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My practice-based research project aims to explore the application of UV-reactive materials as body adornments and expand the methodological approach of performance art studies to the field of contemporary jewellery. Through collaborative engagement with performance artists, the creative process of making, wearing, and viewing UV-reactive jewellery is transformed into performative experiences. This creative collaborative process not only facilitates the emergence of open-ended art forms but also fosters a dynamic interplay between UV-reactive jewellery, the body, light, and space. Within this context, light plays an instrumental role in further transforming the viewing and wearing of artefacts and space into an immersive and theatrical experience, inviting the audience to reconsider their roles. This shift transforms the audience from passive observers to active participants within this dynamic setting.


My research process followed a reflective and iterative research methodology that evolved with the development of studio practice. Driven by the explorative and creative nature of this art research, studio practice served as the primary research method, continuously developed through critical reflections within the research context and external feedback from collaborators and audience participants through informal discussions and more formal interviews. Between 2019 and 2022, seven workshops were conducted, resulting in a substantial body of artwork, including expanded UV-reactive jewellery, wearable objects, performative installations, and live performances. An abundance of visual documentation, such as videos, photographs, sketches, and drawings, was collected throughout the research activities. The principles of co-creation and co-reflection are central to the collaborative projects, fostering a dynamic environment for mutual learning, problem-solving, and collaborative innovation within iterative and reflective cycles.


I argue that UV-reactive jewellery, in its making, wearing, and viewing, embodies a distinct form of performance by engaging in dynamic interactions between the body, light, and space. This proposition draws upon a long-standing tradition in fine jewellery, where light is intrinsically woven into the design of pieces, acting as an interactive and performative catalyst that enriches the making, wearing, and viewing experience of jewellery. The exploration of UV-reactive materials as body adornments expands this tradition and adds a new dimension from an interdisciplinary scope. By borrowing performance art methodologies to investigate UV-reactive jewellery, it challenges and expands the boundaries of contemporary jewellery, emphasising the active role of the body in shaping and transforming the processes of making, wearing, and viewing into performances, thereby blurring the boundaries between contemporary jewellery and performance art.


Research context


Artists have been using light as a source of inspiration for centuries, and light serves various functions in the aesthetics and poetics of different historical periods (Abulafia, 2015, p. 44). It can be argued that light plays a significant role in the tradition of how jewellery is observed and appreciated on the body, and harnessing natural light by manipulating reflective and refractive materials is one of the key characteristics of traditional fine jewellery. The investigation of the application of UV-reactive materials in contemporary jewellery extends this tradition. Since the 1960s, contemporary jewellery artists have been challenging the traditionally and socially constructed conceptions and notions of jewellery. As such, art jewellery making and wearing are more than just symbols of wealth and social status but have turned into an artist’s pursuit of autonomy and personal expression.


Whilst the departure from tradition is evident in the ways in which contemporary jewellers have considered or explored almost any non-traditional jewellery materials, light is one of the least examined mediums (Cerutti, 2017). A small number of artists have explored light in relation to the body. However, according to Oberlack (2011, p. 11), most of the applications of exploiting light as body adornment in the field of jewellery are focused on jewellery that is crafted with light sources such as LEDs or other types of light-emitting electronics without an in-depth examination into how the light emission interacts with the body. Despite the advanced development technologies in wearable light, such as light-emitting diodes, the concept of ‘light jewellery’ is still not widely explored in contemporary jewellery (Oberlack 2011, p. 11).


Working with light in relation to the body has not been further examined for over 10 years, since Ulrike Doris Oberlack’s doctoral study in 2011. Oberlack’s study exploits advances in miniature light sources to establish new forms of aesthetic expression through wearable light. Although the mechanisms of UV-reactive jewellery and light-emitting jewellery are different, there are similarities in terms of the aesthetics of artistic expressions and the performative and dynamic interplay between jewellery, the body, light and space. Oberlack and other jewellery artists have collaborated with dancers to choreograph wearable light and other types of jewellery performances as research or art projects. However, how the collaborative process of working with performance artists may impact the creation, wearing, and viewing of jewellery remains an area that has not been further investigated or reflected in their work.

The research aims, objectives and questions

The research questions:

1. What are the specific interactions of body, light and space that are facilitated by

UV-reactive materials worn on the body?

2. How can methodologies of performance be used to explore and analyse these


3. How does the collaborative nature of performance impact on the process of

making, wearing, and viewing jewellery?

The research aims: 

Situated at the intersection of contemporary jewellery and performance art, this research aims to push the boundaries of contemporary jewellery as an interdisciplinary subject and to challenge traditional perceptions of how jewellery can be visually and physically experienced on and by the body. By drawing upon the knowledge from the theory and practice of performance art, it aims to develop an in-depth understanding of the interplay between UV-reactive jewellery, the body, light, and space. Furthermore, by transforming UV-reactive materials into more than just body adornments—extending their application to encompass larger wearable objects and performative installations—this research aims to enrich our understanding of the performative experience involved in making, wearing, and viewing jewellery.

