BERLIN — At a small press conference here late Friday, the powers that be moved to fill in some of the informational gaps behind the new interdisciplinary happening, 032c Presents: Reference I Festival.
As reported April 26, a Gucci and Welt-hosted prelaunch dinner to celebrate the new project left more questions open than answered. At the follow-up session, the festival’s founders, Maria Koch and Thom Bettridge of contemporary culture magazine 032c; Mumi Haiati, ceo of fashion and lifestyle communications agency Reference Studios; art historian and gallerist Robert Grunenberg, and the festival’s special guest and cocurator Hans-Ulrich Obrist, curator of the Serpentine Gallery London, laid down a few more facts. Spanning fashion, design, art and technology in various forms including performances, installations, discussions, and interdisciplinary collaborations of all sorts, the festival will be held for a 24-hour period at Berlin’s most famous club, Berghain.
So far, so good.
Contrary to previous reports linking Reference Berlin I to Berlin Art Week in late September, the festival will be held on one of the last Saturdays in October, the final date to be determined as soon as the club’s owners return from holiday. It might have made sense to link the two events had Art Week and the European fashion show rounds not collided, Haiati acknowledged. Now Reference Berlin I will be a true stand-alone event, with no crossed scheduling or conflicts of interest.
“We chose the end of October because there’s nothing else (happening),” said Haiati. “People will be able to enjoy 24 hours of crazy full programing. Just 24 hours and then it’ll be all over.” The organizers said they can imagine the Reference format, which is envisioned as an annual event, traveling elsewhere. “But the first bridge to cross is the Berlin debut,” stated Koch.
Confirmed participants: Stefano Pilati, Grace Wales Bonner, GmbH and Richard Gallo archives. Regarding prelaunch dinner host Gucci, Haiati said, “We can’t communicate more at this time, though they have supported us from Day One.”
The team envisions having about 10 players in their Reference Berlin I playground, which — despite all manner of theoretical constructs — possibly can perhaps best be described as a free-for-all. And not only literally because entry will be free. But also in terms of targeted audience, which is “absolutely open and free,” said Koch, who added Reference is either consumer- or industry-oriented. In addition, the festival is also free in terms of its no-holds-barred format, which sets no limits to what a designer can or cannot do, within their means.
That, according to Koch, is the only business-based aspect of the Reference I project. “This is not a business scenario, but business-driven in that we need money for the creatives to contribute. So yes, it’s business, but not one about the next cashmere sweater in my wardrobe.”
Haiati’s original Reference idea was to create a kind of fashion biennial in Berlin to find new ways of showing fashion. And that remains a core aspect of this new experiential, as well as experimental, format. In today’s sped up fashion world, “people don’t have time to research the soul of the brand. We want to create a place where people can talk about their vision, not a T-shirt,” he commented.