediate or true relations between the art object and an audience. However, Buden contends that, like that of the translator, the role of the curator has undergone a significant shift in social and cultural value, and involves the rewriting of historical texts and the filtering of what is communicated. (5) At this point we could ask ourselves, what is the role of the art jewellery curator, and what was happening in FiloRosso Bijoux 2016?

The curatorial theme for the IV International Biennial of Contemporary Jewellery is red thread (Italian FiloRosso Bijoux). This event was born in 2008 at a creative meeting between the curator Isabella Bembo, the goldsmith Maurizio Stagni and the City of Muggia in Italy. This year the IV International Biennial of Contemporary Jewellery was set up in two parts. The first was held between December 11, 2015 and January 24, 2016, while the second took place between May 13 and June 6, 2016. The FiloRosso Bijoux Biennial was created primarily to promote the Municipality of Muggia in Italy in collaboration with Municipality of Isola, Slovenia, and the Province of Trieste. FiloRosso Bijoux 2016 has once again invited international artists to investigate the medium of textiles, from both artistic and craft-based perspectives, with an emphasis on the hybridisation of the form itself, as well as on a critical assessment of the legacy of the concept of textile jewellery. Textiles for use in the biennial were donated by the company C&C Milano. More than 80 artists signed up for the project, and each received a piece of material to work with, thus expressing their creativity, sense of narrative concept and current attitude towards jewellery. However, the main purpose of this biennial is to bond artists, curators and institutions.
 
  • Moreover, contemporary art curators are increasingly expected to be up-to-date and knowledgeable about events happening all around the globe.

But how is all this related to the role of the curators inside the art jewellery world? The art world today is concerned with the problematization of curatorial activity, or the process of ‘self-reflexivity’ as a continuous questioning of all the traditional demarcations between different artistic practices. However, at the same time, the curator's basic role is still much less defined in relation to art jewellery than within the wider art world. In relation to an institution, the curator’s role is multidirectional, and embraces a wide range of skills - from expressing an understanding of an interest in contemporary art jewellery, to the practice of public relations and the quest for more financial resources, as well as the technical planning of exhibitions and design of educational programs. However, the understanding of art jewellery that curators tend to have is often only at the level of personal interest, with a lack of theoretical research. Moreover, contemporary art curators are increasingly expected to be up-to-date and knowledgeable about events happening all around the globe. Turning to the art jewellery scene, it can be said that the curator’s role is too often focused on organizing the whole event at minimal cost, with no theoretical reflection and few attempts to encourage critical thinking about art, but instead only working to gather artists together and promote the organizers.

FiloRosso Bijoux 2016, the second part of the biennial, was presented in three main locations: the Museum of Modern Art Ugo Carà in Muggia, the Gallery Drat and Palazzo Manzioli in Isola, thus moving between two countries, Italy and Slovenia. The Museum of Modern Art Ugo Carà, the first location of the biennial, showed works by the Croatian jewellery artist Nenad Roban, who is also professor and was a member of the jury at the first International Biennial of Contemporary Jewellery, with items taken from various points in his thirty-year career since graduating from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. In addition to Roban, this exhibition also showed works by the Italian jewellery artist and textile designer Silvia Beccaria.

Nenad Roban: “Nenad Roban_car” and Lotto Necklace



Nenad Roban sees his jewellery as a reflection of his personal thoughts. Jewellery can focus on someone's social status, political views, the concept of luxury, or simply be something worn for aesthetic reasons. Yet one of Roban’s first inspirations is the world of nature, and his deep research into different kinds of material. The resulting works express his ideas about freedom, such as the freedom of unknown parts of the body, as well as the freedom of different feelings, private spaces, harmony, and chaos, and working with no hesitation to invent new forms of jewellery. His works are based on narrative concepts, referring to historical values and geometrical forms, expressing emotional concepts with a rational approach to any given theme, and based on thorough research into the nature of the materials being used. The jewellery of Nenad Roban offers the possibility of a metaphysical meditation on form, colour, space, playfulness, and light. The pieces can be understood as small architectural works which are worn on the body, or small sculptures which enable an existential perception of space.


Silvia Beccaria: “Mora d’inverno”, 2014 and “Fire Carminia”, 2009



Silvia Beccaria works on the symbiosis of mind and handwork - often breaking the rules, albeit with an awareness of the ancient legacy of hand weaving - and, at the same time, expressing herself with contemporary codes in both her research and experiments. In her works she expands the definition of “fibre” to include industrial, non-recycled, anonymous, and marginal materials, like PVC, rubber, plastic, latex, polyurethane and so on - to produce items which are hand-woven and wearable. She has long been fascinated by how the hands can work to produce a "form", with weaving used as her expressive instrument to produce items that are used for adornment. Her work is also inspired by nature in all its manifestations, seen as a work of art. The shapes and colours of seeds, leaves, fruits, and sea creatures thus serve to inspire her, their beauty often being expressed in the form of necklaces.


