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

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

Joyaviva in Bolivia

Street stall selling materials for the mesa dedicated to Pachamama.

La Paz street stall selling materials for the mesa dedicated to Pachamama.

La Paz is a key stage in the journey of Joyaviva across the Pacific. Though due a dispute with Chile, Bolivia has been denied its access to the Pacific, at least symbolically Joyaviva brings the spirit of the ocean to Bolivia.

Many of the folk traditions of Bolivia have inspired the development of Joyaviva, particularly the figure of El Ekeko who appears in the Festival of the Alacitas. La Paz was the venue of a charm school, which produced some wonderful stories.

We weren’t able to formally exhibition Joyaviva in La Paz because our local host organisation Jalsuri Foundation had been closed down. But determined to bring Joyaviva to La Paz in some manner, an event was staged in which key works from the exhibition were displayed.

The discussion that followed revealed some very interesting points.

Why are the traditions of luck so rich and varied in Bolivia, compared to other countries? One reason is the use of coca leaf as a regular stimulant. Coca is seen to induce the kind of magical thinking that produces the complex rituals and objects in Bolivian culture. Also the mixture of Catholic and indigenous cultures has produced many hybrid beliefs, such as El Ekeko. This implies a Aymara and Quechua cultures that resisted extinction during colonisation.

Where does the power of amulets come from? There are obvious answers, such as the placebo effect, symbols of emotional support from others and identification with cultural traditions. One less obvious element was the way amulets channel the power of dreams, connecting our living reality with the more unconscious forces that appear in our sleep.

Given the presence of a touring international exhibition, the discussion turned to the state of design in Bolivia. In terms of participation in international design projects, there are number of issues that Bolivians face. Due to isolation, there is often a lack of confidence in sending work to foreign exhibitions. There are also relatively few spaces for showing design as art in La Paz, (there are more in Santa Cruz). There is great potential for designers to work with artisans, though it is difficult to make changes in traditional techniques that are passed down through generations.

Given these issues, it would be good in an ideal world for Joyaviva to start again in Bolivia, building a network in La Paz that is interested in the challenge of developing new designs from local folk traditions. This might be an opportunity to explore partnerships between designers and traditional artisans. With luck, this might be possible. Is there an amulet for that, or is it just a dream?

Photo on 8-4-14 at 2.03 PMAnd this tattoo by Gabriel Duran inspired much discussion about its use as an amulet in Bolivia.

See previous report of workshop in Bolivia.