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Courtney Kemp: Beyond Unwearable

Expanding the Concept of Jewelry

By United States

We recently featured some examples of art jewelry being worn—here and here—so we thought we’d follow up by exploring the idea of whether art jewelry has to be worn at all. Can installation work be considered jewelry and live within our field?

In this brief video from 2016, artist and AJF contributor Courtney Kemp delivers a densely researched exposé. She examines the very first instances of site-specific interventions by jewelers in the early 2000s, shows their slow international spread, distinguishes between hybrid and pure installation practices, and makes a powerful argument that, whether we like it or not, the phenomenon must transform the way we think about contemporary jewelry practice.

“As someone who is interested in work that lies on the cusp of two fields,” says Kemp, “I find that there is often this misconception that our field contains a closed language that it’s the wearable work—the metal object, the work—that represents the history of metalsmithing and jewelry. I’d like to question what happens when we raise those insular values just a little bit and use the language of our field to explore and discuss values that lie on the brink.”

Courtney Kemp’s research proceeds from a series of essays commissioned and published by AJF in 2015, under the title Beyond Unwearable, which looked at the work of Amelia Toelke and Kristi Sword, Julia Heineccius, and Lyndsay Rice.


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