In my work I explore the conditions through which language and objects become interdependent. I’m interested in how jewelry can integrate or translate words into a 3 dimensional form.
The starting point of this work is the treatment of certain hospital waste, which contains precious material, as a relic. This material are the electrodes used for the reading of brain waves.
Besides raising the question of actual waste disposal in sanitary environments, it is also an attempt to enhance, and capture, the poetry and complexity of an object whose life has maybe outlived those of many patients.
It is hard to talk about such relics in a “totalizing” and straightforward way. Therefore, my approach is less direct and more vague. It gives hints, makes connections with the tool of storytelling. I created a series of objects which refer to the electrodes in different ways.
Imagine a landscape underwater, still. The silence pervades and surrounds everything, like a womb. Imagine a woman immersing herself in it, in apnea, and reaching the biggest exemplary of pinna nobilis. It stands fiercely from the sand, maybe unconscious of what or where it is. It’s anchored to the seabed thanks to a few “threads”, whose name in Italian is bisso. The woman approaches them, and collects some of these threads. The way she does it is unknown, cause she is the only one that can do it, and was chosen as a living custody for the secret.
She carries her treasure home, her hair still wet from the harvest, grateful for another very light handful of bisso. She will dry it, comb it, dye it. In a few years those fibers will become something else. A thread to embroider the pillow of a bride, that she will gift.
Her art is free from the pressure of time, because bisso must not be sold. Bisso can’t receive a price that follows the rules of the economies of this world. It is unsellable and priceless. Patience is her right hand, wisdom is her left.
Not only buildings; archaeology unearths the everyday objects that better represent a society from the past. Early examples of glassware and crockery, cutlery, furnishings and fittings of all kinds. But if I could have a sneak peak of how society will look like in 1000 years, one of the first things I would wonder is: what will people wear? Fashion is something so basic and taken for granted, in the sense that we are influenced by trends in a passive way. Creativity in a personal style is rather limited to what the market offers, obviously. So to put it in other words, what will the market be offering in 1000 years? Same things counts for jewelry, which archaeologically speaking, preserves itself much better than garments.
As far as the archaeology we can enjoy now is concerned, garments are more likely to be seen in paintings and such representations, rather than in real life. Especially if what we’re talking about are the ancient societies that flourished in the B.C. Metal, on the other hand, might be deformed but is very resistant; and gold in particular doesn’t even rust. So there are many examples of ancient jewelry one can still see in real life.
As a teenager in a classical high school (which meant we had latin and ancient greek classes), I went to visit tons of archeological museums both in Italy and abroad. I remember especially the one in Berlin as I was walking on crutches, which made the whole experience more painful. Apart from that, I remember the visit to the museum in Athens.The abundance of terra-cotta wine vases was almost hypnotic, and the perseverance with which every single scrap of found gold was seemed to be worth of classification was overwhelming. These very thin gold somethings were sometimes recognizable as jewelry, sometimes not. Sometimes they were so damaged that it was absolutely impossible to determine what they used to belong to, or what shape they used to have. I remember something Giulia said at that time, to my latin and greek professor. She turned to her while they were walking by the never ending vitrines containing countless jars and vases, with thousands of tiny Bacchuses and vestal virgins dancing around the circumferences. “Why do they keep all of this gold, when they could melt it into new things?” Giulia asked almost to herself, but as the professor was there and Giulia was next to her, the question happened to be addressed to the shocked teacher. You could tell the professor was in shock, as she could only mumble a few “But! But! What a silly question” or “yes of course now we melt the archeological finds” with a panicky ironical smile on her face. But you could also tell, or at least that’s what I wondered at that time, that our teacher didn’t really have a solid argument in favor of the preservation of every single thing that happens to be found underground in Greece, and had been touched by an ancient Greek. (He could have been a philosopher!)
I wasn’t necessarily agreeing with Giulia, but I realized myself that neither had I an answer to that question. I got a bit jealous as well, seeing that Giulia was so opinionated, and it seemed on the contrary that I had no clue where the truth lied. I like to recycle, but I also like accumulation. I also have an almost animist view on things that had possibly been touched by Greek philosophers, or any other important person. My dad once received a piece of the Berlin wall as a gift, and from that moment on we put it proudly on display in the living room. It’s a piece of modern archaeology that I felt was very cool to own. Once, though, a friend (could it have been Giulia again? Such an impertinent little girl!) made a comment on it being just a piece of concrete. You can go yourself to Berlin and grab a piece on the floor. But I wasn’t sure these pieces can be just found like that on the floor. Yet again, my faith on the archaeological find was shaken.
