Who Needs Jewelry Anyway?

Article  /  CriticalThinking   MattLambert
Published: 06.11.2020
matt lambert. Photo by Lydia See. matt lambert. Photo by Lydia See.
matt lambert
Edited by:
Athens Jewelry Week
Edited at:
Edited on:
Loaded keep hitting our Jaws. Collaborative Work by matt lambert with Maret Anna Sara.
. Reindeer jaw bone, cord. .
Loaded keep hitting our Jaws. Collaborative Work by matt lambert with Maret Anna Sara.
Reindeer jaw bone, cord.

© By the author. Read Copyright.

This article Who Needs Jewelry Anyway? by matt lambert is published in Athens Jewelry Week 2019 Catalogue.
Jewelry is quite possibly the last thing we need in this world today.

Jewelry is a luxury commodity that teeters on the lines of indulgence, decadence, and frivolity. It shifts categories, and can be labeled as craft, fashion, art, and design. Jewelry is messy, at times hard to define, and can be next to impossible to explain to someone on the street or in a commuter train in a short sentence. As jewelers, we need to explain why we use contemporary, art, or some other adjective placed in front of the word jewelry - and to address what it means when we do not. The jewelry world in relation to the gallery is hard to explain to an onlooker who does not have privileged access into our microcosmic world. Within the western jewelry world, we are asked to explain what we are doing and why it is important to anyone but ourselves. Jewelry is a menace. Jewelry demands that we think of bodies, how they work, how they look and how they are represented. It is a form that requires the body be taken into consideration even in the realm of the unwearable. Jewelry is a slippery word that can roll itself in adornment and as soon as we think we have a grasp on it, it slips away with a single exhaled breath.
Yet, jewelry may be what we need in this world today.

Jewelry may be messy; and at times it is hard to define but at other moments can open up critical conversations with someone on the street or commuter train. Jewelry calls for something more than a short sentence. Jewelry can be an instigator to begin to unpack conversations around luxury commodities and ideas of indulgence, decadence, and frivolity. It queerly shifts categories, sometimes it is craft, fashion, art, and design; jewelry challenges conventions and categorical boxes by jumping and dancing between, on, and around them. Jewelry can be a picket sign carried throughout the day. It can be a whisper or a scream that does not require a single spoken word. Jewelry asks us to consider privileges of the body; jewelry needs a body to be understood. Jewelry can be a curatorial and conservation nightmare to conventional colonial systems including the museum. Jewelry is an activist for new systems to understand work that needs to be touched or worn to be completed. Jewelry requires consideration of work and where it is completed, from making to displaying to wearing, buying and the transactions and transformations that occur in these phases. Jewelry asks us to consider size, shape, gender, sexuality, and ability among other aspects of bodies. Jewelry solicits us to consider what a homeland is, and how and when we draw lines and construct walls around nationality and nation states in a time when only privileged bodies can easily traverse between borders into academies. Jewelry demands us to consider the importance and function of the institution and the academy. Jewelry has the potential to ask for progress, for critical thinking and for the consideration of diversity.

We must look at criticism and recognize not just our own imbrication in the object or the cultural moment, but also the performative nature of any action or stance we might be taking in relation to it [1] writes Irit Rogoff in What Is A Theorist. Criticality puts us in a position to use theory to unravel the very ground on which we stand. Criticality can introduce questions and uncertainties in those places where formerly there was some seeming consensus about what one did and how one went about it. [2] Jewelry has the potential to address a multitude of critical social issues when opened to productive criticism and discussion. This does not mean that all jewelry needs to be loud or to become political. What it does mean is that it is time to address our current reality. It is time for critical dialogue, to consider what and why we are producing these objects and their possibilities when they leave the making space/studio. We must be willing to have a productive conversation that involves critique. The point of being in touch with a transcendent reality is that we struggle for justice, all the while realizing that we are always more than our race, class, or sex. [3]

Jewelry is exactly what we need in this world right now.

[1] Rogoff, Irit. "What Is A Theorist?" In The State of Art Criticism, by James Elkins and Michael Newman, 97-109. New York, NY: Routledge, 2008. Pp.97-98.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Hooks, Bell. "Love As The Practice Of Freedom." In Outlaw Culture: Resisting Representations. New York, NY: Routledge, 1994.

About the author

matt lambert is a non-binary, trans multidisciplinary collaborator and coconspirator working towards equity, inclusion, and reparation. They are a founder and facilitator of The Fulcrum Project and currently are a PhD student between Konstfack and University of Gothenburg in Sweden. Their research engages with the relationship of craft to nation structure, gender, indigeneity and nomadism. They hold a MA in Critical Craft Studies from Warren Wilson College and an MFA in Metalsmithing from Cranbrook Academy of Art.