Sunday, June 20, 2010
With New Work Pierre Degen had put together a provocative exhibition of brilliant work which, by virtue of his having been known as a jewellery maker, was considered a jewellery exhibition. Everything could after all, be ‘worn’ or at least attached to a body. And it did focus concern upon issues of the body and the delimiting of received notions of ‘jewellery’. Consisting of witty, provocative and fun assemblages of sticks, ladders, ready-mades, over-size balloons for ‘wearing’, and pieces like "Large Silk Propeller", "Tourniquet", "Coffee Bag and Stick", "Personal Environments" and "Large Loop" he investigated in one sustained effort the pressing question being asked at the time by advanced jewellery thinkers, namely: what are the conditions (minimal or maximal) for an object type known as a piece of jewellery?
This one exhibition (together with The Jewelery Project) was a bridge too far for many in the jewellery community. Indeed, these shows had quite a divisive effect, which was no bad thing with regard to breathing new life into any relatively inert practice.
The convergence of these three exhibitions had an immense impact on thinking jewellers everywhere in the western world (though repercussions were also felt further afield, for example, in Japan). And it was the substantial circulation - not of the actual works themselves, but of their representation in catalogues and photographic images - that effected such international attention and conceptual authority. But the huge reaction to New Jewellery was decidedly mixed – in varying proportions it was revered, enjoyed, supported, understood and seen as a source of great inspiration, if not objects to copy, and on the other hand the reaction was dismissive, hysterical, angry, appalled, disgusted and loathsome.