Bling!

Solo show at Bank Street Arts, Sheffield  |  29 March - 1 April 2017
More details here: http://bankstreetarts.com/exhibitions/bling/

'Bling TV' also exhibited as part of The London Group Open | 8 - 17 November. More details here: http://www.thelondongroup.com


'Hand-blinging’ (AKA ‘bedazzling’ or ‘bejewelling’) is a DIY trend involving the application of paste gemstones, pieces of broken jewellery and small plastic charms to a range of personally totemic objects. Mostly practiced by girls and young women, typical objects included mobile phones, tablets and cosmetics cases, and spread online via tutorials on YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest. The trend combines the Japanese fashion for ‘decoden’ (literally, ‘decorated phone’) with the conspicuous consumption of rap music videos during the 1990s and early 2000s. The brief popularity  of hand-blinging, c.2014, spoke to a sense of optimism and wish-fulfilment, representing a form of disobedient consumption, as makers appropriated mundane items and re-designed them to their individual preference.

Hand-blinging can be read as a vibrant moment in the recent history of ‘folk art’. Primarily the domain of those without an established artistic practice, this self-devised craft was developed in and through participation in the online DIY community. The choice of objects—mostly generic electronic devices—also seems significant, revealing something about the relationships we form with the technologies in our lives. However, an infatuation with gadgetry is not a purely contemporary condition: growing up in the 1990s, the portable cassette player, TV-VHS and Discman were objects of desire comparable with the iPhones and iPads of the present day.

It is perhaps little coincidence that in an era of perma-recession and financial inequality, the bling ideal has proved  so seductive. However, consumer reports suggest that bling is becoming increasingly passé,and a more minimal—although equally exclusivised—aesthetic has risen to prominence. Videos of hand-blinging are accordingly less commonplace, and mass-produced examples of bejewelled phone cases are now widely available in the shops. In this way, my work is already an exercise in nostalgia, harking back to a time when a portable TV was considered a luxury item, and we were perhaps innocent enough to embrace ‘bling.’

#BlingBSA

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