A new Jewellery Gallery has opened at Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art. With an outstanding contemporary collection of jewellery, the institution has opened a special space for the beautiful, provocative and fascinating pieces to be appreciated by the general public as one whole collection. The display includes work by Ted Noten, Caroline Broadhead, Gijs Bakker, Karl Fritsch, Wendy Ramshaw, Otto Künzli and Felieke van der Leest. Broadhead speaks to Aesthetica about her interest in movement and the jewellery she has on display.
A: Your work appears in a new jewellery gallery at mima. Why do you think it is important that jewellery is exhibited – is it not for wearing?
CB: A piece of jewellery that reflects ideas of its time is a cultural object and when such items are brought together, they form valuable examples of material history and resources for a wide audience. There are all sorts of objects in museums that are not fulfilling the role they were intended for, but the world would be a poorer place without museums, as these collections allow you to see what groups of people have considered important and why. It is also possible to imagine how museum displays of jewellery, clothing or other artefacts would be worn or used. One function of jewellery is wearing, but it is also a means of communication – it can reveal what we hold to be valuable, for instance, social belonging, personal identity and beliefs, emotional connections and it can also be an exploration of objects that have a formal and abstract relationship with the body. The investigation of ideas such as these can be different from making a piece of jewellery to wear every day.
A: Your pieces are beautifully creative and quite immersive, are they conceptual rather than practical? Or do you design them with wearability in mind?
CB: Conceptual can be practical as well. I do consider scale, proportion, weight, balance and comfort and maybe less about whether it works in a social situation but this is only part of the thinking behind it. I was trying to make objects that didn’t look like jewellery but that made you want to touch and that prompted handling and became jewellery when a piece was worn. At this time in the 1970s and 1980s, it was a new thing to use materials such plastics, paper or textiles for jewellery and what this allowed was the exploration of the properties of these materials and a wider range of possibilities for scale, form and expression.
A: You have also produced pieces with choreographers; are you interested in movement?
CB: A lot of my pieces have a performative element; they involve change. I have collaborated on a number of dance performances for small audiences with choreographer Angela Woodhouse, who is well known for her use of very minimal movements to produce a highly charged atmosphere – very intense and intimate.
A: Can you tell us a little about your work exhibited at mima?
CB: The pieces in the collection are from 1980s. There is a tufted bracelet in the collection, which is one of the later ones I made in that series. It is made of wood and nylon filaments that are dyed to match. I was thinking of it as toning into my skin colour, so it was integrated to the body, growing out of it. I first made this bracelet after a trip to Africa, where I was inspired by the jewellery worn by Masai women. The jewellery they wore was so large, heavy and bold, so different from anything I’d seen in England, and it was the fact that these were pieces that were worn all the time – no discussion about wearability! Making the pieces that followed this trip, I was thinking about hard and soft elements, how to integrate a circle with the arm, how I could fill in the gap between a geometric shape – a circle – and the arm.
A: Is materiality important to your practice?
CB: I am fascinated by materials and I have used many different ones and don’t concentrate on one in particular. I am always looking out for possibilities. It is the combination of materials and processes and ideas and how each works with each other that forms an effective expression.
A: What do you have planned next?
CB: I have just finished a piece, a blanket made from glass beads with a second hand necklace that will be shown in an exhibition called Finding at the Foundling Museum, London (14 November – 30 Januray). I am now working towards an exhibition at Marsden Woo Gallery in November 2015 in their new premises in Shoreditch.
Four pieces of jewellery by Caroline Broadhead are featured in mima’s collection and will be on permanent display in its new Jewellery Gallery. To find out more, visit www.visitmima.com.
1. Caroline Broadhead, Tufted Bracelet 1980. Wood, nylon monofilament, dye. 99x99x10mm. Image courtesy of mima, Middlesbrough.