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


Mostly practised in teenage bedrooms by girls and young women, ’hand-blinging’ (AKA ‘bedazzling’ or ‘bejewelling’) was a short-lived DIY trend involving the application of paste gemstones, pieces of broken jewellery and small plastic charms to a range of personally totemic objects, such as mobile phones, tablets and cosmetics cases. Spread via online tutorials on YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest, the trend combined the Japanese fashion for ‘decoden’ (literally, ‘decorated phone’) with the superabundant iconographies of conspicuous consumption showcased in rap music videos during the 1990s and early 200s. The brief popularity of hand-blinging 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.

For me, 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, the self-devised craft was developed in and through participation in the online DIY community. The choice of objects—primarily generic electronic devices—also seems significant, revealing something about the increasingly personal 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 glaring inequality the bling ideal proved to be so seductive. However, consumer reports suggest that in recent years, bling has become increasingly passé, as a more minimal—although equally exclusivised—aesthetic has risen to prominence. Videos of hand-blinging are accordingly less commonplace, and mass-produced examples of heavily bejewelled phone cases are now widely available in the shops, often in the bargain bin. In this way, my exhibition 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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