Take a Walk on the Gray Area


We have created this blog as a forum for a group of Latin American and European artists and jewellery-makers where they will be able to exchange thoughts, experiences,  ideas, and images on three main topics: jewellery,  global mobility and identity. And for viewers from all over the world (we hope) to witness in real time, how a jewellery exhibition is developed from scratch.

The curators, Valeria Vallarta Siemelink and Andrea Wagner, have each selected 20 artists from their respective continents:  Latin America and Europe. Each artist has a unique approach to jewellery: different ideas, different interests, different materials and techniques, different countries. But all artists have one thing in common:  like the curators themselves, they are or have all been migrants: born in one place, living/working/studying in another one.

Global mobility is a process almost as old as mankind. But today, the movement of ideas, capital and people is faster and fiercer than at any point in history. Contemporary global flow, either forced by economical, ecological, social, work or health-related reasons or due to factors such as welfare, adventure, pleasure, sex or tourism, is multi-directional, leaping across well-worn paths and weaving complex new patterns. Social habitats, in the words of Colombian architect Diego Barajas,  are no longer physically contained in geographically continuous areas, but have been spread out and re-articulated by artificial means.  They have become territories in dispersion, where cultural identity is no longer necessarily linked to geographical place, or to traditional territorial structures.

Art is progressively interested in the sociological or geo-political environment, concerned with issues of migration, mobility, intercultural transience, the ambiguity of location and place in a global marketplace, and the post-colonial (or neo-imperial) structures that regulate the daily existences of millions. The affirmation of identity (on its diverse dimensions: social, collective, individual) is at the heart of all these processes.

Together with people, the notion of identity is being mobilized in remarkable ways. While national identities remain, regional and community identities are becoming much more significant. Individual identity is formed and steadily transformed according to the ways we are represented in the cultural systems where we transit. As the systems of meaning and cultural representation proliferate, we are faced by a complex and transient profusion of possible identities to identify with, at least temporarily. Identities, nowadays, are becoming increasingly disjointed; they are repeatedly being constructed athwart different, often intersecting and contradictory, discourses, practices and positions, subject to an extreme historicization, and in a constant process of transformation.

Even when identities seem to conjure an origin in a historical past with which they continue to correspond, actually they are about questions of using the resources of history, language and culture in the process of becoming rather than being: not who we are or where we came from, so much as what we might become, how we have been represented and how that bears on how we might represent ourselves.  Identities are therefore constituted within, not outside representation. They relate to the invention of tradition as much as to tradition itself, which they oblige us to read not as an endless reiteration but as the changing same: not the so-called return to roots but a coming-to-terms-with our routes.

The cultural dynamics of globalization, with all its complex social, political, economical, environmental and cultural implications, present a challenge for artists: the need for a more affirmative and critical response to issues of mobility and belonging.  Contemporary jewellery, with its exceptional ability to communicate and create associations directly connected to specific cultural and personal settings and backgrounds seems to be circumscribed to a rather westernized discourse.  It has become necessary for contemporary jewellery-makers to rethink the ways they connect with others. The flows and reference points that shape the aesthetic and communicative power of jewellery exceed the boundaries of an individual and national identity. In an era of globalization, cultural reciprocity is fundamental. Learning about others does not only help us to understand, appreciate and enrich from what we considered as foreign, but also to learn about ourselves.

40 artists, from an uncertain total number of involved countries, will take a walk on the gray area and explore,  through the already ambiguous field of contemporary jewellery,  issues related to global mobility, identity and territories in dispersion and the way they perceive and have been affected by this phenomena during their rambling around the world.

How do they respond to changing definitions of mobility, locality, globalism, migration?  How do the changing conceptions of identities relate to their being and practice? How do they reconcile their roots with their routes? What kind of exchange can take place between artists from areas of the world where contemporary jewellery is perceived and dealt with in such different ways? How can they relate to and diverse, moving, fast changing audience?

The artists have been paired randomly: the names of the Latin American artists were written on a piece of paper, which was folded and placed in a bowl. The same was done with the names of the European artists. The curators had fun taking turns to pick a name from one bowl and pairing it with a name from the other bowl. 20 couples were formed and they will carry out both verbal and visual dialogues through these pages.

The artists have been individually selected based on their artistic excellence, technical abilities and creative response to diverse subjects. As a collective, the group has been selected based on the great differences between their work, their varied and experimental approach in the use of materials and techniques and on the rich possibilities that lay on the exchange among them. Each artist will create an individual piece of jewellery as a product of the dialogue. The resulting exhibition, Walking the Gray Area, will be presented within the frame of the Symposium Gray Area, Encounter of Contemporary Jewellery between Latin America and Europe in Mexico City, April 2010.

We feel honored to introduce the moderator of this blog, Jose Manuel Springer, writer, curator and editor of the contemporary art magazine Replica 21. His comments will make this an even livelier place.

On the lefts side of this page, you will find the links that take you to the conversations of each couple. Visitors are welcome to comment on the posts or ask questions to the artists or moderator, in relation to the conversations taking part in this blog.

We thank all the artists for their enthusiasm and we wish you all an interesting and enriching conversation and we hope to see you at the opening of Walking the Gray Area!

Valeria Vallarta Siemelink & Andrea Wagner


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