In het kader van het onderzoeksproject ‘Afterschool’ vroegen we aan oud-student Annelies Weinberger welke adviezen ze aan studenten en beginnende ontwerpers wil meegeven vanuit haar eigen praktijk. Onder haar eigen naam maakt ze zowel vrij werk als werk in opdracht. Dit jaar is ze voor de tweede keer in haar carrière geselecteerd voor de HRD-award met het diamantsieraad ‘A Taste of Life’. Daarnaast geeft ze ook les als docent goudsmeden in het volwassenenonderwijs.
Annelies: “Na de opleiding verandert de context: op school was ik omringd door mensen die rond eenzelfde benadering van juwelen werken. Daarna werd ik plots geconfronteerd met juwelen als ‘accessoire, bijzaak of luxeproduct’, en met begrippen als ‘duur, goedkoop, klassiek, klein en braaf’. Juwelen moeten voor een groot publiek vooral mooi en draagbaar zijn en worden minder gezien als een kunstvorm of een middel tot expressie. Mijn ervaring is dat mensen liever geen vragen stellen bij een juweel. Ze willen geen statement maken of een diepere betekenis geven aan een accessoire. En in België mag een juweel liefst niet te opvallend zijn.”
Annelies stelt dat “het steeds zoeken is naar een evenwicht van wat ik wil, wat anderen willen, wat er wordt verwacht en wat er kan. Ondanks de vaak door de klant uitgesproken woorden ‘doe gewoon uw goesting’, moet ik toch steeds compromissen maken.”
Op de veelgestelde vraag of ze dezelfde studiekeuze opnieuw zou maken, antwoordt Annelies volmondig ja: “Ik heb in die studiejaren veel geleerd, andere visies leren kennen en nieuwe inzichten ontwikkeld. Ik heb anders leren kijken, leren analyseren, een mening vormen en dingen in vraag stellen. Organiseren, discussiëren, samenwerken, verantwoordelijkheid nemen, omgaan met kritiek en feedback, … Dit alles liet me groeien tot een creatief persoon!”
Verder raadt Annelies aan om een blik te werpen op projecten zoals ‘Onbetaalbaar’, veel infosessies bij te wonen zoals bijvoorbeeld ‘Van hobby naar bijberoep’ door Tijs Vastesaeger van Doenker en lezingen te volgen zoals bijvoorbeeld ‘Een toekomst voor ambachten’ door Ellen Vandenbulcke. Voor ondersteuning en begeleiding in de starterloopbaan verwijst ze naar organisaties zoals Handmade in Belgium, De Invasie, Design Vlaanderen, Kunstwerkt, Kunstenloket en OOG.
Na haar studie was ze nog niet volledig voorbereid op het echte leven, met een job als sieraadontwerper: “Meer toegepaste ervaring en specifieke kennis over een naschoolse praktijk tijdens het afstuderen raad ik aan om een loopbaan te kunnen starten.”
Heb je suggesties hoe je dit advies kan opnemen in een onderwijsprogramma?
Annelies: “Het zou goed zijn als de student al tijdens zijn studie concrete doelstellingen opstelt en onderzoek voert naar de werking van en noden in het brede veld van de ‘markt’ van juwelen, van het kunstcircuit tot het commerciële circuit: Wat wil ik bereiken, waar wil ik staan binnen 5 jaar en hoe presenteer ik mezelf - als goudsmid, kunstenaar of ontwerper. En wat is het verschil? Wat is mijn doelgroep, hoe wil ik mijn juwelen verspreiden, ... Kortom, verzamel zoveel mogelijk informatie! Je kan best een stappenplan maken, een soort zakenplan opstellen met een realistische kijk. Hoogstwaarschijnlijk zal je er nog een gewone job moeten bijnemen om genoeg geld te verdienen.“
Annelies: “Docenten moeten vooral hun kennis en ervaring blijven delen met de studenten en zowel nadruk leggen op het ontwikkelen van een persoonlijke stijl en het behouden van hun eigen identiteit als eerlijk wijzen op de moeilijkere aspecten, zoals werkdruk, faalangst, te hoge verwachtingen koesteren, ...”
Tot slot vindt Annelies dat “elke student zich moet differentiëren in zijn werk en meer moet samenwerken. Ik hoop ook dat de school meer evenementen gaat organiseren met en voor alumni.”
Annelies Weinberger behaalde in 2008 haar MA-diploma Juweelontwerp | Edelsmeedkunst aan Sint Lucas Antwerpen. Zij woont en werkt in Gent.
