Research, text, object and photos by Irma Foldenyi, cultured pearl, 2020-2021
When cut in half, a cultured pearl reveals it’s internal secrets: layers of years of growth by it’s protective oyster around an artificial core inserted by humans. The oysters lay in farms, the farms lay in sweet and saltwater, organised by farmers, cleaners, oyster health practitioners, hatchery technicians, divers and pearling boat operators to eventually be sold, made and displayed as a strand of opaque pearls. ‘Pant suits, silk shirts and formal skirts’ may very well be the context where these traditional pearl necklaces will be marketed for.
Because of the distance or disconnectedness I feel from perfect, round and flawless pearl jewellery, I made an attempt to research with a direct, hands on approach to see what lays behind the impenetrable, secretive and shiny surface.
With a curious gaze, running through the MRI like pearl slices, tiny maps appeared. These maps visualise the pearl industry: layers of interactions between humans and non-humans became transparent. Through this tiny cross-section, relationships and multi-species interactions between communities such as Chinese nucleus producers, oysters, farmers, jewellers and wearers can be decoded.
The overview of this interconnectedness opened a new aesthetic choice for re-assembling a pearl jewellery. By making a necklace with pearl slices that display their inherent logics of production, the aesthetics of the pearl necklace updated effortlessly into a vulnerable, strong, feminine and transparent appearance.
If we would turn relations around, and let oysters determine pearl production, would we ever wear pearl necklaces?