‘I became very interested in the paradigm of science, where you affirm something
and want to prove it, and your only chance is to provide your listeners with the tools
of your research so that they can verify your hypothesis.’ 1
‘Jewellery Perspectives’ is a research project initiated by designer Irma Földényi and curator Evelien Bracke. They were invited by Studio Makkink & Bey to work in one of the former offices of the Dutch royal adjutant in the Palace Soestdijk on the occasion of the exhibition ‘BAL!’ (25.06.2016 – 25.09.2016) that took place in the Palace. The adjutant is one of the closest assistants of the ruling monarch. However, or perhaps exactly therefore, there is a very limited amount of information available on the life and work of the adjutant. Inspired by photographs of royals and their working tables, on the occasion of the ‘BAL!’, ‘Jewellery Perspectives’ re-visited the office of the adjutant with the work ‘A is for Adjutant, P is for Paperweight’.
'A is for Adjutant, P is for Paperweight' is part of a larger research project on jewellery under the name Jewellery Perspectives which explores and opens up new perspectives on the discipline of jewellery design. Supported by Stimuleringsfonds Creatieve Industrie. Spatial narrative by Annee Grøtte Viken.
‘A is for Adjutant, P is for Paperweight’
I am the space and the adjutant, I am the detective and the audience, I am the curator and the designer, I am the architect and the writer. My voice is not singular. It’s like a faceted stone, embracing perspectives, embodying space and encompassing time. How is it to become a title? How is it to facilitate this identity? What kind of world is this? Who are you to understand? Turn time, reshuffle and enter the royal realm.
The desk is an island, a floating landscape hovering in a soft sea of luscious white carpet. Sunrays break through the glass like a lighthouse guiding your course towards the edge of discovery. A mysterious island waiting for explorers to discover esoteric personages and prosaic rituals long sequestered on a royal peninsula, but washed ashore on the longest day of the year. You sit in a boat carried off by a sudden wave into the adjutants’ silent sea, drifting shyly towards the island. Surrounded by a humble aura, you succumb to the presence of a surface that seems to be cocooned in time.
The space itself is relatively small with three doors leading into it. You sailed in through the main door escaping the densely trafficked hallway of the palace. On the opposite wall two large windows break the barrier of the wall. You manoeuvre yourself carefully towards them, gazing over the exterior, a neatly organized landscape, before you carefully start to turn. On your right hand side there is a marble fireplace in shades of dark grey in (imagined) hues of purple and a painted double-hinged door in a soft eggshell white taint. In front of the solitary fireplace two gracious white islands rest on slim, sturdy legs; as serene platforms raised from the deep.
Islands turn to surfaces, and surfaces turn to tables. You have reached the shore; you have arrived. Each table carries a number of stacks of paper in various heights. On top of the stacks you can see all manner of objects. Treasures found, acquired, given or made. Single entities gathered together, each holding on to the same thread. Some depict a troubled past, others imitate grand gestures, while some serve as tokens for the future. They are fabricated memorabilia and fragments of time, dissected parts of a body collected as an attempt to understand something unreachable, unavailable or even vanished story. On one of the tables you can see a three- dimensional shape that looks like it was drawn with a black marker, the lines are forming something that resembles an upside down cup. But it is not the outline of a cup; it’s a wireframe of an epaulette, a ceremonial decoration that adorned the shoulders of a male2adjutant on official occasions. The Epaulette seems fragile, beautifully interlaced and placed upon a stack of papers. It depicts bombastic ceremonies but if a wind were to gush through the space, it could hardly hold itself down. You are looking at a contemporary reflection of a past present in your time. On the stack next to it you can see an object that looks like something that could be a mirror from an old car.
I assume the mirror would be able to keep papers from flying away, but why is it there? Why this object? Is it from the Adjutants car? Next to the epaulette, next to the cluster of three matte balls, next to the paper with the blacked out words, next to the game of cones and black drops; a desk subtly adorned with royal insignias and personal jewellery. You have entered a scenery of information, structures of power, a landscape of memories and knowledge, a visual journey that demands deciphering; rest your eyes against the fireplace proving a majestic backdrop to our islands. A precious jewel kept safe around the neck, and our only witness to the past.
It’s about an office and its inhabitant (s).
he deposited his hat on a chair in a corner, placed his bag on the edge of the table, resting his umbrella against it, and sat down in a small arm-chair. 3
A soft voice kept whispering in the back of my neck; who is who? What have you figured out? Are you going the same direction? We are scrolling past collections every day, thrown at us from all directions. You get bored. This is a project that demands a certain kind of time, a time to linger, ask questions and simply just being present. Does it matter? Reconfigure and reshuffle.
Confuse was passive to begin with, and meant mingled together. Later it became active and things started to get confusing. The early sense of the word began where threads entangle and you don’t know how to untangle them. To not understand something you have been working on, or fail to provide an answer or missing your stop; the conclusion, can be confusing, or even considered a failure.
We rather see results, conclusions and answers than open-ended questions. But your visit to the Adjutants’ office is pieces and questions rather than solids and answers. How do you navigate?
