Thursday, December 10, 2009

the round-table discussion in Gothenburg...

On Tuesday December 8 a group of former students and current faculty of the School of Crafts and Design at the University of Gothenburg gathered at the school for a seminar with Damian Skinner, a New Zealand art historian. Damian, who visits Sweden this week on invitation from Iaspis, the International Artists’ Studio Program in Sweden, has written extensively on contemporary New Zealand jewellery and also works as a curator. He told us that his engagement with jewellery started almost incidentally when he wrote a review of a Warwick Freeman show, which led to more contacts with that artist and finally resulted in the writing of the book “Given: Jewellery by Warwick Freeman”, published in 2004. Those of you who are fans of Lisa Walker will also recognise Damian’s writings from the essays he has written for some of her catalogues.
The round-table discussion in Gothenburg focused on differences and similarities between Swedish and New Zealand jewellery. As Damian described, New Zealand jewellers have for long felt isolated from the rest of the world, and particularly from Europe. Paradoxically, this is an experience that probably many Scandinavian jewellery artists also can recognise, even if international contacts have become increasingly frequent in the last decade(s).
The discussion also touched upon cultural differences and how they affect the making and interpretation of jewellery. The Swedish jewellers had all brought pieces of our own which we presented. Damian wore a small brooch by Areta Wilkinson, a jeweller who belongs to New Zealand’s indigenous Maori community. The brooch is in the form of a small label or price tag in silver, hanging in a simple thread and pinned to the clothing with an ordinary safety pin. Damian explained that the tag referred to labelling, with special regard to how historical objects are labelled and named in museum collections. Needless to say, the experience of having the objects of their culture collected and labelled by others is highly problematic for the Maori. A comparison was made in the discussion between Areta Wilkinson’s piece and a similar price tag piece made by the Swedish jeweller Ulrika Swärd a few years ago. In Ulrika’s piece, the motif of the price tag seems connected to a reflection on consumption rather than museum collections. This was a striking example of how two works that are formally very similar can bear different meanings.

Text by Love Jönsson, a short explanation of what we where discussing and argue about.

The jewellery artist around the round –table was; Karin Johansson, Mona Wallstöm, Pia Aleborg, Serena Holm, Özay Emert, Lena Olson and Paula Lindblom.

Karin Johansson

Mona Wallstöm

Pia Aleborg

Serena Holm

Özay Emert

Lena Olson

Paula Lindblom

Love Jönsson was the one who arrange the round –table discussion and invited us all to this interesting meeting.

We never come to an eventual idea of collaboration between the New Zealand and Sweden; I think that could be really interesting to see what can come up, if it is possible to do some kind of collaboration between the two countries… Sweden is a small country and NZ is an isolated country, different “problems” of being a jewellery artist in these countries, Sweden has a longer design tradition, the Scandinavian light and lines to struggle against (at least for me… and some others too) and the NZ has their history of being an isolated island, with a lot of jewellery values, more ethnical jewellery or ornaments, adornments from both NZ and the island around in the pacific seas. For me up in the North it’s exotics, but in the other way Sweden is also very exotic for people from other countries… so everything are about what lens or angle you choose to look at.

I hope when Damian Skinner returns to NZ after this trip, he will have some kind of plan, together with Love Jönsson, about who they think collaboration could look like.

I am absolutely interesting to see what it will end up in and I’m also interesting to be a part of this… So the only thing we can do is to wait and see what’s comes out of this meeting.

Areta Wilkinson

Areta Wilkinson is a leading Maori jeweller. Through her work she explores ideas about adornment, wealth, and the preciousness of materials. She also examines local and global issues, including identity (particularly her Ngai Tahu identity), dislocation, memory, protection, and spirituality.
Although much of Wilkinson’s work relates to her Maori/Ngai Tahu identity, it generally does not draw on the forms of customary Maori jewellery such as heitiki. Like fellow jeweller Gina Matchitt, Wilkinson’s art often combines Maori concepts with contemporary issues and European abstract form.
The pendants in Wilkinson’s 96:04 Series can be interpreted as a critique of museum and art gallery practice. Wilkinson studied the way that museums and art galleries record and label the objects in their collections. She then made the pendants from precious materials, but sandblasted each one with a large number that dominates it, deliberately overshadowing the value and meaning of the materials it is made from.
Through these works, Wilkinson is commenting on how taonga (treasured objects) in museums and galleries have been taken out of their social and spiritual contexts and placed in new ones. In a broader sense, she is looking at people’s relationship to objects, the way dominant cultures record the objects of other cultures, and the difficulties of maintaining a Maori identity in a non-Maori setting.
The works in the 96:04 Series need not only be interpreted as a critique of museum or art gallery labels. They can also be seen as almost any labels that categorise people or things – military dog tags, luggage labels, or even concentration camp numbers.
Labels are a recurring theme in Wilkinson’s work. Her 97:01 Series (made in 1997) is based on retail price tags. Her 96:05 Series is a set of triangular silver settings, each holding fragments of taonga. The fragments include fibre, stone, shell, wood, bone and feathers. The back of each setting is stamped with an object number, and the warning ‘DO NOT TOUCH’ – standard advice given in museums and art galleries.
In the catalogue for Areta Wilkinson’s Wai – recollected works exhibition, Dr Deidre Brown writes, ‘We all carry labels. They mark the beginning and end of our lives and are continually being applied to us by ourselves and by others who need to place us within their own systems of understanding. Our labels are as familiar as our faces . . . ’

Text from¸

Unlucky I couldn’t find the label by Areta Wilkinson.

Ulrika Swärd
The image of the label is made by Ulrika Swärd.

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