Jewels are one of the oldest objects of material culture. They signify status and wealth, and are the visible focal point in the performance of public rituals of power. But they are also sensual objects associated with adornment and beauty, and with intimate gestures or giving and receiving. With Eine Ordnung des Glanzes Suska Mackert writes a poetic history of the field of jewelry and the multiple possible lines of connections between jewels, images and everyday gestures. She researches the double lives of jewels, and reflects on the ways that these small objects belong everywhere, and yet always remain out of place.
Mackert’s two-dimensional museum of jewelry, as she herself defines it, is not precisely an archival project. The archive usually organizes objects, texts and images in taxonomy with clear-cut categories. Contrary to that, Mackert sets the archive in motion by creating mobile constellations of material like press images, catalogues, own work, text and findings. This ever-growing network of images trace the presence of jewels and gestures related to jewelry in multiple contexts with a great precision and attention to detail. The archive with its implicit hierarchy interprets the objects it holds as documents or evidence. But such fragments, no matter how charged with meaning they can be, have irretrievably lost the contact with the past that they claim to represent. Mackert makes interventions in such documents. The photographs of the jewelry objects in the catalogue presenting the Andy Warhol jewelry collection are cut out, as well as one of the eyes in series of portraits found in the press, which were then used to create series of eye-brooches. By re-photographing such altered document-fragments she questions their status as originals and gives them life as multiples which can be included in many different constellations, which spill into many possible other lines of thinking and grouping. Her atlas-like network with an expansive, vertiginous force is not characterized by a hierarchical logic, or perhaps if it is, this is the logic of multiple co-possible hierarchies.
A key moment in Mackert’s work is the gesture of removing, subtracting the jewelry object from its context. Her intervention in the catalogue of the Andy Warhol collection results in a blind, image-less structure consisting only of outlines. These evocative absences have an important effect - to bring to visibility the device of the catalogue with its infrastructure, and to demonstrate that it is impossible to erase the jewel-afterimages. Each act of erasure leaves another trace. In this sense, Mackert’s practice unpacks a conceptual question at the heart of the jewelry object – its status as something added, an accessory. But we know that supplements have a subversive force precisely because of their unstable identity. The jewel’s role is to add, to enhance, to indicate status. Yet, at the very moment, it adds, it in fact indicates an absence, insufficiency – the wearer is not beautiful or important enough. On another level Mackert questions the inherent similarity between jewels and the devices that present objects – frames, stands, catalogues, which are by definition supplemental. Her ‘negative jewelry’ then does not only point to the presentational context with its specific economy, but embodies a central aspect of the jewelry object – to always oscillate between materiality and ephemerality.
Mackert’s practice is an emphatic reflection on the open identity of the jewelry object. Her way of work, with a great love of detail reflects its crafted nature. Its making requires great skill, precision and patience - carefully holding something very small, polishing, weaving, cutting, carving. Her gesture is both conceptual and performative. The identity of the object cannot be fixed, and the object itself is a nodal point in an expanding network of social relations, work, gestures, economies. She demonstrates the pervasiveness of jewelry objects, its presence in the most unexpected places.
Contemporary jewelry is a restless field, not content with being considered as applied art, constantly re-negotiating its status. It produces objects, which are always at the in-between, the margin, unplaceable.