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Posted 14.05.18

Polyphonous: Whispers and art jewellery in Munich

By Phillip Buchan

Rachel Darbourne, Pathway Leader for our BA (Hons) Jewellery programme and Subject Tutor on our MA Jewellery, co-curated and exhibited at Polyphonous Whispers as part of Munich Jewellery Week in Germany this year.

Polyphonous Whispers was conceived as a conversation in art jewellery between Rachel, Professor Jivan Astfalck and Laura Bradshaw-Heap. The three met at The School of Jewellery, Birmingham City University where Rachel completed her MA, Professor Astfalck was the Course Director and Laura was an artist in residence.

The three first collaborated on the ‘JUNK: rubbish to gold’ live performance, exhibition and auction at the School of Jewellery in 2015, and its second edition the following year as part of Munich Jewellery Week.

Outcomes from ‘JUNK: rubbish to gold’ have twice been delivered at our biennial Making Futures symposium, a research platform exploring contemporary craft and maker movements as ‘change agents’ in 21st-century society.

Rachel Darbourne, Professor Jivan Astfalck and Laura Bradshaw-Heap

The artists have exhibited regularly at Studio Gabi Green in West Munich, during Munich Jewellery Week. For 2018 Gabi invited other local businesses to collaborate. The result was a multi-site exhibition under the umbrella title ‘Polyphonous’, with Rachel, Professor Astfalck and Laura working jointly to recruit an international community of makers to occupy six pop-up sites.

Artists from the UK, Thailand, Denmark, Copenhagen, the USA and more collaborated across the six sites.

"Munich Jewellery Week gives you an understanding of the global field in which you’re practising, as well as creating opportunities to meet your peers and see their work, positioning you in an international context."

– Rachel Darbourne, BA (Hons) Jewellery Pathway Leader

Rachel Darbourne said: “The idea for ‘Polyphonous: Whispers’ came from a discussion when Jivan said that she would like a space full of quiet work. We settled on the word ‘whispers’ and each of us responded in an individual but collectively coherent way, based around regular Skype meetings about quiet spaces, visual language and colour. Ultimately I feel that ‘Polyphonous: Whispers’ represents three female artists, describing through jewellery, aspects of what it means to us to be female.”

Munich Jewellery Week is an independent initiative that supports and communicates the yearly city-wide jewellery exhibitions that run parallel to the German Handwerk & Design expo, and its historic jewellery and applied arts exhibitions: Schmuck, Talente, and Meister der Moderne.

Rachel Darbourne said: “There’s an energy to visiting Munich Jewellery Week that’s quite extraordinary. I would encourage all of our students and anybody thinking about studying jewellery to visit.”

“Jewellers spend a lot of time working in solitude. Munich Jewellery Week gives you an understanding of the global field in which you’re practising, as well as creating opportunities to meet your peers and see their work, positioning you in an international context. There’s nothing like the deadline of an exhibition to get you creating new work. Putting yourself out in an environment where you’re going to get feedback, and not being afraid to do so, is a vital part of the process for creating jewellery.”