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Oscar van den Boogaard

WILDE THINGS The so contemporary jewellery 1 collection of Mrs. Wilde




Oscar van den Boogaard

WILDE THINGS The so contemporary jewellery collection of Mrs. Wilde

You don’t have to be born beautiful to be wildly attractive.

Diana Vreeland

This publication was made for the exhibition The Wilde Things. The so contemporary jewellery collection of Mrs. Wilde from 13 October 2013 to 19 January 2014 in z33 – house for contemporary art. With: Volker Atrops de, Gijs Bakker nl, Dinie Besems nl, Iris Bodemer de, Liesbet Bussche be, Nicolas Cheng se & Beatrice Brovia it/se, Boris de Beijer nl, Hilde De Decker be, Gemma Draper sp, Iris Eichenberg de, Silke Fleischer be, Irma Földényi hu, Studio Formafantasma it/nl, Karl Fritsch de, Hannah Joris be, Lore Langendries be, Tzu-Ling Lee tw, Benjamin Lignel fr, Suska Mackert de, Jorge Manilla mx/be, Evert Nijland nl, Katrin Spranger de, Manon van Kouswijk nl, Lisa Walker nz, Christoph Zellweger ch. Text Oscar van den Boogaard Film Manon de Boer Curator Evelien Bracke z33 Image cover Kristof Vrancken / z33; Jewel: Iris Eichenberg – Pink Years Later, 2009, Courtesy of Ornamentum Gallery

z33 – house for contemporary art Zuivelmarkt 33, Hasselt be +32 (0)11 29 59 60

Filmstills photo section Manon de Boer Graphic design Laura Bergans Translation Kate Mayne (text Oscar van den Boogaard) Michael Meert (epilogue)

z33 is an initiative of the Province of Limburg, Culture delegate Igor Philtjens and is supported by the Flemish Community.

Thanks to Sofie Deboutte and Greg Geertsen, Julie Fontenelle, Josien Hennen, Matylda Krzykowski, Jennifer Munday, Raya Stefanova, Chris Thys, Emma Dingwall Print Drukkerij Leën, Hasselt Publisher Jan Boelen, Zuivelmarkt 33, 3500 Hasselt be Depot d/2013/5857/050 ISBN 9789074605663

© z33 – All rights reserved. Nothing from this publication may be multiplied, saved in an automated data file or published, in any form or way (electronically, mechanically, by copying, recording, photographing or in any other way) without prior written authorization from the publisher.

The Wilde Things Oscar van den Boogaard p.13

Filmstills Manon de Boer p.31

Epilogue Evelien Bracke p.45

The Wilde Things Mrs. Wilde looked like a porcelain doll, the way she was sitting there motionlessly in front of the mirror, her back straight as a board and her eyes wide open. She had stopped thinking and had the feeling she was afloat. She could see clouds sail by and sometimes in between those clouds she could spot a patch of blue. A blackbird had perched itself on the branch by her windowsill and started to sing. His song brought her into a state of complete happiness, impenetrable to language. A hedge trimmer began to roar in the neighbour’s garden and in an instant the moment had ended. The blackbird flew off, startled, and Mrs. Wilde looked herself straight in the eyes. It took her a moment to realize who that woman in the dressing gown was. It was time to stop daydreaming and get ready for the arrival of the man with the luminous eyes. Although she had not seen or heard from Harry for many years and he had systematically left her cards and letters unanswered, she had never stopped believing – perhaps it wasn’t so much a matter of belief but of desire – that some day he would return. She also realized it was an incredibly girlish way to think – girlish to an extent she had never allowed herself to be – that he might be the man of her life. The other men (and boys) whom, in the past, she had seen as lovers, out of pure inexperience or desperation, had turned out to be 13

