Current Obsession: Who are you?
Extranalities: The Extranalities Project started in 2015 as a collaboration between Herman Hermsen and Timothy Information Limited for an exhibition at Gallery Reverso in Lisbon. For each subsequent iteration of the Project, a new jeweller from a different country has been invited to join this expanding jewellery group.
Every new Extranalities event starts with a blind lottery-based exchange of un-familiar materials, objects, etc. for each maker to respond to. The focus being to challenge each jeweller to leave the familiarity of their usual designing and making comfort zones.
CO: Do you consider yourselves a collective?
E: We call ourselves a collective on all legal documents. But in reality, the informality within our structure and relationship makes it feel more like being in a gang. However, I’m not sure whether we are a gang of Mods or Rockers? Catarina, Denise, Peter and Felieke are, I suspect, Rockers at heart, I think Christoph, Sofia and Sara are probably Mods, Herman is undoubtedly a Hippy, and I am definitely a Punk.
‘I think the dynamic of the group environment has prevented me from being overly precious or overly self-indulgent, and created a lively and supportive space that has allowed me to be a much braver maker. ’
CO: Can you describe the working frame your group has devised for these exhibitions? How are the themes for the shows derived, and what kind of structure does the making follow?
E: Each project starts with an exchange, between each participant, or a gift, from one to all. These can be pictures, materials, words, moodboards, etc. The decision of what that initial exchange, gift and/or brief will be, is usually arrived at when we are installing the previous exhibition, and therefore all physically together, in a bar, or when we are together in Munich, in a bar. We feel the initial commonality of the brief and/or concept connects the jewellery outcomes and the individual focus within the making process allows for fresher and more varied responses. We use email, Zoom and brief encounters throughout the project to monitor, share, discuss and evolve it.
CO: What is the general concept of what you will be showing at MJW23?
E: Peter is an avid collector of the things that no one else collects. He has in his possession, a big box of old American press photograph prints, they cover a wide range of different news stories, but they all have ‘jewellery’ as the starring role in each image. Peter selected and sent 9 photographs to each of the 9 makers of the Collective (call the lawyer!) and we responded to them, either as a collection or individually. The project first showed at Sieraad Fair in 2022, so this is the second iteration of it. A third outing of Pictureware will be shown at Valencia in April 2023.
CO: Would you say this collective work has impacted your own personal work outside of the group? How would you say they relate to one another?
E: On a purely personal note, and this echoes the other collective I am involved with (Dialogue Collective), I feel some of my strongest personal work started as ideas developed for Extranalites or Dialogue projects. I think this is partly as the dynamic of the group environment has prevented me from being overly precious or overly self-indulgent. It has created a lively and supportive space that has allowed me to be a much braver maker. This seems to echo the experience of the other members of both collectives. Essentially creating spaces to escape, to change, to test, to ex-periment and to explore within. In some ways it’s a bit like being at art school again.
I noticed in the photo captions for the Pictureware show at Sieraad Fair, they read as if they were all written by the same person, with a distinct tone of humour. Is that indicative of the work or general mood of this group or the communication style within? That is a very astute and interesting observation. Each person wrote their own caption, however, either because of nurture or nature we do seem to be evolving a collective language. One that perhaps reflects what happens when these particular (peculiar?) 9 individuals come together as a single gang (call off the lawyer!), to work and play together.
CO: What kinds of effects do you notice from the practice of adding another member for each exhibition, and what is the significance of that choice?
E: This part of the process has been an intriguing live experiment. One that continues to test the mettle of the gang. There are some of us who like the idea of continuing to add a new member after every event/exhibition, ad nauseum, until we either have several thousand jewellers, or we run out of countries to be represented by, (the original idea is/was that each new member should be based in a new country not already represented in the Collective). And there are others that feel this would become unwieldy, difficult to manage and might dilute the essence of collective collaboration. For now we have decided to remain as a group of 9 + 1, for the foreseeable future. The + 1 will be known as ‘the joker’ and a different joker will be invited to participate in each new project/event/exhibition. And if one of the nine stands down, we will go through a rigorous and transparent interviewing and selection process, and then pick the person we would most like to sit in a bar with. Let’s see how that all works out…
For the Pictureware 2 exhibition, on view during Munich Jewellery Week, the Extrananlities group use vintage newspaper photographs with jewellery as a focal point, as inspiration for making new work. Each artist then re-stages the original photograph with the new piece, and all three items exhibited together.
Cover image: inspiration photo for Sofia Björkman.
Pictured in the article, with their original images from top: Christoph Zellweger; Denise Reytan; Felieke van der Leest; Tim Carson.
This article is published in the printed edition of Munich Jewellery Paper, which is available for purchase through our web shop. Click on here to purchase the Paper.