The Manifesto

1. The way to make a piece of contemporary jewellery: throw a few bits of colourful junk together and glue it to a pin with as little skill as possible. To guarantee success make it organic: a lack of clear form, and a lack of reference to any kind of tradition, history, context or geography.

2. The consequence: a lack of being prepared to endure any kind of process that is difficult or resistant, but instead a tendency to find easy and quick solutions. These solutions are accepted, published, bought and promoted.

3. The field references now almost exclusively itself, (this is not necessarily bad – recognizing and working with this is more the point:  it is always a question of positioning and acknowledgement). There is little critical discussion regarding plagiarism, and even works that are obviously borrowing from other makers are celebrated and given prizes. Nobody is afraid to put out any kind of work no mater how plagiaristic or weak, because at the moment there is no consequence, no critical rigor no danger to professional reputation.

4. There is a growing lack of interest in what happens when the piece is worn: this specificity of jewellery is no longer central. The end point of what jewellery can be is that someone is prepared to put it on their body and step into the world with that object as part of their self-image. This is the specificity of jewellery. This moment, this exchange, often seems forgotten – as is the trust required to do this. In the process of making there is often a lack of vision regarding the recipient of the piece. The question has to be asked: Who is the work addressed to? There is too little effort to make things that stand up to the specificity of wearing.

5. Why is there so much work that no longer addresses this specificity, work that looks like contemporary art? The look of the thing needs to be a result of the best solution for the original intention, not the illustration of an idea. One must pose the question what is the best solution for my intention? Works that mimic can only make a superficial connection. There is not the effort to try to solve/express the thoughts in a language that is particular for the discipline of jewellery and it would appear that many are afraid of being seen as a jeweller.

6. Makers, teachers, allergists and theorists leading the field place too much focus on the suffering inadequacy of being a crafts person and a maker and not an artist. This position has become the motor, the incentive, and this has nothing to do with the discipline itself. In this act of self-effacement the specificity of this discipline is lost.

7. If the key people export through workshops and teaching a style rather than philosophy and knowledge of the unique potential of this particular discipline in all its facets, then we end up with mimicry. Instead of teaching style: teach method within context. The responsibility lies with the institutions, with teaching and with the galleries.

8. The references through the Internet particularly have lead to an easily recognizable and reproducible style. What is new with the Internet is that the effect is the main quality, it is a picture of the thing itself without the experience of holding the object, feeling its weight, experiencing the object in any real way. A particular quality of applied arts is that they do not allow distance because of the specificity of use, because you take these objects in your hands or look at them closely. The Internet is not the problem, but how it is being used.

9. Two things to think about:

  • The gluing of shit together with a pin is a European phenomena, that is to say, the aesthetics of contemporary jewellery that we currently see so often mimicked has its origins in European schools.
  • Through the commodification of education we now have PhDs in jewellery where it is absolutely necessary to write a whole lot about why we glue crap together, before we even open the tube of glue. Largely through this practice, the role of theoretical knowledge has been completely misunderstood. In a similar way the word conceptual has been misunderstood.

10. What has to be internalized right now is the patience and time required to be able to make ones contribution to this field genuine and enriching.

The Manifesto was first published for the summer workshop ‘Authenticity in the Age of Style Surfing’, Alchimia, Florence, 2010.

It was amended for the Zimmerhof Symposium, 2013.

David Bielander and Helen Britton.