Annette Dam’s jewellery is a microcosm of planetary complexity

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Annette Dam is a contemporary jeweller from Amsterdam. Over the last few years, her jewellery has come to resemble wearable sculptural assemblages, rather than the classic necklaces or rings that might come to mind when one hears the word “jewellery.” Contemporary jewellery often pushes out to the borders of traditional notions of craft to intermingle with art, design, and performance. Some of Dam’s work in the 2015 series When Complexity Moved In reminded me of Formafantasma — a design studio known for their material experimentation. Particularly, the sculptural objects from their De Natura Fossilium series, a project that explored volcanic rock as a primary material.

Several pieces in Dam’s When Complexity Moved In look like they are made from volcanic rock. But looks can be deceiving. They are actually resin casts of asphalt, and this push and pull between perception and reality is a central concept the designer explores in these works. The series takes material experimentation, with its toolkit of textures, colours, and forms, to communicate a sense of the unpredictability of life, of “how when you become a grown up, at whatever age this might occur, life is no longer black and white but rather a matter of constantly developing with current conditions,” as Dam explains on her website. She manages to combine unlikely objects together: a towel hanger, a rock-like formation, a string of pearls, and what looks to be a bra strap, into compositions that are at once messy and harmonious. The immediate aesthetic pleasure derived from the necklaces and brooches can delay the viewer from unpicking the odd components that make up the whole. Dam deftly abstracts the puzzling complexity of life into wearable art.

The more recent 32 million years after Homo Sapiens (ahs.) widens its outlook beyond the personal scale, to the planetary. The pieces in this collection take a poignant speculative peek at a time unimaginably far in the future, with humans long gone, but not without leaving behind traces of indestructible colourful plastic. Dam intermingles man-made plastics and resin casts with amber, nature’s own ageless resin. If another form of life was to discover these remains, could they tell what was ‘man-made’ and what was ‘natural’? Would it matter?

Annette Dam’s work demonstrates that there are a myriad ways to investigate complex issue through creative practice. Find examples of her older work here.