The sky is falling?

G’day contemporary groovers. Just back from a visit to the old country, where I’ve been assured that I’ve no need to brush up on my accent. But just in case, it’s about to get ‘Aus – as’ round here. At least for today.

There’s been a bit a bit of a palaver around the ole contemporary jewellery (we’re going to use CJ for short from now on, and not just because if you squint while you say it, it can sound kinda off-colour..) scene in the last little while. I didn’t want to draw attention to it until I could point towards some more positive views (that weren’t just my own – yawn – ) that could also be found around the place. Since I’m one of those terrible disbelievers that you heard tell of in yer yoof, and because I can barely be bothered with the nay-sayers who seemed to have ganged up all of a sudden, I wanted to be able to present more than one take on the issues being discussed. And perhaps that’s also in part because I am also of the persuasion that a convincing argument deserves a convincing counter-argument. So, here goes:

Are you worried that the sky is falling on the CJ movement on Susan Cohn‘s, Ted Noten‘s and Liesbeth den Besten‘s say so? Is your brow furrowing further because those who leapt to respond to these CJ luminaries –  André Gali and Ezra Satok-Wolman – have gone against the best advice of those soothesayers on The West Wing, and accepted the premise of the arguments that were being made?

If, like me, you have accepted the one truth that is The West Wing and therefore have fully absorbed Annabel’s advice to veteran party-room ‘fixer’ Leo McGarry, “If you don’t like what they’re asking, you don’t accept the premise of the question.” and thus have refused to accept the premise of the current dominant argument (ie. that our mate CJ is faaarked), or perhaps simply because you personally are yet to have been pelted with acorns to the head and therefore are stubbornly clinging to the notion that there is a little bit of wind left in CJ’s sails, or, if in fact you never did think that Munich was the centre (apostate! somebody get her!) and you weren’t making works as if you were responding to some greater aestheic in-joke, should you believe the hype?

(Hey, in my defense, turns out I’m not the only person responding to the current cavalcade of words with rap, thanks Alexander Blank!)

Well, lets all join hands, we can get through this together. We’re going to be ok. Or at the least, we’re not alone. If you, like me, were sitting solo in your garret, worried that you’re wasting your life on CJ, let me tell you that you’re not. Not alone, at least, you’re up there nose-to-nose with a massive bunch of people, each of whom is equally wasting their lives in the pursuit of a creative career! Thanks AO Scott of the New York Times, I feel so much better now 😉

But if you’re worried that in the CJ world we’re only preaching to the converted, never fear, over in the worlds of literature and music and fine art, people are worried about the exact same things. Specifically, Charity Singleton Craig for Curator Magazine notes that authors too are being encouraged to buy more books and make more criticism in her article, and artists are being told that, “We can all do it anyway — make our own videos and songs, write our own poetry and personal essays, exhibit our paintings and our selves — even if it doesn’t pay.” according to The Paradox of Art as Work by A.O. Scott for the New York Times (incidentally the article I refer to in the previous paragraph also.) Scott goes on to remind us that CJ is not alone in dwindling audiences comprised of fellow fans/makers:

…The idea that everyone can be an artist — making stuff that can be shared, traded or sold to a self-selecting audience of fellow creators — sits awkwardly alongside the self-contradictory dream that everyone can be a star.”

OK, ok, if that is not the good news story you were hoping for, and you’re still thinking that it might be time to ditch this sport we call CJ and move away from all things creative, perhaps you ought to read this and just feel better about yourself, because by going into your studio and whacking out a beautiful, wearable object, you’re at least achieving something.

And finally, there is some good news for those of you who still feel inclined to stick to the CJ trail – first up, you can call it whatever you like (thanks Glenn Adamson – I’ll continue to do so while citing your backing, mate!) Also, in that same article; we are getting some good, and well educated in the mysterious ways of CJ, press this year in some print media that we didn’t have to create for ourselves, so chin up CJ-er. Don’t believe me? Well even the papers in Australia are razzing up the movement.

Think positive! We’re in this together, and we’re (eventually) gonna make it! (Just like Kellie says!)

