TACIT RECOLLECTION

23 August – 9 September 2017

Curated by Yu Fang Chi

Artist + Curator Talk | Saturday 26 August 5pm

Exhibition Opening | Saturday 26 August 6-8pm

This exhibition is presented as part of the 2017 Melbourne Contemporary Jewellery and Object Trail, Radiant Pavilion, 26 August – 3 September, 2017.

Tacit Recollection website

Monika Brugger, Yu Chun Chen, Yu Fang Chi, Carole Deltenre, Yuni Kim Lang, Lauren Kalman

Tacit Recollection engages object and jewellery artists who reflect on the relation of body and external world. Works on exhibition are intimate responses to the ‘uncertain’ body circumstances of each artist, evoking a sense of fragility, sensuality, transparency and intuition. Notions of ambiguous identity, voicelessness and introspection are engaged via each artist’s processes of making. Their artwork tends to evoke the sensation of touch in the viewer and the wearer.


Bodies and Jewellery in Tacit Recollection

Elizabeth M. Grierson

Fragile Narratives

‘evoking a sense of fragility, sensuality, transparency and intuition’ (Yu Fang Chi).[1]

The body has long been subject to interpretation in the hands of artists. In Tacit Recollection, six women jewellery artists consider a complex and contingent field of interconnections between the body and the world it inhabits. Through this exhibition, new ways of thinking about jewellery as a poetic imprint on the body may become apparent.

Jewellery may generate stories for makers as much as for wearers. The curator Yu Fang Chi assembles jewellery narratives with the potential to bring subjective encounters into wider social assignations. The curatorial aim of Tacit Recollection is ‘to reflect on the relation of body, memory and external world’.[2]

Each of the artists in this exhibition works with hand-crafted jewellery to invest it with possible associations. Monika Brugger, Yu Chun Chen, Yu Fang Chi, Carole Deltenre, Yuni Kim Lang, and Lauren Kalman, manifest sites of aesthetic, social and material relationships between the body and external worlds.

Contemporary jewellery is ideally suited to this task. As the body may be considered a sacred, personal or intimate site, so too jewellery carries that sense of intimacy and the personal. Yet at the same time jewellery objects speak beyond the self to evoke stories of the cultural, material, spiritual or external world of time and place.

 

The Being of Jewellery

‘In the artwork, the truth of beings has set itself to work’ (Martin Heidegger).[3]

Jewellery has been used traditionally to adorn the body, enhance clothing, charm, allure, attract, even protect and give mana.[4] If we read through Martin Heidegger on the work of art, the work of jewellery may be seen as a way of setting the ‘truth of beings’ to work in the world. There is an activating process of ‘bringing-forth’ and ‘un-concealing’ at work here.

This activation of a sense of ‘being’ implicitly brings forth a ‘non-being’ at one and the same time. For Yu Chun Chen it is an intimate narrative celebrating maternity and sisterhood. The artist works with respect for the materiality of craft traditions from West to East. The body in display wearing a belly brooch calls for understanding from its fragile interior. There is perhaps a tacit recollection of something being nurtured and yet to come.

Overall the work in this exhibition brings to mind the mid-twentieth century, French philosopher, Simone de Beauvoir, and her embodied approach to existential philosophy. Challenging established conventions, de Beauvoir considered lived experience as an autobiographical site, extrapolating from her embodied reflections to establish wider existential questions and answers. Thus, The Second Sex[5] came to be seen as a foundational tract on lived philosophy in the light of women’s oppression. Reverberations of her approach to existential ethics may be discovered in this exhibition – a lived philosophy emanating from the artists’ bodily works.

 

Bodies Embodied

‘The body is the inscribed surface of events’ (Michel Foucault).[6]

The body has long been a site of personal and cultural knowledge, imprinted with signs, its values marked by clothes and adornment. In the work of Lauren Kalman, the body becomes inscribed by historical challenges of gender and power. Fabricated head and face coverings ‘adorn’ the body with hooded, implicit violence. Here is the endless, if voiceless, collective cry of women in the historical discourses of patriarchal power.

