Jasmin Matzakow is a contemporary jewellery artist living and working in Germany. In her work she explores the connection that jewellery has with our body. She works mainly with wood, that bears interesting similarities to the human body: trees have joints and a skin-like bark which can become scarred. By burning wood into shapes of intriguing beauty, she refers to the possibilities of healing and growing stronger.
What have you rebelled against in the past, and what are you rebelling against now?
Although I don’t consider myself a rebel, I do question social structures quite intensely. So far, I have mostly worked on gaining an understanding of patriarchal structures in our society. This is an ongoing process for me.
Do you need to be a rebel to enjoy your work?
Some of this questioning fuels my work because it has become part of my thinking about the world. My work inevitably exists in patriarchal structures, and I wish to disturb them with my work.
Do you use your own pieces?
Yes, I do, and I also have dishes of colleagues which I use.
Do you think dishware can still be improved? If yes, in what way?
I don’t think it is important to improve the object as it is. Dishware is such an old genre of objects, therefore I don’t think there is something to add, to make it newer or better. Instead, I think we can develop further the discussion around dishware with questions like: How do we treat those objects? What is our relationship with them? Are objects just passive things without an agenda of their own? What hierarchies exist between humans and objects? What are the consequences of these hierarchies?
What was the inspiration for your Steinbeisser series?
The dishes leave traces of charcoal on the surface that stain both the user and the food that touches them. I created dishes that engage with their surrounding and the people using them, disturbing habits and routines around eating, while creating awareness within these routines. A dish is supposed to be only a supportive tool that holds food in such a way that it doesn’t get on our body or the table. As long as the food stays on the dish, we can enjoy it but when it leaves the dish the food turns into dirt that we want to get rid of. I made the burnt wooden dishes to be weapons, instead of tools, in that way they can disturb these hierarchical structures and don’t comply with our cultural habits. They are Vanitas objects as well, with their burnt surface and charcoal traces they remind us of the evanescence and mortality of the physical world and ourselves.
Describe your work in 3 words!
Actant. Weapon. Vanitas.
What kind of materials do you use and where do you get them from?
Wood, which I get from arborists, lumber mills or that I collect myself. I used to work with exotic woods as well, but since some years I focus on regional woods, like linden and spruce wood, because of the environmental aspects and because they have a more direct connection with the European traditions I work with.
What are you working on right now?
I started a new jewellery project in the autumn of 2017: Ecotechnomagic. I was searching for a material that exists outside of our financial system and still provides something to people. When I looked into the stinging nettle, I was amazed at how much it offers: food, medicine, clothing, textiles, garden fertiliser, dye and cosmetics. All of this comes for free in the nettle, it grows right outside our doors in the countryside and in the city, in most parts of the world. With Ecotechnomagic, I am making a statement about our current environmental issues. I’m suggesting that a possible solution is much closer and easier available than we think, and maybe it grows right outside our doors. I’m not saying that the nettle will save our planet. I’m saying that we need a change in attitude, a shift in perspective so that we recognise the good stuff that is already existing. I’m not romanticising nature and the „good old days“, saying that all we humans need to do is going „back to nature“, I don’t believe that. It’s not either nature or technology. In fact, I believe it’s both. Environmental problems are being talked about since decades, and I think we have become numb towards this topic all the while it becomes more and more pressing. One attribute of jewellery is that it touches the wearer and is carried on the body through the day. I chose to make necklaces with the stinging nettles, because I want the wearer to literally allow to be touched by the serious topic, to carry it with around for a while and to let it take some space in one’s life.
What excites you about tomorrow?
In my studio work, I am excited to continue with the nettles. In my teaching job, it’s great to be part of a very alive discourse around jewellery and hollow-ware. In the world outside, I find the political state of the world and the environmental issues quite hard to deal with and overwhelming. On the other hand, there are so many people doing great work to help fix these problems, and I try to focus my attention on that. These are very exciting times we live in, it seems like it can go many ways, good or bad, and I am part of this time in history.
What has been your favourite dinner experience?
I loved the five course dinners we used to do in my student flat in Halle that I shared with four friends. We cooked the whole day, each of us one course, and then we decorated the living room and dressed up. We had good wine and music and spent the night eating great food and dancing.
What further ambitions do you have?
I would like for the applied arts to really claim their space in the art world, like museums, exhibitions and competitions. It was great for me to see how confident and visible the craft and applied art scene is in Scandinavia. One of my ambitions is to further develop this in my practice. But it is not something to be done alone, quite on the contrary, this is a group effort. Last year, I visited the Documenta 14 and the Venice Biennale, and I would like to see more applied artists showing work in this kind of context, because I think we have a lot of input to give to the current fine arts discourse. All those political aspects that were present in both the Documenta 14 and the Venice Biennale are discussed in the applied arts as well but coming from a different angle. Applied Art is relevant because it focuses on the connections between the object and the human body and places them in the larger society. Applied art objects are not only private but also political. Hollow-ware is inherently private because, for example, it is mostly used by one or few bodies at a time and it is inherently political because it displays the status of the user. Also the circumstances of extraction of raw material and production are both a private and a political issue. These are just examples of how I see the Applied Arts being relevant for the Fine Arts discourse. In fact, in both venues, showing textiles and ceramics was quite common, so I believe jewellery and hollow-ware would fit in well.