As far as jewelry is concerned, many replicas of ancient pieces exist in the museum shops. I don’t believe there are any replicas of the Berlin wall pieces. I think jewelry is one of the few things that is sold in museum shops as a replica. There is a company named Westair that provides museum shops with all kind of reproductions. There is a whole line called HISTORICAL JEWELRY. I chose for myself a pair of gold plated Roman earrings with dolphins. What is unclear to me is wether this jewelry is actually a replica, or is just based on antique symbols and then reinterpreted. Actually I’m quite sure it’s the second option, as the manufacture looks very modern. The only thing that makes the dolphins look Roman is the lady “wearing” them in the packaging. Funny enough the matron is already wearing earrings, which of course have nothing to do with my dolphins. The packaging comes with an explanation of the symbology- the dolphin being both a powerful symbol of Neptune and an early Christian symbol of faith. I haven’t tried them on yet, and I wonder, will I look like an ancient Roman matron myself? And when you buy such things, is that the look you’re going for anyway?
By the way I already owned a piece of jewelry with a dolphin, but didn’t notice until now: it’s a brooch with a golden 5 liras hanging as a charm. And yes the symbol on one of the sides of the coin, it’s a dolphin.
Usually during one’s sleep. I dreamt of my wedding for a very long time. I was usually getting married in a small village, and each time I would find out something was going wrong. Once I had forgotten to buy a wedding dress. Another time I hadn’t invited anybody. Another time the rings weren’t there.
In the dreams I would not want to stop the upcoming ceremony. Instead, I would unwillingly start to look, for example, for something white that would work good as a wedding dress. I would think “whatever”, while a part of me was very sad. Isn’t that day supposed to be perfect? And if not perfect, shouldn’t you at least remember such basic things like inviting people? “Next time will be better” would again say the first part of me. “But isn’t it sad to think about the next time, if this one hasn’t even started yet?”
I went on having this extremely unsettling feeling often in my dreams, when I wasn’t able to finalize what supposedly were crucial things in my life.
I knew all dreams mean something, so I googled my dream. When you dream of getting married two parts of yourself – we may as well call them the masculine and the feminine- are about to blend into one more adult you. Controversies in your inner self (or brain?) will finally be smoothened out. My two parts have been trying real hard, but somehow, you know, they kept on postponing until next time.
I know what you’re thinking. Sometimes the meaning is well hidden, ain’t I right?
Berenice promised to sacrifice her own hair to Aphrodite, in order to assure the return of her husband and brother Ptolomeus. The Gods turned her beautiful lock into a constellation.
Πάντα τὸν ἐν γραμμαῖσιν ἰδὼν ὅρον ᾗ τε φέρονται
σήν τε κάρην ὤμοσα σόν τε βίον
ἀμνάμων Θείης ἀργὸς ὑπερφέρεται, 45βουπόρος Ἀρσινόης μητρὸς σέο, καὶ διὰ μέσσου
Μηδείων ὀλοαὶ νῆες ἔβησαν Ἄθω. τί πλόκαμοι ῥέξωμεν, ὅτ ̓ οὔρεα …
φάεσ]ιν ἐν πολέεσσιν ἀρίθμιος ἀλλ[ὰ
καὶ Βερ]ενίκειος καλὸς ἐγὼ πλόκαμος,
ὕδασι] λουόμενόν με παρ ̓ ἀθα[νάτους ἀνιόντα
Κύπρι]ς ἐν ἀρχαίοις ἄστρον [ἔθηκε νέον.
67πρόσθε μὲν ἐρχ …
πάντ ̓ ἀγαθὴν καὶ πάντα τ[ελ] εσφόρον εἶπεν [
5κεὶν . . τῷ Μοῦσαι πολλὰ νέμοντι βοτά
σὺν μύθους ἐβάλοντο παρ ̓ ἴχνιον ὀξέος ἵππου·
χαῖρε, σὺν εὐεστοῖ δ ̓ ἔρχεο λωϊτέρῃ.
