A worthy-enough topic for horror, Lauren Kalman designed a line of jewelry that is so single-minded in its ornamentation that it hurts the person who dares to wear it. Devices for Filling a Void is a series of both jewelry and of photographs of the pieces being worn. They look to be the products of a twisted dentist-turned-fashion designer, a madman who exults not only in the appearance of his creations, but also in the discomfort and debasement they cause in the person who models them.
Above image: Lauren Kalman, Device for Filling a Void (3), 2014, inkjet print, 20 x 16 inches
Kalman spares us nothing and every grim facet of the experience is documented for us. The pain is shown plainly on the model’s face. The pieces each inhibit the model’s ability to speak; one ornament even prevents her from breathing comfortably. A syrupy line of drool hangs from her chin, symbolizing the passing of time, selling the dull ache you’ll start to feel in your cheek as your mouth is filled with the taste of copper.
She exhibited the works at Personal Space Project this summer. Kalman has a different reading of the pieces than I do. I see it as jewelry that reaches an infernal ideal, a design that has moved beyond humanity and now resents us. Kalman wraps in disease as its own kind of ornament.
Historically my work has references diseases like acne, cancer, herpes, and elephantiasis, or physical trauma like amputation and facial reconstruction surgery; presenting them as jeweled infections, fabric growths, or wearable electronic instruments.
My recent work has utilized a sterile aesthetic borrowed from Modernism combined with adornment and the female body. Fabricated objects that reflect sculptural ornamentation and adornment are combined with the body and design objects to produce photographs. These juxtapositions point to historical, political, and social contexts relating to sex, gender, power, pleasure, and beauty.”
The pieces give the lie to conventional fashion accessories. A cautionary tale told in photographs, they’ll cause us to look askance at something as innocent as a gold necklace.
Bill Rodgers is the General Editor of CFile.
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