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mere passers-by, who, on her journey in search of fulfilment and resolution, had pointed her in the wrong direction. She still knew their names; she wasn’t that indifferent towards the men she had, albeit temporarily, but with the best of intentions, granted access to her existence: Henry, Peter, Giovanni, Edgar and Theodore. What they all had in common, thank god, was that they had not given her a child – which would no doubt have reminded her of its father for the rest of her life. Luckily they also hadn’t taken away her capacity to fall in love again. Another thing they had in common – and for that she would be eternally grateful – was that they had adorned her – especially Giovanni and Henry for whom money was no issue – with jewels that she had never returned, because she unconsciously knew that they would one day make way for something that she considered her personal identity: her collection. A few months before the turn of the millennium, Mrs. Wilde had decided to make a clean break with the past and put her jewels, which she considered to be memories of people and things she wanted to forget, up for auction. With the proceeds she would finance a collection of contemporary jewellery with the power to release her from her shackles and finally link her to the present. What I do know, is that these jewels are vital to me, she thought; they bring something out in me that would otherwise remain hidden, deep inside. In a way they bring me to light. They show me who I truly am, in all of my guises. As Mrs. Wilde stood in front of the mirror, swaying her hips, scrutinizing herself from every 14

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angle, she wondered what she should wear that evening. A little black dress, a white one lined with lace, a beige sweater over a miniskirt with boots? The choice depended on which piece from her collection she decided to wear. As she looked at the jewels, one by one, she wondered who she would be; what did she want to evoke? And even if she thought: the answer is simple, I have to be myself, Clarissa Wilde, there were still endless possibilities. It was as if a different woman with another past came with every piece, but also a different course of the day and another course of the rest of her life. It seemed to be the most existential choice Mrs. Wilde would ever have to make. Maybe I am not as strong as I like to pretend, thought Mrs. Wilde, as she looked at herself in the mirror. I am a broken woman, fallen apart into a thousand pieces in the course of my life. I have to glue myself back together, and pretend I am whole. I have to smooth out the cracks and creases, make myself unscathed and restore my unity. She knew that she could also look at it differently and proclaim: I am not really broken, but complex, richly varied, full of paradoxes. I don’t need a psychiatrist to tell me who I am, but an archaeologist. I am a woman of all ages. Mrs. Wilde took from her collection a piece of jewellery that looked like it came from a ship that had sunk long ago. Sea life had encrusted itself upon it, with flowers that had swept in with the turquoise of the sea. She could see the eyes of octopus glisten between the stones, and something that looked like a horn of plenty. It reminded her of the man with the trident, the god of the waves, 15

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for whom she would wear it this evening. “Harry dearest!” she exclaimed, “I know it’s easy to idealise someone you can’t see or hear, but even if I am really critical, so critical that I could crush the world with my reasoning, I can’t think of a man or a woman who has moved me more than you.” With ‘moved’ she meant: stirred, enchanted and changed. That first meeting in Venice was the last time that she had seen him. It had lasted 90 minutes – the length of a feature film – of perfect happiness and drunkenness that continued whenever she thought of him. That irresistible smile, those raised eyebrows, the flowers on his shirt: passionflowers, dahlias and gladiola. Mrs. Wilde brought her face close to the mirror and stroke it with her fingertips. “My rosy years are far behind me”, she muttered. No, that’s not it; my rosy years never ended. I can see no difference between my inside and my outside. I am psychological and genetic. I am made of skin, satin and nylon. I am open; an open wound. No, that’s too dramatic, an open book. If you look very carefully, Harry, as only lovers do – true lovers who do not only want to discover themselves in the other, but who want to have a real encounter – you will be able to read me and interpret me, and you will know where I come from and what I am feeling. Tonight I want to confound you with my jewels, knock you for six and show you every corner of the room, because I am looking for a genuine encounter. I am holding up a mirror for you on my chest, so that you can look yourself in the eyes; I mirror you back into yourself, but let you in under my skin, 16

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deep within. And you mustn’t be afraid when our souls transpire to be one and the same. I always resolved that you would never disappear from my life. This morning, when I gazed out of the window from my bed, past the vine-covered facades, and saw the blue sky, I knew for sure that you would return today. My grandmother taught me that you will never be lost, so long as someone loves you. A ship can be lost, a ring can slip from a finger, algae attach themselves to it, a coral, a tooth, a piece of metal. A new object coagulates, but it is still a ring. Another hedge trimmer stirred into action, cutting right through the noise of the first: a hellish duet. Mrs. Wilde tried to listen to the silence beneath the racket. Louise van Houten’s yew bushes had to be trimmed into perfect spheres. Her nouveauriche ambition was an English castle garden. She would have a panic attack whenever her yew or boxwood started to display yellow patches or wild, tufty protuberances. Mrs. Wilde in turn got a panic attack from all the noise of the hedge trimmers, lawn mowers and leaf blowers. And the fantasy that Louise’s gardener was the same as Lady Chatterley’s lover filled her with jealousy. She thought: let him come to me and together, hand in hand, we will see how my yew bush grows unkempt. Both healing and poisonous, she felt a profound affinity with that little shrub. At times Mrs. Wilde would feel the need to arm herself against the pain and noise of the world. Then she would feel unapproachable, yet a little lonely too, because she knew that every arrow cupid aimed at her would be deflected. Perhaps she 17

