A large photo reproduction of inquisitive, wide-open eyes will greet visitors at the entrance of Benetton’s Fabrica exhibition, to be held at the Centre Beaubourg (George Pompidou) in Paris from Oct. 6 to Nov. 6.
“These are eyes that imagine the future and explore different worlds,” said Paolo Landi, head of the project “Fabrica: Les Yeux Ouverts” (in English, “Open Eyes”), who is Benetton’s director of advertising. The Italian clothing manufacturer will celebrate its 40th anniversary this year with the exhibition as well as a fashion show revolving around the theme of wool that will support the World Food Program and also will be in the Centre Pompidou.
Landi said the exhibition conceived by Fabrica, Benetton’s communications research hub, will be curated by the Centre Pompidou. “We received an invitation from the Centre and have been working on the exhibition for the past year,” he said.
Benetton, whose 40th anniversary was actually last year, pushed back the celebrations to coincide with the exhibition. “It will be spectacular and exciting,” Luciano Benetton, chairman of the company and president of Fabrica, said earlier this year. “I’ve always considered Paris the capital of fashion and we’ve been inspired by this city again and again over the years. Paris has always given us a lot of satisfaction.”
The company’s first boutique opened in 1969 on Boulevard Saint-Germain.
Landi attributed the forward-thinking mood of the exhibition to Luciano Benetton himself. “We don’t want to do a retrospective. This is not an arrival, but rather a starting point for us,” he said. “We want the exhibition to be a photograph of how the company is today. We already know its history and must look to the future.”
Indeed, Oliviero Toscani, the photographer who helped create Fabrica and made history with Benetton’s controversial and innovative ad campaigns, has not contributed to the exhibition. “It would have been easier to simply pick photos from the archives, but we wanted to show new ideas and offer new stimuli,” said Enrico Bossan, head of Fabrica’s photography department, which is putting together the “I See” project — hundreds of photos from around the world, from Congo to Azerbaijan to Kazakhstan to Wien, Austria.
During the past year, the department’s six photographers — Olivia Arthur, Adam Huggins, Ashley Gilbertson, Leonie Purchas, Lorenzo Vitturi and Philipp Ebeling — traveled extensively to explore different subjects, such as the impact of mankind’s activities on the weather, or the story of two families torn between Cuba and Los Angeles.
“I never ask our photographers how many photos they took, but how many shoes they wore out,” quipped Bossan. “But, seriously, these photos prod us to ask ourselves questions such as ‘Where are we going? Do we have hope for the future?’ He pointed to a photo by Ebeling showing a child playing on a Chinese “beach” filled with mud, against the background of emerging skyscrapers clouded by a gray haze. A total of 12 photos will be on display at the exhibition, accompanied by a slide show.
Messages from around the world also fill the Colors Notebooks sent earlier this year to 20,000 people, who were free to fill 50 blank pages expressing their feelings and ideas. “We wanted people who have no voice to be able to speak up,” said Renzo di Renzo, editor in chief of Fabrica’s magazine, Colors, which is published four times a year, who is also creative director of Fabrica.
Di Renzo worked with Reporters Sans Frontières on this project. “I didn’t expect such a positive response,” said di Renzo, who classified the notebooks in three different groups: the artistic/creative, the social and personal diaries. At the exhibition, 50 or 60 notebooks will be on display, hanging from transparent thread. “Visitors will be able to flip through them,” di Renzo said. A special issue of Colors will be dedicated to this project.
A portion of the exhibition will focus on interactive activities, including the Flipbook experience. Flipbook is software created by Fabrica and is the winner of the Grand Prize Award at the prestigious Japan Media Arts Festival. It allows the use of technology and the Internet to create collective art online. Flipbook has generated more than 15 million contacts and created more than 200,000 animations, Landi said. “One of Fabrica’s goals is to handle creativity in a concrete way, which must be connected to reality and the market,” he added. “Also, we want to create strong ties between communication and art.”
“Fabrica: Les Yeux Ouverts” is to become a traveling exhibition.