Last month during Schmuck 2014 in Munich, a lecture by philosopher Pravu Mazumdar entitled Understanding Surfaces. On Jewellery and Identity* was presented at the Pinakothek der Moderne museum to a full house of international jewelry artists and enthusiasts.
“Human surfaces are hybrid objects involving biological and cultural elements like dress, makeup, jewellery, gait, skin, posture, voice. Contemporary societies manifest not only surfaces of products, but also human surfaces functioning as ‘packaging’ and emitting discourses on interiority that place humans within limits and define their individuality…” © 2014 Pravu Mazumdar (b. 1952, India). Lecture organized by Die Neue Sammlung and the Pinakothek der Moderne (International Design Museum), Munich.
Using contemporary philosophy paired with images of contemporary jewelry, Mazumdar posed his theories on visual surfaces which create identity and what human identity means in modern day society, and how some jewelry artists are addressing these concepts.
Surfaces communicate the first visual perception or understanding of a person’s identity. They are permeated with cultural elements and meanings in which Mazumdar explored. Identity is in part culturally inherent and based in tradition, while another part is purely superficial and easily altered. What is displayed on our exterior skin may or may not reflect what is on the interior, or our true identity. We tend to create a shell of our physical surface to express that in which we identify.
Contemporary jewelry, adorned on the body, is related to this identity and has the ability to break traditional boundaries in our attempt to be unique. Our identities may reflect a self-fabrication based on the global fashion industry and swiftly changing trends and ideas. But our physical identity is captured and recorded in a specific moment, in a photo for an identity card or passport, with our descriptive elements identifying our being, where we come from, and who we are, at least on file. How does our surface identity define us within society and where does it allow us to travel?
*The entire paper of Pravu Mazumdar’s lecture Understanding Surfaces. On Jewellery and Identity can be read and uploaded here.