According to Michel Foucault, the body carries the imprint of our actions, ‘manifests the stigmata of past experience and also gives rise to desires, failings, and errors’.[7] Yuni Kim Lang investigates hair as an ephemeral bodily material. She suggests the convergence and movement of hair in a way that emphasises its mass and volume, calling into question the obsessive way hair is managed, touched and presented. The knots and tangled rhythms entwine around the body with a compulsion to adorn. Rope-like, the hair situates a locus of historical, social and political analysis as it shifts the boundaries between the body’s intimate and external worlds.

The body in art has a long history of being displayed as a site of desire, carrying the lure of sexuality for the external gaze, its surface inscribed with power and politics. Feminist approaches consider the intimate bodily forces of seduction and impacts of social codes. Carole Deltenre captures the visceral elements of intimate bodily form and function in jewellery objects. Framed as cameos, female genitalia lure to be caressed, questioned, touched, attracting and subverting at one and the same time. Here Foucault’s inscribed surface of events inveigles the viewer in a subtle, if fleshy, encounter.

 

Poetic Imprints

How does the body, not merely the mind, remember the feel of a latch in a long-forsaken childhood home?’ (John Stilgoe).[8]

In the phenomenological world of objects, Gaston Bachelard suggests the body imprints memory through apprehension rather than a cognitive comprehension. There the poetic trace may lie. In his Poetics of Space, Bachelard speaks of ‘household activities’ as creative acts: ‘The minute we apply a glimmer of consciousness to a mechanical gesture, or practice phenomenology while polishing a piece of old furniture, we sense new impressions come into being beneath this familiar domestic duty’.[9]

Bachelard notes ‘the object’s human dignity’ increases in the domestic gestures, and the object is registered as ‘a member of the human household’.[10] Monika Brugger works with objects and materials often forgotten – tools, utensils, humble thimbles worn by women in the small acts of sewing and often hidden away in sewing baskets. Perhaps in the making of earrings the thimbles take on a new dignity, a ‘human dignity’, yet not forgotten is the piercing of the body for wearing the pieces and the piercing of cloth in the acts of stitching. In tacit recollection of domestic tasks, objects are renewed to accessorise the body, carrying with them the traces of an unhallowed fragility.

In the work of Yu Fang Chi the fragility of the female body and its cultural histories extend to processes used by women in the domestic realm. Bachelard’s phenomenological approach to household activities and the way they become embodied with new impressions, reverberate in her work. The visceral forms entwine with a marked sensuality, coiling like bodily organs, yet they carry the imprints from discarded materials of kitchen duties. Here, with the capacity for sensuous adornment, ambiguity carries an expressive form.

 

Transformations

In the hands and imaginations of these six artists, processes of material, aesthetic and poetic transformations activate new ways of seeing. But this exhibition brings more. The feminine and feminist interventions of contemporary jewellery expose not only the fragility of poetic associations, but also cultural and political representations and challenges. The female body emerges from its interiorised cultural space to celebrate a transformative potential.

In concluding this commentary on Tacit Recollection, it is to be hoped that viewers will enter the intimacies of this exhibition and will find space to celebrate the poetic imprints they encounter.

 

[1] Yu Fang Chi, Tacit Recollection exhibition statement, http://tacitrecollection.wixsite.com/mysite

[2] Ibid.

[3] Martin Heidegger, The Origin of the Work of Art. In D.F. Krell (ed.), Basic Writings, Martin Heidegger, Routledge, London, 1999, p. 165.

[4] For traditional Chinese, jade jewellery absorbs evil spirits and protects the wearer from evil; and for Māori people of New Zealand, the hei-tiki, a tonga (treasure) carved of pounamu or greenstone is worn to enhance the wearer’s life and give mana (prestige).

[5] Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, H.M. Parshley editor and translator, Vintage Books, New York, 1973. First published in French 1949.

[6] Michel Foucault, Nietzsche, Genealogy, History’. In P. Rabinow (ed.), The Foucault Reader, Penguin, London, 1984, p. 83.

[7] Ibid.

[8] John R. Stilgoe, Foreword. In Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, Beacon Press, Boston Massachusetts, 1994, pp. vii-viii. First published in French 1958.

[9] Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, p. 67.

[10] Ibid.