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shouldn’t see the object as a shield but as a blank label; she might then feel free and indefinable. Or else the jewel was a screen onto which others could project their ideas. Every image they had of her, every judgement, had more to do with them than it did with her. “Perhaps I could wear this tonight when you come”, she whispered. “You will understand that everything you think of me only has to do with yourself and that in order to really get to know me, you have to stop thinking.” Mrs. Wilde let a few porcelain brooches slip through her fingers and fondled them. They expressed her essence precisely. I am a woman in a kaleidoscope who dances cosmic dances in mandalas that keep on changing shape. I cannot pretend to be unchangeable, and other people find that threatening. For that reason they have called me unreliable, unsteady, volatile. But I refuse to bow and to behave according to a definition. Listen to what I am reading in a book by the Polish writer Gombrowicz: Mankind is accursed because our existence on this earth does not tolerate any welldefined and stable hierarchy, everything continually flows, spills over, moves on, everyone must be aware of and be judged by everyone else, and the opinions that the ignorant, dull, and slow-witted hold about us are no less important than the opinions of the bright, the enlightened, the refined. This is because man is profoundly dependent on the reflection of himself in another man’s soul, be it even the soul of an idiot. Mrs. Wilde danced in the middle of her Persian carpet. Swaying her arms over her head, she softly chanted: “Harry! Harry!” and then: “It is often 18

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said love is the most important thing for a woman, and even though I have spent a lifetime liberating myself from definitions, I have to admit that this counts for me too: love is everything. I am so ready to receive!” She took hold of an object on the table. For Mrs. Wilde it was an opened shell: you could read its pink interior like a book. “The story of my life is written in the colour of my skin,” she sighed. Is it an object or a jewel? I do not know the answer, but most of all, I like to hold it in my hands or put it down beside me. One of my ex-lovers, whom I showed it to, called the shell the most erotic object of my collection. It reminded him of the entrance to a woman. Of course, most men find the entrance interesting, they linger by the doorway, go in a little bit, but they don’t really dare to go all the way in, because then they are lost. Isn’t love precisely an issue of getting lost? Having faith in the unknown? Deep inside, way beyond the entrance, isn’t that where the real meeting takes place? It is impossible to talk to men about this, and with women it’s the same. That’s why Mrs. Wilde felt she would better keep this piece of jewellery to herself this evening. Mrs. Wilde’s gaze wandered towards the string of pearls hung on the bust at the edge of her dressing table. It wasn’t a real pearl necklace – she would not allow herself one of those – but an image of one. In her imagination she wore it with a smile: an internal pearl necklace, not so dreadfully serious, but playful, like the bust made of several layers of old comic strip albums. The object stood on her dressing table bearing witness to a possible 19

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life she hadn’t chosen. I could be a woman with a classical pearl necklace, Harry, but I’m not, because I want to be a woman of this time, a woman for whom nothing is self-evident, not even her own person. A woman who is prepared to ask questions and to also provoke them, who doesn’t necessarily want to answer them, who wishes to open herself instead of close, who wishes to wear her innermost on the outside, who wishes to communicate with the world instead of closing herself off from it. That is why my collection is so contemporary, to undo myself of old images, which to me have lost their impact. If people call me a materialist because I collect jewellery, they have completely missed the point. I am the biggest immaterialist there is. It is not matter that concerns me, but the connection between the object and myself. It is a question of affinity. For me a thing has a soul. I collect ideas. A pearl necklace is not only something that you wear around your neck, it is also a way of thinking; it is a question of connecting faces and people, places and specific spots; it is a threading together of links by association. Travelling and walking, too, are a way of making necklaces; I can see connections I have never seen before, I can organize my experience and wear it around my neck in my imagination. It is not the object that sets you free, Harry, but the idea that it wants to convey. Do you understand that Harry? Andy Warhol claimed he bought things because he couldn’t bear the thought that other people would buy them. Out of a strange kind of jealousy. He bought things and unwrapped nothing. That, 20