χαῖρε, Ζεῦ, μέγα καὶ σύ, …
Fragment by Challimachus
The traveling, willed, adorned dead body. To put it short, a relic is this: a piece of a dead body that is enshrined in a precious container, that is believed to embody the will or the powers of the former living owner, and that has the capacity, or at least the potentiality, to intervene in its own destiny of being a relic, and of course to intercede with God on its worshippers’ behalf. They make prayers more effective and more powerful, as they are concrete evidence. Even though we learned we shouldn’t behave like Thomas the apostle,
(Tommaso, che non ci crede se non ci mette il naso)*
we are much easily convinced by the solid, familiar steadiness of objects, against the imaginative effort of picturing something like, for example, the concept of Trinity. Or the Holy Spirit. Here we fail and prove that yes, we are indeed simple humans. We like to see, and witness, so we can run to our neighbor and tell this fantastic story she just missed out on (Ah Ah!). We like objects a lot and, just like good ol’ Thomas, I’m sure, we like gold. Shiny embodiment of the rust-free power of God. So the funny story now is that, many simple humans (but let’s not be arrogant and let’s include ourselves in the category) actually mistook gold (the container, if that wasn’t clear enough) for the content, which was in the end a piece of dead meat, or bone, but still the stuff that deserved to be worshipped. It’s a matter of milliseconds, and the paradigm container-contained shifts, and ta- da, you actually don’t give a damn about the finger in the box. Or the tongue, or whatever. It was probably a smart move, to lure simple minds (still in the category) into liking these things because of the gold and the craftsmanship and the shininess. Most of the times the relic is sealed inside, so that you don’t have to doubt not even a minute, you still like it, this shiny box. Of course there are cases of overzealous worshippers, that were so eager, that to get in contact with the saint decided to bite this pieces of dead bodies, or break them into more pieces, and really really get close to their inner power. So they weren’t so much into the golden box. In this case (smart move n°2) it was said that it was the relic itself which decided it was time to break into pieces, and spread out in the world, towards more simple minds and more (but hopefully not, actually) overzealous believers. Same rhetoric when the relics were stolen. The saint wanted to travel from that to that other parish, where he/she was needed most. How great, can you imagine? And how thoughtful! “They could really use my tongue in Padua, let’s go!” And off it goes, through the imperfect medium that’s the hand of a thief. But still, if we reverse it, why on Earth would someone steal a tongue? There must be for sure some hidden reason I am not entitled to know. And at least it’s more realistic. It’s not like the relic flew away or dematerialize: no, no, still very concrete and understandable. So the power we decide to give to things is actually 100% true and valuable, I maintain. The fact that these objects are so important that they need to be adorned, makes them adorned. The fact that a golden ring I inherited from my grandmother makes me look at her through the ring, that she is the ring, and I have absolutely no interest in looking at her remains now, is the perfect example of the shifting paradigm. She’s gone so now I love the ring. The ring tells of her and it embodies her. It is a power I decide to give an object, that is purely personal (this power is gone if someone doesn’t know about it.) For this reason there is a constant need of audience: people that give their approval, look and witness and run to their neighbor. People that tell a story of a power that’s fascinating enough to be told again. It’s a never- ending circle of language and of how relationships and the human mind works. And everything we make is made to fit this circle.
*Thomas, who can’t believe unless he has touched with his own hand (literally unless he doesn’t stick his nose in the matter).
The technique that allows the transcription of the electrical activity of the brain. How it looks like: scribbles on a piece of paper.
In 18th century whalers’ logs, historians found constant references to the woggin.
“At 1 PM Sent our Boat on Shore After Some refreshments,”…“She returned with A Plenty of Woggins we Cooked Some for Supper.”
If Judith Lund, whaling historian, hadn’t decided to find out, woggins would have remained a mystery.
Every specialist has a jargon she speaks when the topic is related to her own field: same for whalers. A “blanket” was a massive sheet of blubber. “Gurry” was the sludge of oil and guts that covered the deck after a kill, and a “gooney” was an albatross. “Swile” was the slang for seals.
The many descriptions in logs made it clearer what woggins might have been.
A Sag Harbor vessel sailing in 1806 “kild one woglin at 10 am.” New Bedford sailors from 1838 describe “wogings in vast numbers & noisy with their shril sharp shreaking or howling in the dead hours of the night.”
Turns out that both whalers of the southern and northern hemisphere were using the word woggin for what actually were two different species of birds: penguins and great auks. What makes this story even more exciting is the fact that great auks went extinct sometime in the 1800.
Words reveal and keep secrets, group, ungroup, create species.