Fondazione Prada shows Who the Bær – The Milan office reopens from 2 March 2021 with the new exhibition “Who the Bær” of Simon Fujiwara. His work is a personal investigation of the human desire that underlies tourist attractions, historical icons, celebrities, edutainment and neo-capitalism.
Located in this attractive and at the same time disturbing territory, Fujiwara’s work reveals the paradox of the double search for invention and authenticity in the culture we consume every day. In his recent exhibitions which include a full-scale reconstruction of the Anne Frank House (“Hope House”, 2017), a rebranding campaign of his high school art teacher (“Joanne”, 2016–2018) and the experience of a theme park that immerses us in the world of YouTube (“Empathy I”, 2018) distorted visions of the real world are traced through the fantastic, and sometimes distressing, imagery of the artist himself.
For this site-specific project in progress until 27 September 2021 and conceived for the ground floor of the Podium of Fondazione Prada, Simon Fujiwara introduces the public to the fairy-tale world of Who the Bær, an original cartoon character who inhabits a fantastic universe by the artist. Who the Bær – or simply “Who” – is a bear with no clear character. He seems to have not yet developed a strong personality or instincts of his own.
He has no history, no defined gender or even sexuality, he just knows he is an image and tries to define himself in a world of other images. Who the Bær is in a flat, online, visual environment, but full of infinite possibilities. Who can transform or adapt to any image it encounters, assuming the attributes and identities of those depicted there: human beings, animals or even objects.
In this sense, the fantastic universe of Who the Bær is a world of freedom: Who can be whoever wishes to be, Who can transcend time and space, Who can be both subject and object. Who the Bær may never even be able to overcome its one real challenge: to become more than just an image.
In his exhibition Fujiwara tells the public about a training path or a postmodern fable, studded with numerous happy or traumatic events. From focus groups to therapy sessions, from plastic surgery to global travel, from sexual fantasies to dystopian dreams, the artist portrays the evolutionary process of a fictional character starting from the perspective with which he interprets and appropriates the “real world” of images, distorting everything he sees in the absurd logic of his personal universe.
The fantastic adventures of Who the Bær are presented at the Prada Foundation within a large labyrinth made almost entirely of cardboard, recyclable materials and hand-made elements. Walking through the installation that reproduces a bear in plan, the public witnesses the birth of the cartoon character Who the Bær from an elementary graphic sign, before immersing themselves in a series of adventures that follow Who in his own fairytale world.
Through a story made up of drawings, collages, sculptures and animations, visitors are witnesses of his perennial search for an authentic self. Inspired by the tradition of fairy tales as well as modern animated films, Fujiwara uses the mechanics of invention to explore some of the pleasures and traumas we face as part of a society possessed by images and spectacle.
The “Who the Bær” exhibition is accompanied by a publication of the Prada Foundation Notebooks series. Designed as an illustrated storybook, it includes a conversation with the artist. Who the Bær’s adventures can be followed through his account
Official Instagram @whothebaer.
The exhibition spaces will be accessible to the public from Tuesday to Friday from 2pm to 8pm.
credit image by Press Office Fondazione Prada – Courtesy the artist – Photo by © Jörg von Bruchhausen, © André Carvalho and Tugba Carvalho – CHROMA.