And finally… lest all my levity around these treatises gives you the impression otherwise, I really think there is some good reading in what our experienced and knowledgeable forebears have to say, so if you haven’t yet, as auntie Molly would say, “Do yourself a favour.”:

Ted Noten Manifesto, on the Current Obsession blog

Liesbeth den Besten The golden standard of Schmuckashau, in Overview magazine

and while I’m at it, once again here’s their critiques:

André Gali After the End of Contemporary Jewellery for Norwegian Crafts magazine

Ezra Satok-Wolman Identity Crisis: An Essay about the Current State of Art Jewellery and the Future of it, on the Klimt02 blog

If you want to discuss this, lemme know, I’ll be in my studio.

, , ,

2 responses to “The sky is falling?”

  1. Dear Melissa,
    It seems as though you may have missed the point of my essay, and the disclaimer that it was not intended as a response to Lisbeth and Ted’s papers. While I did refer to Lisbeth’s manifesto, the point of my paper was to proclaim that Art Jewellery isn’t dead, it is changing. That jewellery can exist as more than one thing and the confines of Art Jewellery that have ben put in place are doing nothing more than restricting its creative potential. My call to action specifically cites a need to be more open minded and less concerned with labels. In addition, the main point I disagree with Lisbeth about is “The Golden Standard of Schmuckashau.” While she suggests that we forget about “Schmuckashau,” I have suggested that we have forgotten what “Schmuckashau” really is, and have allowed the “Golden Standard” to tarnish. I hope you don’t mind my replying to you, but I feel its necessary to be accurate when attempting to group people together based on their opinions. I began to write Identity Crisis last September in co-operation with Klimt02, long before the buzz had started. My objective was to stimulate a dialogue that would hopefully shed some light on the areas within this field that are lacking/suffering. While I certainly didn’t expect to please everyone, I had nothing but positive intentions when setting out to publishing “Identity Crisis,” and the hope that we could improve ourselves while moving into the next chapter.

  2. Hi Ezra,

    Thanks for your response, and my apologies if I have misrepresented you. I realise there is a clear line between assertions of the death of Art Jewellery and that the idea that “it is changing”, but width of that line seemed slim enough to allow me to intermingle them for the purposes of a humorous call to arms.

    Whilst my tone in this post is positively tongue in cheek, I wrote it in order to share each of these articles, and thought that the enticement of ‘being part of the action’ in a larger debate might be a further inducement. Using ‘the sky is falling’ as a theme was a device to give readers warning that they were about to be involved in some heavy thinking about their careers (and, if they’re anything like me, their life’s work), and that despite the dire (or otherwise) warnings, it is possible to make it through all of the pieces and still be ok with one’s own place in the industry.

    (And again, to further note my desire to promote the articles – I linked the main four pieces twice; so keen was I in my aim to get more people involved.)

    I understand your desire not to be read as a ‘response’ to the pieces by Liesbeth den Besten and Ted Noten, but positioning your paper against den Besten’s from the outset and referring to it multiple times would suggest otherwise. Apart from that, the link between these pieces is a matter of timing and is not in your control, unless you can find a time machine to get your paper published before those pieces came out. That you are responding to similar conditions and concerns about the industry I completely understand, so please do not think that I question your intentions, only that perhaps despite your intentions, the timing will be forever accessible in the publishing dates and the similarities in theme will always attest to their interconnectedness.

    Finally, as to your first line “It seems as though you may have missed the point of my essay”. I would hope that I have not, but given that I hardly discussed your text at all, I am a little troubled that you would think the blog I presented could be seen as any form of synopsis of it, from which you might then be able to judge my understanding. I am whole-heartedly in agreement with your “hope that we could improve ourselves while moving into the next chapter.” and believe that the dialogue you call for implies that all written work is equally open to comment and critique, and so I thank you for your response, and hope that my response to it has allowed me to clarify my position also.

    I appreciate the time you have taken to respond to this piece, and hope that we might be able to engage in further debate in the future. In fact, I more than hope, since I believe the health of our industry depends on an informed criss-cross of ideas.