In the past couple of years of trying to determine just what kind of artist I am amidst the wide and swirling world of magical implements, talismans, gallery, museum, and market art, conventions keep popping up that I sooner or later have to decide how I feel about, and how I will negotiate. A few notes on the latest here.
Convention: sculptural work bears the artist’s signature (makers mark) and serial number if part of a limited edition.
Convention: precious metals bear a hallmark of their constituent metal’s provenance- .999 for fine silver, .925 or the word STERLING for sterling silver, and a number followed by a “k” for karat golds.
The coins, particularly these first “zeroes” are small. They have no hidden inside or back where a mark would be sufficiently hidden to not interfere with the expressive surfaces of the pieces. My early impulse was that the “stars” on the faces and their varying radiating arcs need to remain clean and clear of any symbolic marks, especially ones that are alphabetic.
Would it be enough to have one side unmarked but for the points and arcs, and place my maker’s mark on the other? I hesitate, but why? Isn’t my mark one of the contributing factors in legitimizing the value of the pieces as art, as a king’s mark legitimized the coin of the realm? Would it simply be me taking public responsibility for creating them? Would it still be a “zero”? Would marking it with my personal mark impede its circulation, limit its potential to embody fulfillment of desire (give it too much “character”)?
The third side, the edge is a possible surface. But again, I hesitate to disrupt the irregularities, the small peaks and valleys in the landscape of that surface with an alphanumeric mark. I like this (for this series) even less than marking a face.
Having marking stamps much smaller than the ones I currently have (.5 or .75mm, say, instead of 3mm and 1.5mm) would help, but I don’t have those now and this series needs to wrap up with the equipment I already possess.
To make a truly slippery and flexible (in terms of value-summoning and desire-holding) currency, there must be no trace of the individual beyond the determining of the composition and formation, the result. In image-rich coinage, we enter the land of the Symbolic with a capital S. We see the hand of the king, the mark of the people, or the spirit of the land in our palm. It should seem as though it was exuded whole from the source of its value; from god, or the angels, for from the Empress’ own lap. We go there, we believe it and others do too. It moves, flies, circulates, setting bodies and materials into motion. That’s the magic – the belief (projections) and the motion inspired by encounter with the object itself. It’s not made for the maker. It’s made for the possessor and the limits of their own imaginations.
Should I try for that degree of malleability on my first outing, or must I assert my ego identity as creator through the mark until I know how to make it invisible yet present. Probably. The above sounds like a masterwork. I don’t know.
Besides, the zeroes may not be made to fly quite in that way. As to the one piece I will keep, when I look into the faces I see a heaven with stars as well as the effect of my ordered artifice and physical force. When I look at the edge I see undulating earth, the truth of the material expressing itself. When I look at the whole I see both a vast horizon and the real and present child of my desire. I have already bought the world with it, so what would I wish to exchange it for?
I realize that my feelings about it are unique and personal. But visually, might others read similar things in these tiny discs? I won’t know until I “put them out there”. Back to the question of the mark: would this drag them back to me too much?
Another aspect of many pieces I make is the talismanic quality- they are made to be objects of contemplation or functional concept-holders and/or transmitters for someone who is not me, who will be actively using it ceremonially or meditationally. Many times the entire surface is active in fulfilling its function. In these cases it almost always feels best to hide or leave off a signature, or find the symbolically appropriate place for the maker’s mark to be. For the most part, though, the whole visible and touchable surface should be free of anything that would impede the operator’s use of the object, both psychic (by which I mean “involving the psyche”) and physical. A prominent maker’s mark would pull the operator out of his or her “moment”, even if subtly/subconsciously just by seeing it. The ego inhabiting should be the operator’s, with no interference from another. This could be a whole other topic- visual form and function in magical weaponry.
To take Shoji Hamada’s traditional view, nothing speaks more fully the craftsperson’s signature than the whole of the being of the created work. I tend to find that view very appealing. But there are certainly ways in 21st century America that that could be a hindrance. If one pursues conventional modes of selling one’s work.
Also, the metals number, .999 for all but the electrum piece- It might be enough to accompany each zero with a certificate attesting to the purity and type of metal. The series numbers could go on one of those too. I could do something clever and mildly propagandistic with the nines so as to make them appear as sixes in artful swirling arrangement. Accompanying my personal mark, that would be quite a boast. It would certainly help me sell them to a particular group of persons. No, that’s not the point of the zeroes, so no.
However, if they are unmarked, a person wishing to sell them to a metals dealer for their value as pure silver would have some trouble without the mark. They might have some trouble anyway, as the form is unconventional. Photo documentation on the certificate might help, along with the other information certifying the piece’s origin and my guarantee of the metal’s purity. I would hope that the owner wouldn’t want to sell the art as scrap silver for the relatively small $ value, but it should be an option, and one I will facilitate if I can.