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too, was his art. And then he put what he had bought into boxes. He made them into time capsules. And sometimes he also hid them. After his death an impressive amount of jewellery and watches was found in his studio. The first time this came to light was when Sotheby’s in New York put them up for auction in 1988. As I leaf through the catalogue, I think of all those things of whose existence one is unaware, all that jewellery, all those watches and collections. I also think of all those people. The only way to give shape to the unknown is by presenting it as a void. Since I understood this, I always experience emptiness as a kind of plenitude. Suzy Ling’s lawn mower joined in with the two hedge trimmers. The trio of garden instruments played a mournful lament. Mrs. Wilde put her fingers in her ears and tried to block out the green widows. A lot of wisdom can be gleaned from those who have lived before us, she mused. Some people say that style is a trait you are born with, others claim it can be acquired. What does it matter how you got it; style or a lack of it can always be refined or redefined. I am a woman of the twentyfirst century. If we decide to take a walk after dinner this evening, I could always wear this design in springbok fur around my neck. It is a lucid variation on a well-known theme. It is the product of craft, combining craftsmanship with modern technology. The head could be a fox’s; I can wear it around my neck, and hold it close; I can speak to it. It is as much a real animal as I am a genteel lady. We are both of us pretending. My wild days aren’t over yet. I used to be able to organize my thoughts better 21

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and I imagined I knew exactly who I was and what I wanted. These days my dreams are intense and confusing, and I need the biggest part of the day to get over them. When I look in the mirror, I don’t recognize myself in that serene, well-organized face. Monks believe that a person has to become who God imagined them to be. When I am at my most un-free I feel like an algorithm that has been calculated, or, better still, programmed by him, and that I am doomed to realize that image he has of me. For the monks it is reassuring that we are the executors of a grand plan, and some days, it is for me, too. Then I surrender to everything that is happening and I try to convince myself that all is as it should be. Every pearl seems to be the result of an algorithm and pure logic; as if the necklace were made according to the plan thought out by a master with a clear aim in mind. For me it symbolizes our path through life. A clear and necessary journey, but one that, for me, remains a great enigma. Of course, Harry, my whole collection consists of jewels that pose questions; that give others and myself a wake-up call. I can deploy them as conversation pieces to provoke a confrontation, or at least a dialogue. At the same time you can’t always be thinking and you can’t always be aware of yourself. This is why I only wear my jewels for short periods at a time and I often switch, so that nothing becomes self-evident. Because when something is self-evident, you don’t see it anymore. That is why I need a collection. The most terrible thing in the world, to me, is that people don’t notice things; that things slowly become invisible. Not only things, but also people. This is why habits 22

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constantly need to be broken; this is why I am always putting my jewellery away. I get them out at the right moment, and I can look at them with a renewed gaze. It’s as if I am seeing them for the first time. I’ll tell you what I am afraid of: naturalness disappearing from the world, that no one is real anymore. The longing for nature is probably little more than a romantic ideal. Naturalness doesn’t exist, a French actress once told me. The more films I make, the more I discover that le naturel does not exist. The natural is the most artificial and sophisticated form of reality. What does exist is être vrai; to be genuine, true to life, but naturel doesn’t mean a thing. My grandmother claimed that everything is a question of the face you wear with it. She meant that with a certain élan simple clothes could also be chic. She wasn’t concerned with the actual value of the clothes but the value you ascribe to them. And the jewellery she wore always determined her look. Costume jewellery, nothing valuable, but it fit the clothes she wore and it gave them a certain cachet. She knew for sure that people suspected her of having a penchant for the decorative. Mrs. Wilde opened a little box and took out a colourful brooch. It was not an heirloom from her grandmother, but a contemporary interpretation of it: a painted 3d print. It questions the value of a piece of jewellery. Real and unreal flirt with each other. For me a jewel – and this in complete contrast with my grandmother – is not a question of the face you pull with it, but the thoughts you have with it. This makes every jewel an inner jewel; you wear it deep inside. 23

