By Moyena Parikh
"Fondazione Prada is set to present the ‘Role Play’ exhibit from 19 February to 27 June 2022 at the Osservatorio in Milan. Curated by Melissa Harris, the exhibition explores the processes of search, projection and invention of possible alternative identities. The alternative identities that are said to become a part of an individual’s persona include their authentic, idealized, and universal selves.
This project will be presented by 11 international image-based artists through the mediums of photographic, video and performing works.The participating artists are Meriem Bennani, Juno Calypso, Cao Fei, Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley, Beatrice Marchi, Darius Mikšys, Narcissister, Haruka Sakaguchi & Griselda San Martin, Tomoko Sawada, Bogosi Sekhukhuni, and Amalia Ulman. Their creations will be displayed in the form of a light installation, which is conceived by the creative agency Random Studio.
Because of its objective nature and the ability to capture different genres (portrait, self-portrait, and reportage) and alternative approaches— from narrative to conceptual research —photography is an ideal way to show authentic self-reflection. In recent times, the versatile medium has been embraced on online social platforms and communities and other role-playing contexts such as virtual avatars in the Metaverse. This further intensifies the need to explore our alternate selves or identities.
Even Melissa Harris emphasised on this relevance: “Since the early twentieth century, projects engaging role-play have further contemplated identity, liberating artists to gender-bend and time-travel and envision themselves in myriad ways, in turn reflecting on their very is-ness—even when that is in flux. An alter ego, persona, or avatar may be aspirational; it may relate to one’s personal and cultural history and sense of otherness; it may be a form of activism, or a means of maneuvering through entrenched, even polarized positions, toward empathy: putting oneself in another’s shoes.”
An illustrated publication in the Quaderni series, which covers an imagined text by Rrose Sélavy (Melissa Harris) and visual and written contributions by all the artists involved in ‘Role Play’, will supplement this project.
Interestingly, a second Prada exhibition, which is announced as the “alter-ego” of ‘Role Play’, will be held at Prada Aoyama Tokyo between 11 March to 20 June 2022. This show is also supported by Fondazione Prada and will have the works of Juno Calypso, Beatrice Marchi, Haruka Sakaguchi and Griselda San Martin, Tomoko Sawada, and Bogosi Sekhukhuni on display."