2017 Summer School – ‘Social Object Studio’

The social turn in contemporary art, craft and design

By Dr Kevin Murray, Adjunct Professor, international curator and co-author of Place and Adornment: A History of Australasian Contemporary Jewellery.

16 – 23 January 2017, RMIT School of Art Summer School

This course is created for designer-makers, artists, jewellers, ceramicists, writers, graphic designers and those whose practice involves crystallising communities.

It delivers theoretical frameworks, understanding of the social practice field, modes of ethical engagement and pathways for professional practice.

New trends in contemporary art, craft and design are focused around the social object as a way of connecting people together. Relational aesthetics is evolving towards more focused means of collaboration. New participatory pathways are emerging in contemporary craft practices. Product and communication design increasingly invests the object in story and shared meaning.

This summer school investigates the creation of social objects. It will include key theoretical perspectives that help us understand how objects work. How do objects help constitute a community? How do gifts create relationships? Why do we become emotionally attached to objects? How do objects tell stories?

Examples will be shared from both traditional and contemporary practice. We will consider customary objects, including amulet, love tokens, mementos, medals, thank yous and promise objects. These will be complemented with new examples, including platform art, social practice and ethical design. You will leave this course with a prototype social object ready to be implemented.

As a student in the 2017 course, you can also participate in the Tirgan Project, a cross-cultural collaboration towards social inclusivity with the Mahe Mehr Institute of Art, Tehran.  For more information, go to http://bit.ly/SocialObjectCourse

Proposals with Promise

Promise stripA project is planned for the Melbourne festival of contemporary jewellery, Radiant Pavilion, 24 August – 3 September 2017.

As a festival-based project, Promise seeks to engage the general public in the kinds of possibilities that can be opened up by jewellery practitioners. The specific focus is the common challenge of making a commitment. This commitment can be to oneself, to others or to a non-human entity such as the planet. The working principle is that the enduring materiality of an object provides us with a tangible reminder of a vow we have made. Further thoughts about the significance of promising in the contemporary scene can be found here.

Promise will take place in a location easily accessed by the public. Visitors will be encouraged to enter and browse through the various objects for making promises. Some examples of promises are:

  • A promise to one’s body to take better care of personal health
  • A promise to love someone forever
  • A promise to a dying person
  • A promise to always be available to someone when needed
  • A promise to remember someone always
  • A promise to stand up to the rights of minorities, such as Muslims
  • A promise to always favour locally-made products
  • A promise to stand up for where one lives
  • A promise to protect the environment
  • A treaty between indigenous and settler peoples

The objects may be for free, or a small price. They are usually designed for the person making the promise, but they can also be for the person to whom one promises something. There is the possibility of online sales after the festival.

Artists are encouraged to look at the traditions associated with promise rituals. These can be found in most cultures and may be adapted for modern conditions.

Proposals are called from those interested in being part of this project. These proposals will be used to secure resources and confirm participation in the festival.

This project follows a series of ventures in the “social object”. The touring exhibition Joyaviva: Live Objects across the Pacific featured modern amulets as objects that help deal with the uncertainties of life.


Proposals are due 26 August. Please include:

  • Outline (around 200 words)
  • 5-6 images (can include sketches or prototypes)
  • CV

Please send materials to promise@joyaviva.net.

Curator’s declaration

A curator of Promise, I declare that I will respect the contributions of all participating artists and ensure that their efforts are acknowledged and rewarded. I also commit to providing the public with evidence of the way that jewellery can make a difference in their lives.

Kevin Murray

Did Bronwyn Bishop need to resign?

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3173210/Embattled-Speaker-Bronwyn-Bishop-claimed-colleague-s-WEDDING-official-business-billed-taxpayer-it.htmlMuch of public life in Australia seems consumed with the demand for apologies. This is particularly the case with the speaker of the House of Representatives, Bronwyn Bishop, whose over-indulgence in expenses was seen to require some contrition on her part. After weathering the storm for several days, Bishop eventually made a statement that acknowledged an error of judgement. The popular media did not accept this, claiming it was too little, too late.

Her situation now seems untenable. Finally, she tendered her resignation. Is there anything that she could have done to appease public opinion?

Traditional societies often require the perpetrator, or family thereof, or offer a precious object as an acknowledgement of the seriousness of the charge. The Iroquois tribes used elaborate wampum belts for this purpose. So is there anything that Bishop could have offered?

What could Bishop offer? Given her standards of dress, a compromise with her normally opulent appearance may have gone some way to showing that she has taken criticism to heart. I could have handed in her pearls as the ultimate sacrifice. Pearls are not only objects if adornment, but their use in Anglo sumptuary laws ties them to the operations of power.

But it’s too late now.

Custodia-Panera de mimbre

From its colonial beginnings, Chile has been a country guided by religion. In a country where 67.37% of the population is Catholic (according to the Census 2012), religion has emerged as one of the fundamental pillars of society. Today, religion is part of Chile’s cultural identity. Among the main tenets of the Catholic religion, there is respect, inclusion, love of neighbor, friendship and above all, acceptance, however, the Catholic Church is an elitist institution that does not accept differences and that, Despite its principles, it does not accept other with their beliefs and personal history.

In Western culture, especially in the Chilean traditions, wafer and bread are a sacred food. The host is an element of great importance for Catholicism, it symbolizes Christ’s body and ingested in the rite of the Eucharist. In Catholic ceremonies, a monstrance (Latin ostentare, “show”) is highly significant. It corresponds to a piece of gold or other precious metal where previously consecrated host for the adoration of faith and conviction stands.

Moreover, the bread of great importance in the world economy, acting as an index measuring the value of life. Through its trade price it is possible to determine changes in the cost of living in each country. In the beginning, the bread was made and shared within the family. Later, thanks to industrialization, began its massive commercialization in urban areas.

The work consists of a custody-made wicker bread basket, looking to rescue the essence of the rite of the Eucharist: Communion, alluding to its essential meaning, to understand it as the union between people.

We opted for wicker, because it is characteristic material central Chile, and the shape of the bread basket, which corresponds to an object present in every home across the country.

Keeping bread in wicker symbolizes sharing and power, becoming a symbol of approval, appreciation and blessing to the various forms of love that exist in society.

The proposed activation object corresponds to the installation of a rectangular table with white table cloths and on this, the Custody-Panera Bread with marraqueta inside. This table will be located outside the Cathedral of Santiago, emblematic place of Catholicism in Chile. The ritual is held on a Sunday at noon, coinciding with the main mass of the week.

Thanks to:

Marcela Rodriguez
Paula Melo
André Barbet
Almond Arraño