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Although I do not like mystery and metaphysics I must admit that you, Harry, have a Midas touch. You enchanted me with your staff and turned me into gold. What will replace the value of gold in the future? It is not unlikely that it will be crude oil. I am wearing this ornament tonight, loose on my shoulder, especially for you. It is a kind of drapery of black amphorae that melt at body temperature and stain your clothes. Il faut assumer, is what the French like to say. You have to take responsibility for your deeds and accept the consequences. I am a melting woman; I slowly become fluid and escape my identity. It is a miracle that a piece of jewellery can do this. When you come this evening, this jewel will melt in a warm embrace and we shall have to let ourselves get stained. I used to suffer in life, bearing the load of my troubles and those of others on my shoulders. Over the years I have learnt to let go of the weight of existence; to let it slip off me. I walk unhindered with a spring in my step over the black boulders no man can carry. I bear witness to that weight, yet I feel light as a feather. I know that freedom is an attitude; it’s a way of seeing. On one side of this necklace hang the stones made of paper that are held in place by a small, real pebble at the other end of the string. With all those stones around my neck I feel rock solid and I can console myself with the thought that not everything that looks heavy actually is heavy. Mrs. Wilde was on a roll; after the jewel with the stones made of paper, came the stone and coral necklace that looked as if it were a rebus; and the brooches that looked like ears, that reminded her 24

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of Harry’s ears that she loved so much; she hung a horse’s tail around her neck, a kind of shawl, with the porcelain vertebrae resting in the back of her neck. The horse is fusing with me, she thought, as she looked at herself in the mirror. I am the woman with the horse’s tail, the horse with the woman’s head; I am a divine being. If you find me wearing this jewel tonight, you will be forced to look at me with different eyes and perhaps you will be able to get to know me all over again. Mrs. Wilde looked around her at all the jewels that she had not yet tried on and thought: it’s time for an intermezzo. She felt powerless, because she was unable to try out all the possibilities before Harry’s arrival. She opened her notebook on which she had written “winged words” on the cover. You don’t have to be born beautiful to be wildly attractive, Mrs. Wilde read. A quote by Diana Vreeland. “Clarissa, you are wildly attractive!” she whispered to herself in the mirror as if to give herself a word of encouragement. She leafed through her notebook and read: Women are made to be loved, not understood. These words by her namesake Oscar meant that she shouldn’t be too severe on herself and that she didn’t have to try to understand herself, but she couldn’t resist trying anyway. Many women my age suffer from the fact they are growing older, she thought, just look at my next-door neighbours; they see it as a personal failure; as the end of their possibilities. I can see them covering their faces with expensive creams; I can see how they get themselves operated on; I can see how they make their voices high pitched and girlish and go around like mutton dressed as lamb; 25

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I can see them holding their chin up rigidly and gradually losing their spontaneity. I find it so sad that they find no joy in growing older, in having the chance to be alive; how many of us have not died already? I have resolved to say a thing or two to my female friends who complain of their age. They are not only ungrateful, but they are also giving the wrong example to all those young people who are in need of examples. With intelligence, humour and style, every old woman has it in them to be a dazzling being. The jewels from my collection have the capacity to keep me young, awake and connected with the present. For me they are better than any kind of plastic surgery. The skin, from which these brooches are made, is squeezed tight, wrinkled and desiccated, but I wear it as if I can look at it from a distance and remain unscathed within. Don’t get me wrong, Harry. I am not the kind of woman who carries the weight of the world on her shoulders. I like lightness, but I don’t want to cut myself off from the darker side of existence. Look, these rings look as if they were dug up from the rubble of a destroyed city. They are half disintegrated and blackened. They do not attempt to deny there is such a thing as pain, death and grief, as most pieces of jewellery try to do. This is what I mean; most pieces of jewellery enact the pretence that all in the world is just opulence and splendour and intend to deny that the gold and diamonds are stained with blood. In my well-to-do village, in my imagination, I can see bodies lying in the streets along its neatly shorn hedges; I can see carbonised fingers, nails and bone. The steel is cold but the 26

