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Jewellery as Prostheses

Jewellery as Prostheses

Research Centre
Art and Design Research Centre

2002 - ongoing

Extending the definition of body adornment

In the collective search for improvement, ultimate functionality, beauty and perfection, the body has been commodified, becoming the subject of design, a luxury item.

The artefacts produced can be seen as made for the body; as well as being about the body. The work is seen as prosthesis with a mental dimension, made in throwaway materials such as polystyrene or high-tech materials such as medical grade steel.

The project comments on the estrangement and fragility of the contemporary individual, and explores the ambiguities between natural and man-made, original and fake, constructed and grown through intense material and conceptual research, aiming to extend the definition of body adornment. Outputs take the form of jewellery as objects to wear, installations, interventions in public spaces, products, or simply objects/artefacts.


Zellweger’s work focuses on diverse aspects related to the manifestation of human identity. It does this by exploring and reflecting upon the many factors that challenge contemporary living and which affect humans' perceptions about themselves. Zellweger works on the thesis that jewellery gradually leaves behind the stage of being an accessory, in the sense of an ‘appendage’ or ‘annex’, to potentially become an integrated component of man.

‘Jewellery as Prostheses’ generates debate on the new direction of social rituals, the relationship between art, design and science, and the issues that arise when aesthetics meets ethics. It takes a critical stance to reflect on the essential human activity of ‘making’, of ‘designing’ the world, and develops an appropriate means for self-reflective artistic practice.


An interdisciplinary approach and the appropriation of new technologies, materials and processes has been key in creating visually as well as conceptually challenging outputs: tangible artefacts able to stimulate emotional response, interaction and commentary.

The work therefore involves intensive research in materials and manufacture: the use of bio-compatible medical steel, 3D-surface-flocking and rubber coating, water jet cutting, industrial photo-etching, laser engraving combined with model-making skills used in product design and sculpting and traditional craft processes used in the field of metalwork, ceramics and textiles.

Zellweger finds common ground, evidence and inspiration in the (post-) disciplinary fields of philosophy, anthropology and sociology. He observes medical and neurological developments, analyses advertising images and finds affinities in artistic currents and fashion trends. The everyday landscape of designed products and ‘designed’ news on world politics and economy also offers a continuous source of reflection and critique.


The work ‘Jewellery as Prostheses’ has led and triggered debates within Zellweger's own professional field and beyond, stimulating dialogues with plastic surgeons and orthopaedic communities: in a 2006 lecture, ‘Art & Orthopaedics: trade marks on the body’ to the International Orthopaedic Congress ‘Orthopaedica Belgica’; and in a lecture in 2003, ‘Homo Sapiens, an obsolete species?’ followed by a panel discussion with media representatives, artists and the controversial plastic-aesthetic surgeon Dr Panfilov, at the Museum of Applied Art in Frankfurt, Germany.

Researchers involved

Professor Christoph Zellweger - Professor of Art and Design

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Incredibles - Off-Space exhibition - Under the heading INCREDIBLES Zellweger explores the uncanny but also...

Jewellery as Prostheses - In the collective search for improvement, ultimate functionality, beauty and...

Keypiece - The project was developed by Cóilín O’Dubhghaill, Christoph Zellweger...

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