Elegy


10 March - 9 April, 2020

Liv Boyle (Vic), Helen Britton (Australia-Germany), Maree Clarke (Vic), Michelle Stewart (Vic), Jess Dare (SA), Maureen Faye-Chauhan (Vic), Kyoko Hashimoto (NSW), Marian Hosking (Vic), Cara Johnson (Vic), Inari Kiuru (WA-Vic), Catherine Truman (SA), Lisa Waup (Vic).

Contemporary design positions itself as a means to mitigate the impact we have on Earth and to ameliorate the grave threats it faces. Alongside the proffered solutions intended to avoid the impending ecological and social crises though, there is a need to acknowledge the damage already inflicted; to allow grief for our losses already suffered and those yet to come.

As design aims to improve life through its utility, jewellery is uniquely positioned to meet more intrinsic functions by facilitating an internal space and a mode of emotional expression that all humans require. Connected to mourning throughout human history and across cultures, jewellery has been used to carry memory, to make formal and public expressions of grief, and to console. Though the use of mourning jewellery in western cultures has become less formalised and more private through the 20th and 21st centuries, the profound subjectivity of those pieces handed down, gifted or bought in remembrance, imbues them with meanings more profound than words can encompass.

The elegy is traditionally a poetic form that follows the recognised stages of loss: lament, praise and consolation. This exhibition invites a group of Australian artists to respond to the notion of the elegy and create one, or a series of objects, that facilitate mourning and allow for praise or consolation where it can be found. The participating jewellers all have a history of working with the natural environment, not just as source of inspiration but as co-collaborator: their work is profoundly tied to their concern for nature.

Elegy is not an optimistic project, but nor is it a passive one. It asks us to recognise the profound mental and emotional impacts climate change has on individuals and on society as a whole, and to acknowledge our grief by giving it a receptacle, so it may be held, carried, honoured and, most importantly, used.

This event is part of Melbourne Design Week 2020, an initiative of the Victorian Government in collaboration with the NGV. Explore the full program at designweek.melbourne.


Mourning brooch, by Helen Britton, 2019, vintage plastic, silver, glass