I must confess right away that this exhibition was born of bewilderment. I do not mean the confusion caused by the coronavirus outbreak, although this exhibition was not unaffected by the state of emergency announced in Estonia in the spring of 2020, so it will take place almost a year later than originally planned. Rather, my bewilderment is something personal and it overwhelms me every time I have to tune from visual to applied arts. It is in fact a completely irrational feeling, because I know, without even having to quote anyone, that “part of contemporary jewellery does not see itself as applied art, but rather fine art”1Krista Kodres. Plahvatav vaikus. – Kadri Mälk, Krista Kodres, Tanel Veenre. Just Must: International Jewellery Art Exhibition. Tallinn 2008, p. 32., and that “jewellery exhibitions featuring installations, lighting effects, sound and video works have become commonplace by now”2Kristi Paap. Vestlus. Ketli ja Kristi. – Ketli Tiitsar, Kristi Paap. Nature morte. Kirsid ja skelett. Tallinn 2015, p. 21.. What’s more, “jewellery can be made of any solid material, as long as it stays together, although it can also be made of light, for instance”3Ibid., so I should indeed feel comfortable when dealing with it. I could easily approach these small objects with the same equipment that I apply to all other phenomena emanating from the field of contemporary art.
What is the matter then? It could be that besides being something personal, this bewilderment is also inherent in jewellery itself. Perhaps it comes from the fact that “even though jewellery can be considered an independent art form, its true meaning and significance can only be acquired when being worn”4Merike Alber – Kaire Rannik, Erle Võsa-Tangsoo (Eds.). A-galerii: Eesti autoriehte galerii 20 aastat. 2014. p. 13.? If this is the case, then I would simply have to accept this bewilderment and take it as one of the semantic nuances in the palette of feelings when experiencing jewellery art.
And then there is the bewilderment of the artist herself. Of course, there is no way for me to actually know about it, but we can speculate… As a curator I really should speculate, because how else can I decode an exhibition? It seems that as an experienced jewellery artist, Maria Valdma does not burden herself too much with the status of her small forms. They are one thing at the exhibition and something else when worn, and that’s it. Even if she does reflect on this eternal problem as a jewellery artist, it is not what is most important. Instead, we can sense a contradiction between personal and general: the desire to remember and keep close, to forget and let go at the same time. Merike Alber wrote that, “conveying the mentality of the wearer, the piece of jewellery also reveals the values of its maker”5Ibid.. It seems to me that Valdma tries to reduce this connection between the maker and the wearer, to push it to the background, implying that even though the origin of her jewellery is something personal, she cannot justify passing the baggage of her feelings to the new owner of the piece. Perhaps this is exactly what her bewilderment as the creator lies in.
Memory palace is a method of remembering things by placing the mental images in a familiar imaginary location. This technique, already known in the ancient world, is very effective and widely used. Of course, each memory palace is completely personal, which also makes this term perfectly suited for the title of Valdma’s exhibition. Entering the City Gallery, we will have a unique opportunity to explore the author’s ‘palace’, where she has carefully shaped and placed each object. Instead of puzzling over the reasons, we could delve into their forms and the materials used. Wood, porcelain and metal each have their own history, their own handling technique. At present, it seems to me that these objects can tell us more than the author herself. Maybe we can respect her wish to step back and let Memory Palace itself talk to us.