- Liesbet Bussche, Hilde De Decker
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Afterschool is the fourth research project of the Jewellery Design department of St Lucas University College of Art & Design Antwerp and builds on the findings of the three previous projects: Artefact, Vormat (A concise account of relations through form and material), and UnScene (Jewellery and presentation). Since the launch of Afterschool in 2012, the project has involved researchers, lecturers as well as graduates.
Afterschool is interested in the positioning of artists after graduation and the reinforcement of the design practice of established artists. In other words, Afterschool focuses on ‘cultural entrepreneurship’ but challenges especially its intrinsic and artistic aspects. ‘To what extent can you intervene in a work of art in order to appeal to a broader audience?’ ‘Do some designs benefit from a strong campaign or another setting?’ ‘Should we look for a new context or position ourselves differently?’: these are just some of the questions raised by the research team.
As part of Afterschool, external coaches are interviewed in the MAKE ME series to gather advice and suggestions for the future. Past participants include Sofie Lachaert and Luc d’Hanis (Galerie Sofie Lachaert and SLLD), Margriet Vollenberg (Organisation in Design) and Thierry Brunfaut (Base Design). The interviews MAKE ME a future (the beginning), MAKE ME work (multiply the unique), MAKE ME show (tell your story), MAKE ME a face (create an identity) and MAKE ME money (professionalize your skills) are accessible on the website of the project.
Within Afterschool, MAKE ME party is the most important artistic project to follow directly from the MAKE ME series. The research team – composed of Clarisse Bruynbroeck, Liesbet Bussche, Hilde Van der Heyden, Pia Clauwaert and Hilde De Decker – collected tips and advice from the interviews but, contrary to all expectations, did not apply them literally in their individual artistic practices. On the contrary, the team turned this information into an autonomous project that is now touring internationally as MAKE ME party. The aim is that this artistic approach to research will have a greater impact on an audience than an illustrative interpretation of a number of concrete facts.
As a result, the project MAKE ME party functions as a means to further debate the appeal of contemporary jewellery. The research team wishes to conduct this discussion not only with jewellery makers but also and especially with a broad audience, hence the idea of organizing a sparkling party and inviting people – worldwide.
MAKE ME party was first organized on 24 June 2014 at Villa Bengel, the exhibition space of the former industrial chain factory Jakob Bengel in Idar-Oberstein. The project was held there at the invitation of the Gemstone and Jewellery department of the Trier University of Applied Sciences. Thanks to two webcams that were recording the entire happening via live streaming, not only the guests at Villa Bengel could join the party, but Internet users around the world too.
The party took place again on 6 November 2014 during the University College symposium of the Karel de Grote-Hogeschool in Antwerp (the party) and simultaneously at the SIERAAD Art Fair in Amsterdam (the live stream). The stored video is permanently available on http://streaming.kdg.be/P2G/cataloguepage.aspx.
With MAKE ME party, Afterschool is organizing, not an exhibition, but a – sparkling – party. All of the party’s ingredients present subtle references to the world of jewellery, from the drinking cups to the wine, the music to the snacks, the napkins to the toilet paper. Afterschool’s research team acts as the hostess of this perfectly orchestrated party where each visitor will feel surprisingly ‘made up.’
The essence of jewellery is that it is a catalyst of longings and fears, emotions, sexual desires, social relations and the need for an identity of one’s own, in brief, a catalyst of everything that drives people in life. Whoever is aware of the incredible wealth of decorative and symbolic value that jewellery has embodied in its long history and of the elementary motives that underlie the wearing of jewels will, on the basis of reciprocity, always be able to find a confirmation of his or her own identity and longings in these small objects and thus also something that makes them happy.
(M. Unger, Sieraad in context: Een multidisciplinair kader voor de beschouwing van het sieraad [‘Jewellery in context: A multidisciplinary framework for the consideration of jewellery’], Leiden, 2010)
A project like MAKE ME party proves that jewellery’s appeal still resides in what is most ordinary. For instance, jewels and their accompanying characteristics are often used as elements of seduction in advertising campaigns. The same kind of light deceit – i.e., the appeal to the human quest for identity and the conjuring of virtually unquenchable longings – is the starting point of this party.
The MAKE ME party project makes use of the familiar language used around jewellery (silver, gold, pearl, ruby, diamond, etc.) and in doing so refers both to its physical characteristics (brilliance, gleam, etc.) and to its associative, often symbolic meaning (beauty, preciousness, vanity, etc.). Guests are surrounded all evening by luxurious materials and tempted by shine and glint during this sparkling party.
MAKE ME party is a way to challenge us, jewellery designers, into getting involved once more in the game of longing and temptation and into formulating a contemporary response. Can we convey this same longing that is staged in MAKE ME party – and the accompanying products – to the public and thereby develop our practice more successfully?
The project can also be seen as a light-hearted commentary on the closed world of contemporary jewellery. For the main part, jewellery remains destined for everyday life and not for the display cabinets of galleries, museum archives or the storage drawers of collectors. With this project, the research team of Afterschool wishes to give makers and wearers a fresh view on a contemporary discourse.
About the author
Liesbet Bussche (Antwerp, 1980) is a Belgian artist who lives and works in Amsterdam. She studied Jewellery Design at St Lucas University College of Art & Design Antwerp and at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie from where she graduated in 2009. Prior to this, she studied cinematography in Brussels and worked for several years as a television journalist.
In her work she is particularly interested in the medium ‘jewellery’ in itself and the position it occupies – as broad as possible a position – in the everyday life of its wearers. Or rather, her work is about consciously taking a second look at a familiar everyday environment and how it can be re-visualized.
Since 2011, she has been a researcher at the Jewellery Design department of St Lucas University College of Art & Design Antwerp, where she forms the department’s research team with Hilde De Decker, Hilde Van der Heyden and Pia Clauwaert. The researchers also call on lecturers, external coaches and graduates to discuss current jewellery discourses. The research team aims to realize and present their projects both inside and outside the jewellery field.
Hilde De Decker (1965) is a jewellery artist based in Londerzeel (BE). She began her education studying interior architecture at Sint-Lucas Ghent, and later obtained an MA in jewellery design at the Sint Lucas University College of Art & Design Antwerp. Her first solo exhibition, Eva's Cushion, was presented at Galerie V&V, Vienna, in 1996. Since then, she has exhibited internationally and developed a critical design practice that deals with aspects of value, memory and domesticity. Her initial interest in interior architecture still marks her jewellery and objects, in particular when she carefully orchestrates installations and environments.
Amongst other distinctions, in 2008 she was awarded the City Goldsmith's Price in Hanau (DE). She was lecturer at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy from 2000 till 2008; currently, she is Director of the Jewellery Design and Silversmithing Program at Sint Lucas University College of Art & Design Antwerp (BE). Her work features in private and public collections, most notably the CODA Museum, Apeldoorn (NL), the Design Museum, Ghent (BE), and the FNAC, Paris (FR).
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