In 2011, on average, one piece of Pandora jewellery was sold every second. At this point Pandora had already become the world’s third largest jewellery company, after Cartier and Tiffany & Co. Mainly thanks to their affordable and customizable charm bracelets — a product that quickly became an omnipresent sight, gift and advertising subject.
Degrees of Love.
But Pandora had of course not invented the charm bracelet. So what is the history and meaning of this popular item? What kind of power, symbolism and meaning do we attribute to it and jewellery — loyal companion of humankind, transcending countless epochs and even more generations.
Faith over Fear. Land that I Love. You’re My Favourite Chick.
In ’Our Bodies So Soft, Our Lives So Epic’ Šárka Koudelová creates an installation based on the eternal contradiction of the transient and fragile nature of our bodily presence and our desperate attempts to achieve lasting proof of a grandiose life by banning it into a piece of jewellery.
You belong to me.
Seductive, play- and masterful, yet also uncanny at times, we are reminded of the complexity these emotionally charged objects bear. A pendant passed from mother to daughter, a lover’s eye commissioned for a secret paramour, an intricate mourning ring made of a child’s hair, a simple yet unequivocally claiming wedding band — it is easy to relate one way or the other to these small scale sculptures, which are only activated by the wearing and tearing body.
I can’t bear your death. Maybe, if you gaze into my décolleté...
Worn in Ancient Egypt, they played a crucial role in preparations for afterlife. Egyptians obsessively arranged for a prosperous life after death and it was their belief that charm bracelets would help the Gods identify the wearer and his righteous position in after-life. Somehow fitting that Tiffany’s would fit their trademark heart tag bracelet with a “Please return to Tiffany & Co, New York”.
I know I promised but... I simply won’t fade. Only you know, you are my secret.
In Georgian times mourning jewellery had focused on ideas of the ‘memento mori’, a concept created to constantly remember that everyone would have to die — obviously this reminder can be read in two ways, namely either inciting to enjoy life to the fullest in light of its finite and fragile nature or to lead a correct and good life in order to achieve entry in heaven — so ask yourself which one will it be?
I will never forget you. But still, I have to remember to die.
Shape of Love. Sparkling Snail.
In either case the tension between jewellery and the human body is clear. The ephemeral shell of the body, is made of a material where the slightest influence will leave a mark on it, be it a pebble stuck to the palm of our hands as we sit on the ground, a blade of grass cutting into our finger while picking a wild flower giving way to a droplet of blood or a wedding ring that has become to tight with growing age.
I will love you forever. If you focus on the curve of my earlobe.
Jewellery on the other hand achieves two crucial things our mortal vessel is not capable of — it transcends time and it has the ability to formulate and constantly communicate messages so pathetic, so exaggerated or so tasteless that
we could not or would never do so in person.
As if the current insecurities and constant angst we experience would not be enough, Koudelová introduces a further message into her installation: following the art-historical painterly tradition of ‘world landscape’ where the hierarchy of subject and setting is forcefully inverted, what we usually regard as mere backdrop is expanded to an overwhelming presence, further emphasizing the minuteness of the dwarfed subjects. We are invited to experience a delightfully anxious journey without actually leaving the spot. So take a moment. Take it in. Our Bodies So Soft... Our Lives So Epic?