Vered Babai: “White Forest”, 2015 and “Plume”, 2014


Gallery Drat was the second location for the biennial, and is the only place for contemporary jewellery in Slovenia, supported by the efforts of its enthusiastic founder, Sandra Kocjančič. This gallery presented the work of the Israel artist Vered Babai, one of three artists with a solo exhibition at this event. Babai’s dialogue between jewellery and photography represents her thoughts about identifying and representing certain patterns found in nature. The main reason why she works in this manner, and aims to convey abstract feelings, ideas and emotions through materials, is that the ability to use her hands and experience physical work gives her a lot of confidence and joy. (6) Babai’s pieces are made of seemingly worthless materials, like twigs and feathers, alongside silver and gold, and for this show she presented the author with a new catalogue, with a red thread tied poetically around the cover.

Alix Tran, “Peter Pan Collar”, 2015


The Premio FiloRosso 2015-2016 Award, the symbol of the this event, was awarded to the French artist Alix Tran for the “Pan del Collare” - Peter Pan necklace - and presented in the Manzioli Palace, the third location of biennial, where a number of works produced exclusively for the IV International Biennale of Contemporary Jewellery were also shown.

Agatha Ruiz de la Prada and Isabella Bembo


The Premio FiloRosso Award and the selection of jewellery for this competition were decided by the following jury: Israeli artist Vered Babai; Marianne Gassier, of the blog Bijou contemporain; Jean-Yves Le Mignot, founder of the European Academy of Contemporary Jewellery; Giovanni Micera, director of Preziosa Magazine; and Agatha Ruiz de la Prada, Spanish fashion designer; who nominated following artists: Sigal Meshorer (Israel), Biljana Klekackoska (Macedonia), Noga Harel (Israel), Heidemarie Herb (Germany) and Aleksandra Atanasovski (Slovenia).
 
  • However, art jewellery in general still suffers from a lack of visibility, understanding and consequent popularity in comparison with the rest of the art world, and there are several reasons for this, with both biennials and jewellery curators being able to help address this situation.

The art jewellery world is now a part of the art world, with much the same organizing structures, due to the efforts of authors, museums, galleries, curators, educators, sponsors, supporters, markets and collectors. However, art jewellery in general still suffers from a lack of visibility, understanding and consequent popularity in comparison with the rest of the art world, and there are several reasons for this, with both biennials and jewellery curators being able to help address this situation. Thanks to Isabella Bembo, the huge task of planning and staging FiloRosso Bijoux 2016 has been completed, but there still remains a question as to whether the art world will recognize the IV International Biennial of Contemporary Jewellery as an important development in the field of art jewellery, or just another exhibition. As the curator Isabella Bembo notes, “FiloRosso Bijoux has come a long way, but the journey is still young and fresh, and it is important not to stop.” It is thus good to know that she already has interesting plans for the fifth FiloRosso in 2017.
 

References

1 http://universes-in-universe.org/eng/. Calendar of international Biennials and Other Regular Exhibitions. 2016. 21. May 2016.
 
2 From On-line Etymology Dictionary, Douglas Harper (www.etymonline.com, 2001), cross-referencing The Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology, ed.Robert K. Barnhart (New York: Harper Resource, Harper Collins Publishers, 1995) p. 178-179.
 
3 Szeemann, Harald. “Does Art Need Directors?”.Kuoni, Carin. A Curator’s Vade Mecum on Contemporary Art. Ed. Carin Kuoni. New York: Independent Curator’s International, p. 167, 2001.
 
4 Smith, Terry. Thinking Contemporary Curating. New York: Independent Curators International, p. 22, 2012.
 
5 Lundh, Johan. “Performing the Curatorial: Within and Beyond Art.“ Journal of Curatorial Studies, p. 162, 2013.
 
6 Interview by email, 21. May 2016

About the author

Petra Bole is an assistant professor at Faculty of Design in Slovenia where she is in charge for Department of Product Design. As doctor in humanities wrote a thesis on jewellery as art, investigating different art theories, philosophical and sociological aspects of art jewellery. She works as an artists, writer, editor and lecturer. Her educational background is in architecture (Faculty of Architecture Ljubljana) and jewellery (Master of Art at Sir John Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design London).
 
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