In 2002 you became the artistic director of Z33. In this capacity you introduced a multidisciplinary programme that combines art and design. How did you arrive at this?
In fact I’m a designer by training, which means that I didn’t follow a traditional training in art history where writing, reflecting and making exhibitions have the upper hand. In my early years at Z33, there was a looser approach in the Netherlands: museums had directors with a background in architecture and design, such as Willem Sandberg at the Stedelijk Museum, Jean Leering at the Van Abbemuseum, and Wim Crouwel at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. Designers played a crucial role in the debate around art and applied art. They were my examples. Contrary to the situation at the time, the situation today in the Netherlands has become problematic and we no longer need to follow their example.
How did you implement these visions at Z33?
We got off to a modest start and mainly continued building on the potential of higher education in the arts, with on one hand applied art and on the other the liberal arts. This combination was already available at the Jan van Eyck Academie in Maastricht and at the Design Academy in Eindhoven. I turned my back on Flanders and tried to find access in Germany, Wallonia and the Netherlands. Art education was the foundation and we were the white box that put on the discourse and debate for the public.
What conversation in particular did you want to trigger?
I wanted to pursue a discussion on ‘how to introduce design in the art world’. Only discussing what design means in relation to art is not something I find interesting. I don’t care about the maker’s background. What you do or make or what research you conduct is important and shows your involvement in the social debate. The discourse of the things is important: ‘The internet of things’ or the Internet as the space between us. That interests me. We ask ourselves how we can bring contemporary art, design, media, jewellery, poetry, etc. into the white space, both in more traditional spaces and in public spaces. But we also see a website, a talk or a performance as a medium. The context and the medium are important for what we do.
Does this have repercussions on visitors? Do they look differently at the exhibitions in Z33 because of this?
Over the years we have built up a steady audience of which 60 per cent comes from outside the region. We are currently doing some renovation work and because of the new location the visibility will have to be increased. We will partly have to begin again to draw a new audience. So we have to broaden our scope, but we also have to go deeper.
We now have forty thousand physical visitors on an annual basis. Doubling that number is not a problem, but then we have to pursue a different sort of campaign, which is what we are going to do once the new construction is ready. We have also noticed that we have a global audience. Since 2007, more than a million people have visited the Z33 website, so for every physical visitor four people are viewing the website.
Who defines the programme?
Z33 always works on the basis of dialogue and discussion. We organize three large and three small exhibitions per year. The small projects deliberately have a different set of expectations with more risk, less context and fewer means. The communication is different too and we target a more specialized public. These are small research projects, ‘experimental gardens’ from which we too learn a lot. For the large projects we have two thematic exhibitions, linked to a research studio, and a solo exhibition of an artist that has been active for fifteen years. We do this because we see that it is lacking in the museum landscape. In any case I am quite critical of the current situation in Flemish museums: group exhibitions are almost never mounted any more because they demand too much work, are complex and demand a judgement from the institution. Flanders remains quite closed and takes few risks. We want to create a distinct profile for ourselves.
Does this perhaps have to do with subsidies?
It’s possible. I have a favourable, more open opinion of the new arts decree. It starts out now rather from an occasion, a motivation and from research. I am very hopeful, because it is no longer about disciplines. The liberal arts emancipated themselves from funding in the late nineteenth century, while the applied arts depended on commissions. Visual artists have put themselves in a menacing position and claim that they have to be treated in a special way. Applied artists have to claim louder that they belong to art and culture, and not to the economy. But the way things are currently evolving, each application begins with a person or an individual.
But in education it’s still a matter of disciplines?
I find design education in Flanders saddening and average. Only fashion occupies an exceptional position. This is due to the structure of the education. There is too much bureaucracy and as a result, vast systems are set up to fix everything, to process the paperwork and to regulate everything so that nothing can go wrong. That’s no good! It has nothing to do with the quality of the student. As a teacher you have to formulate your own objectives, keep coming with your own suggestions and dare to ignore papers.
We have noticed that the public finds it difficult to place our jewellery training. Our vision of transdisciplinary work appears to be too complex. How would you formulate the content of the training if is indeed no longer a question of disciplines?
That is indeed problematic for you. For me it’s easier: I stick a title on an exhibition. Except that I don’t have enough means to communicate about exhibitions in the right way. The Wild Things was more than an exhibition, it was a quest for potential media. It raised the question as to how you can share the message and the content.
Should you also ensure within a training that the message is shared or should you concentrate on making the work?
