David Bielander

Video: Gina Folly
Fotos: Dirk Eisel/Simon Bielander
Schnitt: Miriam Leonardi
Musik: Carl Oesterhelt/Johannes Ender – The Anatomy Of Melancholy 3

David Bielander, 1968

Artist and jewellery designer, Munich

David Bielander (born 1968) develops intriguing jewellery pieces that defy user expectations and push the limits of what an ornament can be. Following apprenticeships in Basel and Schwäbisch Gmünd, Bielander enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, where he studied under professor Otto Künzli. He has since developed an unconventional, self-lead path where experimentation abounds, precious materials are subverted and pushed to the limit, and the user is intentionally pushed out of his comfort zone. Bielander lives and works in Munich, and his work has been shown in galleries and museums around the world.
The Confederation grants Bielander a Swiss Grand Award for Design in recognition of unconventional point of view and his critical method, which yield unconventional and striking results that set him at the forefront of international jewellery design. Prior to the Grand Award, Bielander has won the Swiss Design Award in 2012.


David Bielander : A Jewellery Aficionado

Na­ture has sev­eral strate­gies at its dis­posal to im­prove on a species. As a rule, ap­peal is di­rectly as­so­ci­ated with strength, speed or size. The strongest male lion is also the most at­trac­tive be­cause he of­fers pro­tec­tion and has the largest ter­ri­tory with room for po­ten­tial prog­eny. He mates with the pret­ti­est lady lion and to­gether they pro­duce a whole bunch of at­trac­tive baby lions and these in turn make love to an­other cou­ple's strong baby lions. And so on and so on. It has al­ways been a mat­ter of sir­ing off­spring that in turn sire off­spring. But for a cou­ple of mil­len­nia now, hu­mans have been the only an­i­mal species to ig­nore the rules of na­ture - and with steadily in­creas­ing tenac­ity. Human males don't have to beat up their ri­vals any­more to de­fend their ter­ri­tory and in­sem­i­nate a human fe­male. They don't even have to be par­tic­u­larly big or fast in order to be found at­trac­tive. What's more, the mod­ern human male and the mod­ern human fe­male don't even have to pro­duce any off­spring if they don't feel like it. The new human being can even de­sign jew­ellery with­out being con­sid­ered a so­cial out­cast. But how in heaven's name has an en­tire an­i­mal species man­aged to be­come so de­tached from the laws of na­ture that the herd not only sanc­tions but ac­tu­ally cel­e­brates using pre­cious met­als to make em­bell­ish­ments for the body that look like cor­ru­gated card­board? What has the world come to when some­thing so to­tally un­nec­es­sary as over­priced bi­jouterie is em­braced?
Let me di­gress. A cru­cial as­pect of being a human being is to be able to think of dan­ger with­out ac­tu­ally being in dan­ger. Every­body has an un­der­stand­ing of past, pre­sent and fu­ture; every­body can make plans and have re­grets, can be happy and scared. That's what we call "think­ing". I may be pretty sure I'm not about to die right this minute, but I can still think about death. An ab­stract, eter­nal feel­ing that runs through every day. I may be mis­taken but other crea­tures are not afraid of any­thing that is not con­crete. I mean, have you ever seen a graz­ing zebra on TV that is think­ing about how awful it would be for a lion to sneak up and try to bite its be­hind? Or a pine tree that is wor­ry­ing about whether it de­serves to be alive? No. The pine tree sto­ically pines away in the here and now. The zebra grazes as much as it can and re­laxes in the shade in be­tween. Re­lax­ing is its job: ze­bras have no time to be afraid, they just keep going. I'm con­stantly afraid. I'm afraid I won't be able to fall asleep and afraid I'm going to over­sleep in the morn­ing. I'm afraid peo­ple might not like me or might even make fun of me be­cause they don't un­der­stand me. I'm afraid some­one might un­der­stand me too well and might know me bet­ter than I know my­self. And I'm afraid that I'll be dead some­day and no­body will re­mem­ber me. Noth­ing will be left of me. What, if after you die, every­thing is much worse than you could pos­si­bly have ever imag­ined? And then maybe you wake up to find your­self stand­ing in an empty gym, and there's a fat, fat man stand­ing in front of you wear­ing cy­cling pants and he says, ‘Hi, I'm Urs and you are in heaven.' That could hap­pen. And then you'd tear your hair out be­cause you didn't do every­thing hu­manly pos­si­ble to make sure you leave some­thing be­hind.
David Bielander is one of those peo­ple who re­al­ize that the only way to cheat death is to cre­ate some­thing for eter­nity while you're alive. A la­bo­ri­ous busi­ness but at least what­ever it is will end up liv­ing with­out you. Some­thing you stand for, some­thing in which you had to in­vest body and soul to avoid look­ing ridicu­lous. I don't know him per­son­ally but I have the feel­ing Bielander's wa­ters run deep. ( Though maybe he's ac­tu­ally a su­per­fi­cial guy who's never put much thought into any­thing and just hap­pened to strike gold. If that's the case, please for­give my poor judge­ment. ) David Bielander is cer­tainly plagued by anx­i­ety, reg­u­larly haunted by mean­ing­less­ness and doubt, has a hard time ex­ist­ing in the here and now like a zebra, and has dis­solved into tears in the shower be­cause every­thing seemed so stripped of mean­ing and in­signif­i­cant. The point is that only some­one who has sensed an abun­dance of ug­li­ness within him­self is ca­pa­ble of de­vot­ing his life to some­thing as beau­ti­ful as mak­ing jew­ellery. Bielander is an artist who sets the painfully nor­mal on a pedestal of ex­clu­siv­ity, com­pelling us to stop short for a mo­ment in order to take in what we see. A mo­ment in which time stands still and there is no room left for fear. And in the process, he not only risks fail­ure as an artist but also as a func­tion­ing cog in so­ci­ety. He jeop­ar­dizes his sta­tus as a male lion. (For chris­sake, you gotta be off your rocker to make ba­nanas out of sil­ver and leather.)
And in two hun­dred years, when every­body who is alive today has long been dead, peo­ple won‘t re­mem­ber the in­di­vid­u­als who em­bod­ied an era but rather what they pro­duced. And whether an an­i­mal could do a bet­ter job if it had the free­dom to take artis­tic ac­tion is a moot ques­tion. And so is whether it makes sense for mem­bers of a species, like art buy­ers, to wear bor­rowed plumes in order to climb the sex ap­peal lad­der to at­tract stronger, faster lady lions. You‘ve got to draw the line some­where when it comes to what you leave be­hind, be­cause if there's any­thing that is even more un­nec­es­sary than cre­at­ing jew­ellery, it‘s read­ing about the cre­ation of jew­ellery afi­ciona­dos.
Hazel Brug­ger
Trans­la­tion: Cather­ine Schel­bert