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resin warm. That warmth is a consolation, in a wholly wonderful way. A wound can be cared for and pain can be healed. When I wear these rings, I feel like a woman who is part of reality; a woman who lives in reality. I feel true to life. I can remember staying somewhere in India; from my hotel room I could hear a woman cry; she cried like a wolf, her moaning went straight through me. I heard it deep in my chest, as if I were she, but I never did see her face. As Mrs. Wilde sat there in front of the mirror her own mother popped into her mind. As a little girl she had loved to watch her mother as she sat in front of the dressing mirror. She lay on her tummy behind her on the bed and when the mirror opened she could see her mother reflected a thousand times. She saw every angle from which her mother could see herself, lit up by the bright strip lighting. There were dozens of little pots with golden lids in the doors, which made that dressing mirror look like the entrance to heaven. It was just as brightly lit and heavenly as the big department store where she would take me when she had expensive potions and creams sold to her. “Mirror yourself gently; mirror yourself in another�, my mother would say. She meant that if you compared yourself to someone else, you could still be happy with who you were. Perhaps this rule of thumb was slightly narcissistic. Mrs. Wilde opened her windows and twirled. On some days she felt so strong that she fancied she could influence the cosmos by means of her willpower alone, as if she could trigger providence. On those days, she was like a shaman who transcended all earthly matters, who could configure 27

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the stars to spell out her happiness. She then had the feeling, whenever she would go to the supermarket, that she was riding in a sun chariot over the clouds. It was as Goethe wrote: Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Mrs. Wilde dizzily dropped herself into a chair and started to doubt as she thought of Harry. I am not sure what I am longing for today, maybe I don’t want to see him at all tonight, maybe I have started to love his abstract presence in my life and his sudden concrete presence might be an obstacle to that love. I am afraid of his gaze, which he will judge me with, in a single glance; I am afraid of the disenchantment in his eyes, but I am also afraid of his desire; I need a good luck charm, an amulet, something that will protect me, something that protects me from thoughts that are negative. Something that will make me soft and sharp and guide me beyond all my doubts. An undefined, mysterious object, that feels as if an alchemist created it. Or maybe I need an aid that can assist me in a more concrete way this evening. An object that can help me “translate” and “read” the movements of my guest. Or another one, with which I can direct the conversation. Mrs. Wilde took a bracelet and hung it on her wrist. It was made of glass beads. How she loved glass, which is first fluid, then solid. Time stopped; movement; a drop of water. It was her Venetian bracelet, the city where you and she met, in the bar of Hotel Gritti Palace. She looked over the rim of her glass of Bellini; you then ordered the same. It was as if I came to life in your gaze. I was already alive, 28

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but then I really began to live, Life with a capital L; life intensified, in which I felt connected to its deeper meaning. We continued to gaze at each other as the city around us was slowly drowning. There was the sun’s reflection in the water, as the balustrades of the palazzos rippled amongst a million pearls. I am the woman of glass, I can look out and people can look in, but no one can touch me; I am safe in my transparent body. But you have to break me open tonight and touch me, deep within. I have been happy and I still am. You were only in my life for a moment, but in that short time you have proven that you know me better than the people who have called themselves my friends all my life. Isn’t it strange? Maybe you should stay a stranger, so that you will continue to know me completely. When the bell rings in a moment, maybe I will have to pretend I did not hear it. Mrs. Wilde covered her ears with her hands. The blackbird had come back to sit on the window ledge, and started to sing. Only when she heard its muffled song coming through her closed fingers, did she realise the machines had stopped screaming.


