Dan Bell's diagonal cross section of angora aurora, 365 split crumbs at Utopian Slumps as part of the Impossible Objects I exhibition considers the nature of mementos. It is a web of necklaces, like diary entries, that reveals a little something of what has or will happen on each necklace day of the year. Each necklace has a pendent dropping down that is strange, sparkly or curious. There are plastic bok-choys and sparkling corn, silver tea pots, marbled plasticine, a little black alarm clock, rust, nuggets, vine leaves and vials of sparkly dust or liquid. Maybe they are the remains of a shaved glittering bouncy ball or a shredded rhinestone tiara. The sparkly nature of many of the objects and the diamond-like pattern they form remind us of what is considered of value in the jewellery industry. However, the crystals and buttons and plastic strawberry shortcake and bob bon novelty rings that hang from these plastic, gold and silver chains tell us also about a different kind of value that with which the individual imbues an object. The work feels like an elaborate charm bracelet that suggests a story behind each of these objects. The crumb is a small piece of the cake, as the object is a piece of the memory.
The web like presentation of these individual pieces denotes the spider catching the flies. While it’s not sinister, it does evoke a sense of these objects becoming essential. So they can stick. So they can stay. So they won’t get lost or stolen we will wear them around our neck. The interconnectedness of the diamonds and triangles also tells us something about handing things on and where they end up. These objects will get passed down or across but will end up somewhere. They will all eventually disintegrate, like the sparkly stuff in the vials. These objects will probably outlive their owners and will come to mean something different with each hand that holds them.
In gestalt psychology, the law of simplicity holds that objects in the environment are seen in a way that makes them appear as simple as possible. The web-like pattern is what we initially see. When however, we get up close we see the complexity and range of objects within this pattern. This tells us something of how these laws of simplicity (in terms of how we perceive the world visually) can act as a metaphor for how we see the world emotionally. The life and meaning of objects seems to have a simple order of function and disposal but in actual fact the reality of what happens to people’s objects is a much more subjective and complicated. The objects come to represent a part of the person. When a necklace is being worn it has the shape of the neck and decollete; when it is taken off and set down it becomes a clump. The way they are displayed shows the path of least resistance in terms of a gravitational v shape that is harmonious to the eye. The pendent that has lived around a neck can no longer be viewed in terms of its use, function or value. It will come to symbolise an aspect of the wearer.
The pendent in jewellery often acts as a symbol of something that can’t be represented physically or literally. They are used as lucky charms, subculture signs or tokens of endless love. They are a symbol of belonging to a gang or a faith. In each case the wearer tells the world that there is more to them than just the lone individual. They are part of something bigger. Like the chains that the pendants are attached to, the individual declares himself linked into a greater whole. Bell’s sparkling array of kitsch and crystals playfully celebrates the diverse and absurd lengths will we go to to find ourselves a part of something bigger.
Bell’s work reminds me of the gifts Boo Radley leaves Scout and Jem Finch in their tree in To Kill a Mockingbird. The older Scout reflects at the end of her story ‘Neighbours bring food with death, and flowers with sickness, and little things in between. Boo was our neighbour. He gave us two soap dolls, a broken watch and chain, a knife, and our lives.’ That objects have sentimental attachment gives them a value beyond their use. We keep them as a direct and physical link to the time and the person they remind us of. Although it is sometimes clear that by their very presence that that time is over and that person is gone.
Bell makes us consider the objects we choose to keep in our lives. These seemingly meaningless objects that come in and out of life can become talismans of identities and stories. Bell gives these crumbs the potential to be sentimental.