Group Identity: Twenty-Three, Contemporary Jewelry from Iberian-America
The exhibition PIN – Twenty-Three: Contemporary Jewelry in Iberian-America may be seen at SNBA, Sociedade Nacional de Belas Artes [National Society of Fine Arts], at Barata Salgueiro Street, 36, 1250-044, Lisbon. The show will be available until July 22 and it was produced and curated by PIN. The exhibition design is from Fernando Brízio, the graphic design by Arne Kaiser and the photography is from Eduardo Sousa Ribeiro.
History, personal stories, language, human relations and a set of traditions are the four main components of the sense of belonging that, in the traditional anthropological meaning of the term, forms a particular group identity. However, in an age like ours of widening horizons, it is difficult to find a form of identity that can be described in the above terms and in accordance with the way anthropology traditionally defines a specific place.
In the case of contemporary jewelry, one can still speak of the process of constructing group identity. However, since the 1960s, a network has grown and spread as if it were a physical net that later transformed into a virtual one. It is no longer a traditional form of identity, like those formerly defined by and confined to a physical place – such as those traditionally studied by anthropologists – but it retains a sense of group belonging. This form of identity now involves its own physical rituals in the true anthropological sense. For instance, when artists, teachers, students, historians, collectors, museum curators, booksellers and representatives of trade magazines flock to Munich in March to visit the Schmuck exhibitions. Many young people, especially from Latin America, attend European schools and bring into play their local identities, which in turn propagate global complicities. For several years now, this network has also included its own virtual centers. The most important are Klimt02 in Spain and Art Jewelry Forum in the US, alongside others such as PIN – Associação Portuguesa de Joalharia Contemporânea [Association for the Portuguese Contemporary Jewelry]. In 2010, Valeria Vallarta organized an important physical meeting in Mexico, the Grey Area symposium, which was connected with Otro Diseño – the Foundation for Cultural Cooperation. It was the first international meeting of contemporary jewelry makers in Latin America and brought together every Latin American country as well as many Europeans from Portugal and Spain. PIN and Portuguese schools were invited.
To return to our starting point, all these social actors contribute to the interweaving of a global network where English is the main language of communication, although other languages are also used. History is under construction. It is being shaped through personal stories and human relations that intersect by means of physical and virtual rituals, as well as through academic research, books and magazine publications, and by digital means, including the digital networks already cited as examples.
We are surprised by the great number of jewelry makers, a fact that draws to our attention the existence of a transnational group identity. They communicate in a common language that leads to the creation of singularly unique pieces, each of which, wearable or not, offers us an interpretative dialogue with their creators and their work. When titles are provided, they help us interpret what the contents – or materials – of each piece wish to tell us.
Although anyone familiar with contemporary jewelry is aware of a common language, there is still a great deal of variety. There are few authorial references. As in all art, everyone who has yet to see this kind of jewelry will certainly be initially surprised, until they try to decipher and understand what each piece expresses by means of forms and materials, which may sometimes relate to their place of origin.
This exhibition is part of the Lisbon, Ibero-American Capital of Culture 2017 event. It seeks not only to achieve PIN’s aim of reaching a wide audience, but will also undoubtedly open doors and attract a new public to SNBA. It provides this cultural event with an excellent opportunity to include in its programming a deeply-rooted discipline that also paradoxically uses a contemporary perspective as a means of visual and reflective expression.
PIN will give the public its own voice at the exhibition by inviting each visitor to participate democratically and to ponder over the origin and identity of each jewelry maker. Where do they come from? Who are they? How do they engage with this global world where a core group of jewelry designers work through an international network? PIN has knowingly taken a risk and gambled on the capacity of participants to enter into a dialogue with the pieces and pass on their ideas without almost any direct reference to the local identities of the works.