Lisa Walker, Pendant (2005), Courtesy Gallery Caroline Van Hoek, p.15-16

Iris Eichenberg, Pink Years Later (2009), Courtesy Ornamentum Gallery, p.16


Karl Fritsch & Francis Upritchard, Skill (2009), Courtesy Gallery Caroline Van Hoek, p.17

Volker Atrops, Untitled (2008 – 2013), p.17


Silke Fleischer, Pickup #6 (2012), p.17-18

Manon van Kouswijk, Ornamental Residue (2013), Courtesy Gallery Ra, p.18


Gemma Draper, Apertura1 (2009), p.19

Hilde De Decker, Jommeke (2010), Courtesy Gallery Marzee, p.19-20

Liesbet Bussche, De Parel-ketting (2013), p.20

Suska Mackert , The Andy Warhol Collection (2008), p.20-21

Lore Langendries, Why Mink? (2013), Commission z33, p.21

Dinie Besems, A min 1 (2013), Commission z33, p.22


Christoph Zellweger, Excess 189 (from the excessories – series) (2012), p.23

Gijs Bakker, Still Life (2008), p.23


Katrin Spranger, Best Before (2012), p.24

Tzu – Ling Lee, The Lightness of life (2011), p.24

Iris Bodemer, Untitled (2004), p.24

Benjamin Lignel, Thinking of you (2007), Courtesy NextLevel gallery, p.24-25

Studio Formafantasma, Colonna (2007), p.25

Hannah Joris, Study of an organ / imprint (Counterpart III) (2013), Study of an organ / imprint (Counterpart V) (2013), Courtesy Gallery Caroline Van Hoek, p.25-26


Jorge Manilla, Pain (2010-2011), p.26-27

Beatrice Brovia & Nicolas Cheng, Vanity Mirrors (2012), Courtesy Gallery Caroline Van Hoek, p.27


Boris de Beijer, Transparent Bismuth Brigadir (2012) Courtesy Gallery Ra, p.28

Irma FĂśldĂŠnyi, New Skills New Tools (2013), Commission z33, p.28

Evert Nijland, Imagine Riflessa (2007), Private collection, p.28-29

Jewellery more than any other object I can think of, is the closest example of something that represents both a person’s identity and their soul and not surprisingly we associate jewellery objects easily to a person, real or imagined. Jewellery is not for ‘something’, it is for ‘someone’.

Lin Cheung

Epilogue For several years now, I have tried to define my fascination for contemporary jewellery. It is one of the most exciting forms of contemporary object culture, able to cross between the public and private spheres of everyday life. The intense relationship between subject and object is unique in the visual arts. Jewellery, moreover, is mobile, wearable and hence semantically variable, depending on the context from which it is viewed. Time and again I have tried to put my fascination into words, yet I have to admit that words, in themselves, are not enough. Contemporary jewellery has to be ‘experienced’: the richness of its micro world of subtle materials, the pleasure of wearing it on the body. It is a ‘coup de foudre’ that overwhelms one when confronted with a particular piece. That feeling of confusion and ecstasy of the moment, a feeling that cannot be put into words. It is exactly this feeling that I first experienced as a young student when visiting an exhibition of contemporary jewellery in Antwerp.1 I can still exactly recall the pieces I saw on that occasion. A new conceptual (micro) world opened itself to me: a world of jewels, related to art, fashion and design, that makes up a form of artistic expression and a discipline entirely of its own. In compiling The Wilde Things at z33, I kept this first experience in mind: the ‘wonder and 1 Blikvangers, 29-10-1999 to 19-12-1999, Koningin Fabiolazaal, Antwerp


fascination’ an unknown discipline can provoke. It is a true pleasure to see that some of the jewellery designers I discovered at that time (Hilde De Decker, Dinie Besems, Iris Eichenberg and Manon van Kouswijk) are now part of the exhibition as well. The Wilde Things. The so contemporary jewellery collection of Mrs. Wilde (13.10.2013 19.01.2014, z33) makes clear that even something small can be truly ‘great’. The exhibition shows how jewellery can evoke memories and associations; how it is, in this sense, intertwined with life as ‘material memories’. It can be included into the domain of personal stories; that sensual, lithe entanglement of objects and memories. 2 It is precisely this relationship between jewellery and its wearer that formed the starting point for this exhibition. In The Wilde Things, contemporary jewellery is, once again, presented in a context, namely in the intimate and personal environment of the wearer, which is where, in essence, it belongs. The exhibition, in this respect, positions itself within the emerging debate on jewellery and context that is for one very much present in the work of art historian Marjan Unger. Jewellery is presented mostly as an autonomous object and often portrayed without context in books and catalogues, but jewellery is meant to be worn. 3 Since long, this specific relationship between jewellery and its wearer has fascinated me. How does contemporary jewellery function as ‘material memory’? How is it able to evoke memories and associations?