Monika Brugger teaches the theoretical, historical and practical aspects of classical and contemporary jewellery. Brugger organised the Workshop Sospel, and in 2007 she was one of the founders of the association la garantie. She has been in invited speaker and held numerous workshops worldwide. Brugger’s work is included in the collections of V&A Museum, London; Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris; the Fonds national d’art contemporain, Paris; Schmuckmuseum, Pforzheim; Rotasa Collection Trust, USA; Berner Stiftung für Angewandte Kunst, Berne.

Brought up under the Chinese culture in Taiwan and having studied art in Italy and the Netherlands, the work of Yu-Chun Chen is shaped by diverse cultural crossings. Cultures of the east and west come to a confluence into her work. The introvert and extrovert, sentimental and rational, the tranquil and the active come together. With great respect for traditional craft, Yu Chun Chen creates contemporary jewellery that reminds people of the beauty of the old tradition.

Yu-Fang, CHI is a current PhD candidate in the School of Art at RMIT. She completed her Bachelor and Masters degrees in Taiwan. Her research project investigates the concept of femininity in jewellery and objects and its cultural connotations. Yu-Fang reflects on the processes of creation and the position of the female body. Her practice involves repetitive fibre-related techniques which can be connected to traditional domestic art processes. Yu Fang regularly exhibits her work in Australia, Germany, Poland, Korea, Japan and Estonia. She has been awarded various grants and her work is held in both public and private collections.

Reflecting on bodies as objects of desire, Carole Deltenre evokes the power of creatures and shows the failure of seduction mechanisms. Using traditional elements, she looks for the impact of religion and social codes in the tense relation between genders and considers the jewel as an object of envy that has to be caressed, used, worn, touched, dirtied, looked at and whose first function is to seduce. Deltentre exhibits internationally, lectures, participates in prizes and residencies. She also engages with music, drawing, and collective projects.

Yuni Kim Lang is a Michigan-based visual artist who creates sculpture, photographs and wearable art that explores themes of weight, mass, accumulation, hair and cultural identity. Working with rope and synthetic materials, she makes sculptures that transcend their materiality and become bodily. She is fascinated by what people give power and meaning to, along with our obsession with adornment. Yuni Kim Lang had her first solo exhibition in Seoul, Korea in 2007. A recent MFA graduate of Cranbrook Academy of Art, Michigan, she has had solo exhibitions at Sienna Gallery in Lenox, Massachusetts and Museum of New Art in Detroit, Michigan.

Lauren Kalman is a visual artist based in Detroit, whose practice is invested in contemporary craft, video, photography and performance. Through her work she investigates beauty, adornment, body image, and the built environment. Raised in the Midwest, Kalman completed her MFA from the Ohio State University and earned a BFA from Massachusetts College of Art. Kalman exhibits and lectures internationally. Her work is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, and the Detroit Institute of Art.

Elizabeth M. Grierson is Professor of Art and Philosophy affiliated with RMIT University Melbourne, Australia, and Head of School of Art at RMIT, 2005-12. She holds a PhD in Education (Auckland), MA 1st Cl. Hons. in Art History (Auckland), JD Distinction (RMIT), BA in English, and Graduate Diplomas in Law, Teaching, and Speech and Drama. She is author and editor of 12 books and many journal articles, catalogue essays, and conference papers. She is an Australian Lawyer and practises as a Barrister in New Zealand under Gresson, her married name.


IMAGES | Carole Deltenre, Nymphs, 2008-2015, silver, inox, porcelana, cast, soldering, filegree and granulation, dimensions variable; Lauren Kalman, But if the Crime is Beautiful... Hood (5), 2014, fabric, pearls, glass, inkjet print, dimensions variable; Monika Brugger, Au Bout Des Doigts (On The Tip Of The Fingers), since 2008, brooch, silver, enamel, iron, lost wax casting, 2.7cm length. Photography  by Corinne Janier; Yu Chun Chen, Ventrioguy, 2009, belly brooch, silver, coral, velvet ribbon, 12 x 9 x 1.8cm. Photography by Ro-Hsuan Chen; Yu Fang Chi, Inner Crease, 2017, copper, metallic car paint, thread, steel wire, weaving, eletroforming, painting. Photography by Cheng Lin Wu; Yuni Kim Lang, Black Knot, 2013, rope, synthetic materials, dimensions variable.