Simon Fujiwara’s acclaimed project Who the Bær was developed during the lockdown in the spring of 2020 and is now the centre of a major exhibition at Fondazione Prada, Milan, and Kunstinstituut Melly, Rotterdam. In this new body of work, the artist created a unique cartoon character in the form of a denim wearing bear with a golden heart and an uncontrollably long tongue, that eemingly has no gender, race, sexuality or even a clear design. Without an identity, Who exists only as an image, a status that allows them the freedom to roam a world of online images, appropriating characters, identities, aesthetics and guises in a greedy search for a ‘self’. Much like other beloved and iconic cartoon characters, Fujiwara has created entire fairytale universe for Who the Bær that manifests in drawings, collages, sculptures and animations. Much like other beloved and iconic cartoon characters, Fujiwara has created entire fairytale universe for Who the Bær that manifests in drawings, collages, sculptures and animations. Through Who the Bær, Fujiwara explores complex topics using the reductive logic of the cartoon universe to expose the normalizing power of the capitalist image culture we inhabit. Fujiwara’s existential cartoon character oscillates between subject and symbol, being and thing and is a tool for the artist to investigate cultural anxieties around identity and its relationship to the performativity of image culture. Made with an instinctive and responsive hand, this exhibition focuses largely on collaged works that introduce us to the basic principles of his character through a meme-like, cut and paste aesthetic. Housed within a fragmented, themed environment of oversize bear cut-outs, we discover the pleasures and traumas, violence and joys of life in the mediated modern world through the absurd adventures of a cartoon bear.
Simon Fujiwara, new work , Kunstinstituut Melly, Rotterdam (April 9 — August 22, 2021)