I would mainly focus on the work itself, because in the long run that will become the definition of what you do. The interpretation defines what you want to communicate. The training then produces images that can be shared, that raise questions and captivate. Above that then there is a ‘definition’, such as design, jewellery or free design, that determines what you mean. We have an identical problem with the Social Design department in Eindhoven. Half of those who enrol don’t quite get what we really mean. They see Social Design as development aid or colonial misthought, but Social Design is about adopting a critical attitude with regard to design and the making of design. My advice is: keep doing what you are now doing!
In your view, what theme could be interesting to work on within a jewellery department? What is topical?
I think there are two major lines: social developments and scientific phenomena. A social development consists, for instance, in taking part in the discussion around public space. Scientific phenomena consist in focusing on technology, materials and techniques that also have an impact on those social developments. Our behaviour changes, so that there is a need for movement in society. As a result things will have to be made and conceived differently. It is not about technique per se, but especially about the implications thereof, such as producing locally. If you engage in the social debate on this issue, you soon arrive at craft and the sharing of knowledge via guilds. What can that mean for education? Is this a form of networking? How can you set up a contemporary guild that shares and explores knowledge? This can all be related to the body, and as a result the jewel can play an important role.
Should we also work in a different manner with students?
We don’t start out enough from the individual. Students enter without any ‘personality’. As a teacher you have to provoke them, take hold of their intuition and stimulate their spontaneity. They must develop, express and learn to reflect their fascinations on themselves – all in the context of a master’s training. You must give them the freedom for individual research and make them responsible.
Is there a difference between yesterday’s students and today’s?
I make a selection based on passion, not talent. You can help shape that energy, so that a successful design practice can develop later. We have to stop teaching things. It is about attitude, because you can teach yourself everything. What is the role of the teacher? Ask questions: why are you doing this? What do you want to do? How do you want to do it? For whom? As a teacher you constantly have to question your students and no longer teach. You have to force them to think, to teach them an investigative method and to equip them with a critical frame of mind.
In the past, jewellery came under ‘free design’, a term that has fallen out of use. Does ‘free design’ still exist?
I’ve said it before: the discussion about definitions is not something that interests me. The work interests me – and whether it can be represented in an interesting manner. What does it add to a discourse?
With the fading of the term ‘free design’, the platforms also seem to have faded. Is that something that we will have to initiate ourselves?
Yes, it can become part of the training. We now have in Eindhoven a master’s in Curating and Writing. It helps us bring the discussion to the students themselves, because art historians are too remote from the practice and the processes that take place. Can you introduce a different dynamic in this way within the training? How can you externalize that?
Offer graduates a platform using small exhibitions and publications so as to bring them back into the department, to build up a dialogue with people from outside and clarify what you stand for. Stimulate entrepreneurial students to set up projects and to apply for subsidies.
What do you do with people who have a twenty-year career behind them?
You yourself have to determine what you want.
The work can no longer be about itself?
As a designer you have to make a clear statement. You are a person that has an opinion, with which you position yourself in the social debate.
Is the world of jewellery too hermetic and too small, only successful in itself?
This is also happening within the visual arts. That world keeps itself apart and is opaque. For instance, deals are made where galleries determine what museums show. These are phenomena that go beyond artistic choices and which are determined by vast market mechanisms. To come back to The Wild Things, the curator Bracke, ed. got a video artist and a writer on board to tell the story behind the jewels. What would happen if, for instance, a scientist joined the training? You yourself have to break out of the world and create a platform by entering alliances. You only break through with other knowledge and by following your own discourse so that a new discourse can emerge. Make sure there is enough critical mass and build up a new platform of ‘free design’ within ten years. Your training can stand for unexpected connections, whereby you enter into connections with other areas via the making.
Workshop / Triple Parade 2015: CH-ewelry, the Chinese archetypes
CH-ewelry, the Chinese Archetypes by Liesbet Bussche
Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts, China
23 & 24 May 2015
According to the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, an archetype is 'a perfect example of something, because it has all the most important qualities of things that belong to that type'. It's an original model of something from which others are copied.
These prime models have the strength not only to be recognizable for the experts, but by a wide audience. Familiarity with material, form or shape brings appreciation and understanding as well as a collective consciousness about values and stories. Each country has its archetypes. A regional population, an ethnic identity or a particular subculture can be distinguished by its use of archetypes. These typical examples are perfect prototypes to start a conversation about jewelry.
In this two-day workshop, we will explore the Chinese archetypes — your archetypes. And how a designer can tell his own story with these iconic choices as starting point.