ORIENTATION MARKS / 1998
SELF-REFLECTION Handbag mirror, machined, plastic cassette
Photo: Harald Reich
Orientation Marks is a processual and complex multi-stage project that expands usual jewelry-making practises with crossover strategies. As Susanne Hammer puts it: „Coming from jewelry, I started...to explore more intensively the relationship that body and adornment enter into. It is not far from jewelry to the accessory, to all sorts of useful or useless bits and pieces, and my approach deals with those bits and pieces, with the ‚utensils’ which perhaps can the best categorized under ‚prostheses and aids.“
The Orientation Marks offer help against existential disorientation. Hammer first made whole body photos of test persons (whose active assistance was an important part of the project) and then started mapping these portraits: topographies of body territories were made, personal distinguishing marks such as scars, moles, and other physiognomic peculiarities were surveyed and marked out. In this mapping, ten "body portraits" were produced. In the following stage – the last one always being a documentation of the entire process -, Hammer produced a number of different aids/Orientation Marks. These are spezial devices, clothes, stencils, prostheses: in one case, it is a miniature tape measure which she proposes to determine the distance between the nipples; a T-shirt that has holes in wherever the body shows moles or birthmarks; or a stencil in the shape of the African continent to check the contour of an individual’s chest hair in front of the mirror, a "wood-and-velvet case for one or two raised moles on the lower arm." The object is worn like a bracelet, although the real adornment is the body marks which are protected by the object worn.
These Orientation marks are supposed to give support wherever people ask themselves questions like: Am I still myself? Am I the same person this morning that went to bed last night? Theoretical references here, for example, are the so-called "mirror-stage" defined by the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan or Oliver Sacks’ bestselling report of a total loss of selfawareness (The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, 1990). Relating precisely to the body discourses that gained in importance in the 1990s, Susanne Hammer’s ‚Orientation Marks’ provide a new definition of the significance and function of jewelry which, for instance, also includes prostheses /and prompts associations to David Cronenberg’s movie Crash, 1996, or the whole subject of Cyborgs in the face of increasing virtualization, also of personal body experience, Susanne Hammer’s investigative Orientation Marks series is an impelling appeal for corporeality, for genuinely bodily
self-experience ans sensuality. (Désirée Schellerer)