To achieve the above aims, the research objectives: 

  • Review literature on the role of light in jewellery, focusing on its integration and performative qualities in both traditional and contemporary styles. Analyse debates on the interdisciplinary nature of contemporary jewellery, especially performative approaches. Identify research gaps.

  • Develop a practice-based research methodology, using studio practice as the main method. Explore performance methodologies, develop data collection and analysis methods from studio practice and interviews. Consider ethical aspects.

  • Conduct workshops and projects with audience participants and dancers. Structure the studio practice into three phases. Interview participants and use a reflective approach to analyse the findings.

  • Analyse interview data collected throughout the creative process, using insights to develop themes for further discussion.

  • Reflect on the insights from the creative research process, develop them into themes for broader discussion. This will enable a critical understanding of the research findings.


Research methodology

This research adopts practice-based methodologies. As it involves a substantial focus on creative practices and mainly uses the processes of studio practice as a method to investigate research questions, a critical reflection on the processes of making artefacts and artistic experience is regarded as a significant part of the inquiry. A reflective and iterative research methodology is established and evolves with the exploration of studio practice. This enables theory and practice to inform and be interwoven with each other. In collaborative performance projects, coreflection through the co-creation approach is used as the primary method of reflecting on the collaborative and creative process and outcomes.

As the research project will include creative artefacts as the basis of its contribution to knowledge, and its claims of originality will be demonstrated through the creative research process presented in multiple artistic forms, it will, therefore, adopt an experimental practice-based research methodology, which will provide the foundation to achieve the research aims and objectives (Candy, 2006). Because this research is situated at the intersection of contemporary jewellery and performance arts, adopting performance theories, techniques, and collaborative processes with performance artists will uncover the intricacies of the relationship between light, UV-reactive materials, the body, and space.

By employing studio practice as the primary research method, this research project will be structured into a series of creative workshops and collaborative performance projects that will investigate the different perspectives of the research questions. The participatory experiences of both audience members and dancers will be captured and analysed through visual documentations and semi-structured interviews. The insights that emerge from these interviews will shape the thematic analysis, which will then be situated within a wider critical context. Documentation is essential for reflecting on and evaluating the artefacts produced in a studio-based environment. As such, research through making, documenting, and reflecting serves as the primary means of disseminating the research process, forming a fundamental part of the dissemination and communication of research outcomes.

Reflective practice is a fundamental aspect of my artistic research; it facilitates the continuous evaluation and development of my creative process. By employing the principles of Gibbs’ reflective (1998) cycle and Moon’s (1999) reflective writing map, I have been able to effectively document, contextualise, and analyse my experiences in the studio. This process has led to a deeper understanding of my artistic practice and its connection to the broader research context. As illustrated in the Figure below, the reflective and iterative cycle used in my studio-based inquiry breaks down my studio experiments into three phases. These three phases of studio practice are explained in the Studio practice page.

Screenshot 2023-11-19 at 19.47.33.png

An overview of the research process guided by a reflective and iterative cycle.


Contribution to knowledge

The key contributions to the field of contemporary jewellery are:

  • Enriched understanding of UV-reactive jewellery in alternative materials: This study contributes to the evolving dialogue on the use of alternative materials in contemporary jewellery, specifically focusing on UV-reactive materials within the category of light-emitting smart materials, which have not been extensively explored in this field.

  • Expanded understanding of blurred boundaries between contemporary jewellery and performance art: This research broadens our understanding of the intersections between contemporary jewellery and performance art through employing UV-reactive materials to create dynamic body adornments.

  • Expanded aesthetic expressions: The study explores the unique intersection of dance improvisation and jewellery making, showcasing how the interplay between UV-reactive materials, the body, and space enriches and impacts the creative process, and introduces dynamism to both jewellery making and performance making.

  • Rich visual and text materials: This research yields rich visual and textual materials, derived from the active participation of audience members and dancers in creative workshops, providing diverse perspectives on the intricate dynamics between the body, light and space facilitated by UV-reactive materials.

  • An interdisciplinary conceptual framework for contemporary jewellers: This research offers a conceptual framework elucidating strategies for successful interdisciplinary collaborations between contemporary jewellery and performance art.


Abulafia, Y. (2015) The Art of Light on Stage: Lighting in Contemporary Theatre. London, UNITED KINGDOM: Taylor & Francis Group.


Candy, L. (2006) Practice based research: A guide. CCS report, 1(2), 1-19.


Cerutti, L. (2017) Visual grounded analysis: developing and testing a method for preliminary visual research. London Metropolitan University.

Gibbs, G. (1988) Learning by doing: A guide to teaching and learning methods. Further Education Unit.


Moon, J. A. (1999) Learning journals: A handbook for academics, students and professional development. Routledge.

Oberlack, U. (2011) I+E Illumination and emanation; light as body adornment and the implications of wearable light. Doctoral dissertation, University of the Arts London.

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