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Taking Shape: Wen-Ju Tseng

Neckpiece resembling a bread tag and bracelet to resemble a pencil sharpener
Neckpiece resembling a bread tag and bracelet to resemble a pencil sharpener
Appearance: Dysfunctional sharpener
Written by
Teleri Lloyd-Jones
Published date
19 June 2019

Throughout Show Two: Design, we’re celebrating the work of our graduating students and asking them to share the process behind the practice

Graduating from BA Jewellery Design, Wen-Ju Tseng’s graduate collection subverts the uses of everyday objects to challenge how societal expectations commodify everything we do with unrealistic values.

Bracelet in form of huge pencil sharpener
Appearance: Dysfunctional sharpener, Wen-Ju Tseng (BA Jewellery Design)

Societal pressures

Growing up I was expected to live up to my family’s (and wider community) societal expectations: getting into a top university, getting married, having children by a certain age and being slim through it all. I couldn’t help but question how such expectations force us to constantly evaluate ourselves and each other. Given the extent to which these internalised pressures govern our society and increasing negative impact on our mental health, I feel strongly that if these discourses are confronted positively and dismantled they could be transformed into expectations for real happiness instead.

Information as assessment

Whether it’s a job application or looking for a partner – the collecting of basic personal information provides a system for measuring one’s value. This data collection is quietly going out of control.

Are you the “correct” age? The “right” gender? Had the “right” education? Are “liked” enough? Married? They all share the common role of determining the way we judge people in a society obsessed by control. I want to encourage a rethink on how we are valued by using wit and an irreverent attitude.

Pearl neckpiece resembling a condom
Gender: In a man’s world, Wen-Ju Tseng (BA Jewellery Design)

Everyday objects

Contemporary artists like Elmgreen and Dragset, Chang-Rong Lin and Ai Weiwei have strongly influenced my ways of working. Their work inspired me to approach jewellery in a fine art context, to create work that uses everyday objects but in a completely different context. My jewellery uses our strong bond with the familiarity of everyday objects but then subverts their original function. Jewellery helps me express my personality and thinking. My collection encourages positive attitudes by suggesting that although these expectations are imposed on us unwillingly – as symbolised in the sometimes uncomfortable wearing of my pieces – we can at least determine ourselves how we want others to perceive and value us, to be truly ourselves and free from absurd societal constructs.

Gold ring with form of credit card
Wen-Ju Tseng (BA Jewellery Design)

"Appearance: Dysfunctional Sharpener" looks at the idea of how body image, and more specifically, how weight determines the value of an individual. What if there was wearable jewellery that helps you lose weight instantly? From one aspect, this piece proposes an ideal that doesn’t exist where fat can be ‘sharpened away’. While "Gender: In a man’s world" is inspired by gender preference embedded in my culture. Why does gender at birth determine the value of an individual? It aims to promote gender equality through the use of a material that is commonly associated with femininity (pearls) to create a masculine form.

Wen-Ju Tseng is nominated for the MullenLowe NOVA Awards. Her collection can be seen in Show Two: Design at Central Saint Martins, 19-23 June.

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