Texts and Pretexts

By United States

Art Jewelry Forum Speakers Tour, San Diego State University, San Diego, California, October 14–16, 2013

The San Diego State University jewelry and metalwork program had the pleasure of hosting Benjamin Lignel, editor of Art Jewelry Forum and contributing writer to Contemporary Jewelry in Perspective, for two days this October. Lignel gave a lecture on the first day and spent the entirety of the following day in critiques with graduate students. The unconventional format of both the lecture and critiques made for a very informative experience.

Lignel’s lecture was titled “Texts and Pretexts: On a Pen Pusher’s Jewelry Practice.” The format of the lecture was modeled after Italo Calvino’s Six Memos for The Next Millennium. Lignel chose five words and texts that “describe a quality that [he] pursue[s] in [his] work and enjoy[s] in the work of others” and then unpacked those terms and texts in relation to his own practice and in relation to their function within the art jewelry community. The five words he selected were incompleteness, repetition, ambiguity, exhibitionism, and the author. The section that most resonated with me was “incompleteness.”  

Under the heading of incompleteness, Lignel discussed the concept of “open work.” This is the idea that work that is “open” cannot be complete without the direct participation of the interpreter and may even be improved by their participation. Lignel suggests that one can create work that invites use by “having something missing, signaling absence.” This incompleteness creates an invitation or “affordance” for the interpreter to participate in the work by finding a way to make it complete.

For the graduate critiques, we adopted a format that was new to us. Each artist first presented his or her work then left the room while, as a group, everyone formulated specific questions for the artist to answer upon return. This format of critique required more time than had been planned, but Lignel stated that he was willing to stay “as long as it takes.” The critiques for the second- and third-year grads were fairly intense, and as a first year, I walked away from the experience having learned many new questions to ask of my own work. Questions like: Who am I in conversation with, and how do my choices provoke that conversation? When work is narrative, does it become less interesting because you recognize a story in it? Is ambiguity better? What is the entry point for the viewer to gain access to my work? What vocabulary am I using to create my pieces, and have I considered this vocabulary in relation to how the piece connects to the body? I learned a great deal in those seven hours.

Overall, the experience of Lignel’s visit was a very informative one. He armed us with thoughts on how to improve our own work, communicate our ideas, and find our place in the field of contemporary jewelry.  

Follow the link to see the lecture: Art Jewelry Forum Speakers Tour, San Diego State University, San Diego, California, October 14–16, 2013


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