2 Edmund de Waal 3 Marjan Unger


A piece of jewellery can be seen as a collection of meanings. There are several moments when meaning is created. The first involves the maker who gives form to a particular concept, laden with meaning, which is then infused with the wearer’s personal memories, interpretations and associations, and finally with the viewer’s perspective. In contrast to most exhibitions of contemporary jewellery which mainly focus on the intentions of the designer/maker (author), The Wilde Things puts forward a different layer of meaning: that of the wearer. The Wilde Things, having as its starting point the relationship between jewellery and its wearer, was conceived as a narrative exhibition in which a story and a fictional character play the leading role. The concept, from the outset, incorporated other disciplines such as literature and film. Contemporary jewellery can, in this way, establish inspiring relationships beyond the boundaries of its own discipline, reach beyond the confines of a niche and enter into dialogue with a different audience. ‘Mrs. Wilde’ – an elderly lady with a love for contemporary jewellery – was created following a number of conversations with writer Oscar van den Boogaard. Based on a selection of twenty-five contemporary jewellery pieces from both emerging talent and established names on the international scene, Oscar van den Boogaard wrote a story about Mrs. Wilde, her jewellery collection, and the personal memories and associations attached to it. Aside from twenty-two existing creations, three


designers4 were asked to design a new piece for the fictional Mrs. Wilde. Filmmaker Manon de Boer in turn, created a film that makes tangible the relationship between Mrs. Wilde and her jewellery and translates the story into the dimension of the exhibition space. In the film, Mrs. Wilde is given a face and the jewellery a body. Together, the story, the twenty-five pieces of jewellery and the film form a whole, a narrative exhibition experience. As a visitor one literally steps into the world of Mrs. Wilde. The selection of twenty-five contemporary jewellery pieces presents a sampling of the current perspectives within the discipline on an international level. The Wilde Things does not aim to present an overview, but rather a critical look on a number of current developments within this discipline which has, since the 1960s, developed into an autonomous, artistic and reflective design practice. Indeed, already from the outset, some fifty years ago, investigations have in the first place turned toward the possibilities and history of the medium as such. This process of experimentation with materials and technology or the referencing to the long and rich history of jewellery (this could be called ‘self-reflective’ jewellery) still continues. Obviously there are numerous interesting examples of these tendencies, as well as of the more narrative jewellery approach, but at the same time there is a need for a broader look at the world and our society of today. Jewellery, by definition, belongs ‘in’ the world and can, as such, function as ‘conversation pieces’. As ‘critical objects’, they can provoke debate. 4 Dinie Besems, Lore Langendries, Irma Földényi


Some of the young designers/makers present in the exhibition resolutely opt for a more socially oriented approach. It is important to keep questioning the relevance of contemporary jewellery and to explore the ways in which jewellery can address issues that are pertinent in our society. The Wilde Things aims to encourage young designers and makers to debate and reflect upon their position in society. My whole collection consists of jewels that pose questions; that give others and myself a wake-up call. I can deploy them as conversation pieces to provoke a confrontation, or at least a dialogue. – Mrs. Wilde

Evelien Bracke z33



The Wilde Things


Oscar van den Boogaard

Mrs Wilde looked like a porcelain doll, the way she was sitting there motionlessly in front of the mirror, her back straight as a board and her eyes wide open. She had stopped thinking and had the feeling she was afloat. She could see clouds sail by and sometimes in between those clouds she could spot a patch of blue. A blackbird had perched itself on the branch by her windowsill and started to sing. His song brought her into a state of complete happiness, impenetrable to language. A hedge trimmer began to roar in the neighbour’s garden and in an instant the moment had ended. The blackbird flew off, startled, and Mrs Wilde looked herself straight in the eyes. It took her a moment to realize who that woman in the dressing gown was. It was time to stop daydreaming and get ready for the arrival of the man with the luminous eyes.


Z33 The Wilde Things - pocket/catalogue (English)  

For the exhibition The Wilde Things. The so contemporary jewellery collection of Mrs. Wilde ( 13.10.2013 - 19.01.2014) Z33 published a small...