With Jewelry: je(WE)lry

Published: 27.05.2021
Matt Lambert
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Edited at:
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Haydee Alonso. Bangle: Untitled, 2015. Copper, brass. Photo by: Juuke Schoorl. From series: Inter-Acting. Haydee Alonso
Bangle: Untitled, 2015
Copper, brass
Photo by: Juuke Schoorl
From series: Inter-Acting
© By the author. Read Copyright.

Jewelry is a menace to thinking in neat and tidy ways. I was invited to write a mini-series about some of the possibilities and potentials of how jewelry can function with, and illustrate, larger, often poetic ways of thinking. The pieces are in conversation with each other. After all, I think of them as tools, rather than end products. An invitation for us to dance in possibility – in a realm beyond the binary right and wrong.

Klimt02's With Jewelry series are not manifestos but prompts and dialogue springboards whose intention is to enrich, engage or entangle with larger ideas, rather than to resolve.
If one can put it like this, there is no other meaning than the meaning of circulation. But this circulation goes in all directions at once, in all the directions of all the space-times [les espace-temps] opened by presence: all things, all beings, all entities, everything past and future, alive, dead, inanimate, stones, plants, nails, gods – and "humans", that is, those whose expose sharing and circulation as such by saying "we", by "saying we" to "themselves" in all possible senses of that expression, and by saying we for the totality of all being. (1)
 / Jean-Luc Nancy

When I sit down to make often where and with whom I learned the techniques used in my work comes to mind. However, in these times of lockdowns and isolation, this question takes a different shape in my head.

When we make are we really alone?

As someone who just moved across the ocean in the middle of a pandemic, my physical social interactions are limited, and often I find myself grappling with feelings of loneliness. Perhaps, jewelry is a way to keep company. To physically ground our distant digital messages of expressing our longing to gather together.

Craft in part is a learned set of skills transmitted by individuals, in localities. Do we "own" skills or are we housing this skilled knowledge as caretakers? Our embodied knowledge is a lineage which makes it virtually impossible to make alone, right? Even if you don’t buy into those poetics, I inquire where the "we" comes in. Is it through the act of wearing? If jewelry is to be worn and/or interacted with, does it not need someone to be completed? Then jewelry becomes a social system of circulation.

I would like to propose here that jewelry is not a solo action. In jewelry there is an ability to cite our sources, to position ourselves in communion, just as writing does. This does not diminish the value of an author but instead builds structure and family. A solo protestor becomes part of the collective gathering. A choir can be heard over the static noise of everyday life more than an individual. The work of jewelry does not stop with the making or showing of a piece but continues on through both a wearer and those observing it being worn. The work becomes the space between object and body which jewelry facilitates. The space links us and creates a "we".
French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy in their text Being Singular Plural which is quoted at the start of this essay suggests that we are always "being with” and that the “I” is not prior to the we”.  Jewelry then has an ability to become a visual marker for the mapping of a dialogue/discussion. It carries stories before it is even assembled through its material composition.(2) We work with material which has its own limits and capabilities. Jewelry can act as a cartographer mapping and remapping questions and declarations that have been, and will continue, despite our individual existence.

Jewelry has an ability to remind us that we are not alone, that we are remembered. It commemorates the good, the bad and the ugly. Jewelry is a form of archiving histories. A living chronicle that grows and changes as it is passed on. Heirloom as archive. Jewelry is already spoken of as a way to commemorate. It is a medal, a memorial and a reminder. It is typically spoken of in this function when dealing with larger ideas, moments and events. The current state of being has caused me to think on a more intimate level. There is still a we as I sit in my apartment connecting to you who may also possibly be physically alone through these words. Remembering this we is more important than ever. Jewelry is a way to remind us of our connections, it is a marker of entanglement. We are all in this together.
Timothy Veske-McMahon. Contact, pendant, 2020. (Multiple) aluminum, thermochromatic coating, cotton. 6" x 6" x 1/8".
“Worlds of information are stored in a touch—conveyed by pressure, heat, and duration. How can I create a signal of contact?” / Timothy Veske-McMahon
As shown at Gallery Loupe for One World: 40 artists respond to COVID-19

(1) Jean-Luc Nancy, Being Singular Plural, trans. Robert D. Richardson and Anne E O'Byrne (Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press, 2000), 3.
(2) Kathryn Yusoff discusses the importance of thinking through geology and the baggage material has before it is even extracted from the ground. Kathryn Yusoff, A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2018).


About the author

matt lambert
is a non-binary, trans, multidisciplinary collaborator and co-conspirator currently living in Stockholm Sweden as a Ph.D. student between Konstfack and HDK Valand. They hold a MA in Critical Craft Studies from Warren Wilson College and an MFA in Metalsmithing from Cranbrook Academy of Art.