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Fondazione Prada, Milan – “WHO THE BÆR” BY SIMON FUJIWARA

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Published by Sugar & Cream, Thursday 04 March 2021

Text and images courtesy of Fondazione Prada

Live On Fondazione Prada’s Instagram Account On Wednesday 3 March 2021 At 7pm.

The press preview and the opening to the public of the exhibition “Who the Bær” by Simon Fujiwara, originally scheduled on Tuesday 2 March 2021, are postponed until a later date due to recent Italian government provisions.

Simon Fujiwara

Simon Fujiwara will unveil his exhibition live on Fondazione Prada’s Instagram account on Wednesday 3 March 2021 at 7pm. During the live event, the artist will guide the audience through his project and discuss the exhibition themes with Barbara Casavecchia, writer and curator, lecturer at Brera Academy in Milan, contributor editor of frieze and curator of the Current III, TBA21 Academy. The public is invited to take part in the Instagram conversation by sending questions to Simon Fujiwara at: whothebaer@fondazioneprada.org


Presented by Zipblind

The work of artist Simon Fujiwara (London, UK, 1982; lives and works in Berlin) is a personal exploration of the human desire that underpins tourist attractions, historical icons, celebrities, “edutainment,” and neo-capitalism. In this seductive yet fraught arena, his work reveals the paradox of our simultaneous quest for fantasy and authenticity in the culture we consume. In his recent exhibitions —which include a full-scale reconstruction of the Anne Frank House (“Hope House”, 2017), a “rebranding campaign” of his former high school art teacher (“Joanne”, 2016-2018), and a theme park ride that takes you into the world of YouTube (“Empathy I”, 2018),— we observe a distorted reflection of the real world through the artist’s fantastical and sometimes disturbing universe.

For this new site-specific project conceived for the ground floor of the Podium in the Milan premises of Fondazione Prada, Simon Fujiwara introduces audiences to the fairytale world of  Who the Bær, an original cartoon character that inhabits a fantasy universe created by the artist. Who the Bær is a cartoon bear without a clear character – “Who” as they are known, seems to have not yet developed a strong personality or instincts, they have no history, defined gender or even sexuality. Who the Bær only knows that they are an image, and they seek to define themselves in a world of other images. The world of Who the Bær is a flat, online world of pictures, yet one full of endless possibilities. Who the Bær can transform or adapt into any image they encounter, taking on the attributes and identities of those depicted within the image – human, animal or even object. In this sense the fantastical world of Who the Bær is a world of freedom: Who can be whoever they wish to be, Who can transcend time and place, Who can be both subject and object. Yet Who the Bær may never be able to overcome their one true challenge – to become anything more than just an image.

Within his exhibition, Fujiwara introduces the public to a coming-of-age story and post- modern fairytale, made of several cheerful and traumatic events. From focus groups to therapy sessions, from plastic surgery to global travels, from sexual fantasies to dystopian dreams, the artist portrays the formative process of a fictitious character as they interpret and appropriate the “real world” of images, distorting everything they see into the absurd logic of their personal universe.

Who the Bær’s fantasy adventures are presented at Fondazione Prada in a giant labyrinth made almost entirely from cardboard and recyclable materials and forming the shape of a giant bear. As visitors travel through the bear-like installation, they are introduced to the basic design and formation of the cartoon character of Who the Bær before embarking on a series of adventures that follow Who the Bær around their fairytale world. Told through drawings, collages, sculptures and animations, we witness Who the Bær in their perennial quest for an authentic self.

Inspired by the tradition of fairytales as well as modern animation movies, Fujiwara uses the mechanisms of fantasy to explore some of the joys and traumas we face as a society possessed with images and spectacle.

“Who the Bær” will be completed by a publication, which is part of Fondazione Prada’s Quaderni series. Conceived as an illustrated story book, it includes a conversation with the artist. The adventures of Who the Bær can be experienced on Instagram following their official account @whothebaer.

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