It’s a puzzle. A puzzle of objects, ideas and interpretations, objects creating a dialogue of another world, it’s arranged, deciphered and presented. But we are not in it. We can only perceive it. We are not royal, neither are we military, we will never become an adjutant and it is very unlikely that we will ever have an office in a royal palace. To enter such a world is therefore confusing to start with. Who is who? What have you figured out? Are you going the same direction? Does it matter?
Objects can be used collectively as intellectual tools in order to discover layered pasts and promising futures. They can be used to understand and convey hidden stories, discover new ones and to detect how they interrupt and change assumed trajectories. In what way are objects and space intertwined in our lives? Or, in what way do the objects that you surround yourself with reveal who you are? How can you, by detecting who they are and where they came from, illustrate or manipulate an environment? What do they convey one on one? What do they make as an assemblage? In archaeology looting of graves is a big problem. Grave robbers that remove objects from their origin destroy a major amount of critical information necessary in order to decipher and understand history correctly. The adjutant is long gone, the space has been “looted” for its original objects, the island is a reconstruction, but we keep searching. We look beyond, we look to forge meaning of the looted past and its presence through the void.
Follow the mechanisms of detection; the archaeologist’s persistent search for stories. You are the detective that can unravel the mystery.
According to the oxford paperback dictionary ‘to detect’4is to discover the existence or presence of something, or to find (a person) doing something bad or secret. Actual observations need to be separated from the immediate assumptions; don’t colour-in the succession before you have turned the page. A visual description consists of two separate acts of translation, from the visual to the verbal and from the conscious interpretation of an individual to the tapestry of the collective brain.
The spaces you inhabit are part of your collection, your office, and the shop where you buy your groceries, your old dorm and your first apartment. They are all part of your collection together with the objects, or together with the absence of objects. This is your collection, the collection that encompasses the essence of your life at every present moment of your existence. There are so many words starting with the letter e, but have you ever considered that you are collecting spaces too? Detection is precision and decision making, sometimes instinct, sometimes knowledge. I like words, but sometimes they need a little space too. Take a breath and look around before you continue. Where are you? What is there? What does it tell you?
To ‘explore’4is to investigate and to detect something or someone in order to reveal something new, to understand something or to discover the presence of something. It is defined in the dictionary as to ‘travel through (an unfamiliar area) in order to learn about it.’ Or as a ‘search for resources such as mineral deposits’ or it can mean to ‘inquire into or discuss (a subject) in detail.’ Another way to define exploring is ‘examine or evaluate (an option or possibility)’. To explore is not only a mental exercise, it can also mean to‘examine by touch.’ Or if you are inclined to precision; ‘surgically examine (a wound or part of the body) in detail.’
To ‘collect’4is to accumulate. To bring or gather together (a number of things), systematically seek and acquire, or accumulate over a period of time. Some collected elephants; others collected cigars, while others treasured the framed family. Objects accumulated and disappeared making way through an endless sea of paper that was kept, produced, sent, received, noted on, thrown away, scribbled, investigated, torn apart, treasured and saved. While some adjutants only seemed to use the desk to present the essentials of their professional life, others had their whole life’s story scattered about like a vast and complicated bricolage of places, agreements, passions, missteps and victories.
Think of your treasures when you were young, the ones you kept in your notes, the ones you kept in your pocket, the ones you kept in your backpack, the ones you kept in your dreams as you stared into your ceiling at night.
Think how much you knew just by finding that stone in your pocket or by peering into the treasures stored in your backpack after a long day of school. It took one brief look and you knew where you belonged. Physical size is insignificant. The closer you look, the less space you need to understand an entire world.
So get yourself a new pair of glasses. Whether they are extra thick or a flexible plastic film, whether they portray a yellow hazed world like the glasses of Raoul Duke or protect you like Stevie Wonders’. Whether they give you macro vision like Marie Curies’ microscope or Sherlock Holmes’ magnifying glass, whether they give you a sci-fi vision or enable you to navigate underwater. It doesn’t matter. Just remember to remove the sunglasses while diving and turn the magnifying glass away from the sun.
You are in a small room located at the end of one of the two wings of the Soestdijk palace, a former palace of the Dutch Royal Family.
- Enzo Mari, Sixty Paperweights – ‘The In tel lec tual Work’ curated by Barbara Casavecchia, from the book published on the occasion of the exhibition “The Intellectual Work: Sixty Paperweights” Kaleidoscope project space, April 13–30 2010 https://www.academia.edu/9251215/Barbara_Casavecchia_Enzo_Mari_The_Intellectual_Work_Kaleidoscope_Press_Milan_2010?auto=download
- The female adjutants’ only ceremonial decoration was a single black bow.
- All the image captions are quotes extracted from the book ‘The Case of Oscar Brodski’ by R. Austin Freeman, and considered to be the first inverted detective story. http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks05/0500391h.html#c2)
‘His measured munching being unfavourable to conversation,’
- Collect, detect, explore - The Oxford Paperback Dictionary, Oxford University Press, UK, 1979
Photos by Nastassja Bosch
Annee Grøtte Viken