Miuccia Prada Links With Artist Cécile B. Evans for Miu Miu Show

MILAN — Miuccia Prada has always been attuned to the cultural and social moment, fueled by her curiosity, so it’s no surprise she would turn her attention to artificial intelligence given the growing debate around the technology.

For her Miu Miu fall 2024 fashion show in Paris on Tuesday, the designer is collaborating with American Belgian artist Cécile B. Evans, who has explored through videos, installations, sculpture and performances the value of emotion today and how it rebels when it comes into contact with technological structures.

“I knew their work because some time ago they had proposed a collaboration in relation with Jean-Luc Godard’s Studio d’Orphée, which is at the Fondazione Prada in Milan. They are artists who touch current themes without turning them into a manifesto, such as that of human work threatened by artificial intelligence,” Miuccia Prada told WWD. “I immediately liked their idea to represent a woman who works with language and translation, a vehicle for dialogue, but in a public space where it is precisely the concept of dialogue that is undermined. It is a way to speak with awareness of themes that are distant from each other, ranging from international politics to the intimacy of memories.”

For Miu Miu, Evans realized a short surreal film about one of the last human translators and a memory that escapes her. The film will be projected at the show venue.  

Asked why she thought Evans’ work was fitting for Miu Miu, Prada said that “an artist who tackles the reality of today is interesting by definition. The meeting point is that we all work on all things contemporary; in fact, the mutual exchange is based on the dialogue, which starts months before the show. In addition, I am interested in the process of the technical self-verification the artists collaborating with Miu Miu impose to their ideas, which emerge strengthened or called into question, in a constant and very fast revision.”

French actress and art curator Guslagie Malanda, who has starred in the films “My Friend Victoria” and “Saint Omer,” plays the role of one of the last human translators, named Reception, who specializes in lost languages and working in a former parliament hemicycle that has been repurposed as a data center.

“You see her as she receives a woman’s intimate conversation or memory and she translates it into French. And you also see that she’s working with machines. So we’re in a world where there’s been a storage crisis,” Evans explained in an interview. “And this idea of the survival of memories is very important. The woman speaks in Irish Gaelic and Reception interprets her experience into French, dictating to a machine that transcribes it into English.  And you watch as she receives this woman’s memory, and then also a memory of her own actually escapes her and starts to run through the show space, exploring what is in our bodies and what is in the object. Which memories exist beyond us and how do they survive?”

The artist praised Prada for allowing them to have “carte blanche, it’s been incredible to be supported in this way, and to also have artistic freedom is really special.” They had no doubt at all about collaborating. “I thought immediately like, ‘Yes, I want to do this.’ I think because it’s Miu Miu of course, the brand itself and the aesthetic, and as a place to experiment.”

They knew of Miu Miu through several artists, the runway shows and Miu Miu’s Tales. “So I came to it already knowing the reputation. But then the big thing for me was the ability to talk about themes like the theme of the project I’m doing, which is memory, with and audience that is much broader than an art audience.”

Prada has regularly involved artists on her Miu Miu shows. In October, she linked with Qatari American artist Sophia Al-Maria on the Miu Miu spring 2024 show. The designer previously engaged South Korean choreographer and performance artist Geumhyung Jeong, Meriem Bennani, Nathalie Djurberg, Hans Berg and Chinese artist Shuang Li.

Evans said they had been discussing these themes and ideas with Prada “and I think one of the things I really admire and respect about her is, she’s very much in the world, and listening and responding. And that’s something that I really cherish as an artist. That’s what I get to do. I don’t have to be reasonable. I don’t have to. I don’t have to be realistic. I think one of the most beautiful things is I get to be ambitious in a world that is very difficult and complex, because I’m an artist. And so it was really inspiring to meet someone of her status who is still very much committed to being in the world. And that was exciting and inspiring. And I could maybe best describe, like the relationship between the project and the collection as an alchemy.”

Evans underscored that they were “never asked to make a commercial for the collection. [Prada] is known for her respect for artists. I’m very much a control freak. And this is where I allow myself to trust meeting [Prada] as an established, you know, more established than I am as an artist and say, like there will be this alchemy, there will be this collaboration also put in front of the audience’s eyes. And that’s really beautiful and special.”

LED screens on chandeliers will show “the memory running loose because the memory rebels in the situation and escapes her. So you’ll see the short film projected on the screens. But then during the runway, you’ll see the memory escaping and images that correspond with that onto her different storage devices.”

Evans said they were “thinking about memory in terms of translators, specifically, and what happens between how people experience something and how it gets transcribed to history. And what that process looks like, and also what happens when you insert technology into that. And I think as people, we forget that these devices are with us every day. I think technology is often presented as this really big, you know, unwieldy thing, but it’s super personal. And I think it’s time that we really develop this relationship where we realize like, ‘Oh, my phone that I carry with me all the time, this is what’s carrying my memories. It’s mine. It belongs.’ Because I do think we forget, and I’m not here to tell people what that relationship is. I think it’s just a moment to learn for yourself that these things don’t exist without what’s stored on them.”

Evans concluded by saying that they believe “the connection is that all of my work is about the point where our emotions rebel when they come into contact with structures or systems, you know, whether it’s like ideological or technological or physical. There’s a point where you can’t control feelings. And I think that’s something that’s really valuable today when we feel so overwhelmed by the structures and systems we exist in.”

They have just completed a fellowship at Lafayette Anticipations, producing a new film “Reality or Not” co-commissioned with Le Fresnoy, Singapore Art Museum and Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna.

Evans has recently completed a major new commission for the Ulsan Art Museum, after having been on a residency with the National Ballet of Marseille in collaboration with the Kistefos Museum and exhibited a new installation commission at Centre Pompidou Paris, all part of a multiverse adaptation of the Industrial era ballet “Giselle.”

Their work has been exhibited at the Serpentine Galleries in London, and at the Spencer Brownstone Gallery in New York.

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