A voyage in space and time along the Mediterranean basin charting a course set by jeans, a fabric with ancient origins and a venerable star in the history of fashion and modern and contemporary dress.
Au Revoir, a project by the artist Ettore Favini and curated by Connecting Cultures, is the product of research following the forgotten routes of the Mediterranean, our Mare Nostrum par excellence, and not only a center for trade but also a place of conflict between peoples. The history of denim, a resistant cotton fabric, with its recognizable shade of blue reflecting the sea on which the people of Southern Europe, the northern coast of Africa and the Middle East overlook, is emblematic of a repressed identity hidden by the sea that gave birth to European civilization through its places, nature, colour, and culture.
Au Revoir, winner of the 2019 Italian Council grant, will take up residence in Nîmes, an ancient center of denim production (originating from the term “de-Nîmes” or “from Nîmes”) as was Genova (or “Gênes” in French, whose pronunciation was later transformed into jeans), where the jeans fabric was utilized in the packaging of goods loaded onto ships, some of which made their way to the United States, thus the final stage of this transformation into “jeans”.
The pilgrimage tracing the origins of jeans will involve not only the cities of Nîmes and Genova, but also the people, refugees and migrants of today who – through weaving fabric at the museum in Chieri, a city in Piedmont where an early forerunner of jeans, otherwise known as fustian (coming from El Fustat in Egypt), was born – will elevate jeans into a work of art that will become part of the permanent collection of the Museo del Novecento in Milan. A work of participatory art, tapestries, and small bronze sculptures, created together with the textile artisans of the Egyptian and North African communities in Milan and Chieri: a journey to restore dignity to the refugees and showcase the important and forgotten role jeans have played over the centuries, two leitmotifs at the center of Connecting Cultures’ identity.
The artisans were selected from those who participated in “Sartoria Migrante“, a project curated by Connecting Cultures, whose goal was to promote and fortify the wealth of knowledge and skills brought by the people who come to Italy as migrants.
Sensitive to the themes of sustainable development, the environment, remembrance and landscape, with Au Revoir Favini intends to reclaim one of the oldest traditions of the Mediterranean basin: weaving and the rich intangible heritage that comes with it, through the intersection of stories, sources, craftsmanship and symbols embodied by the fabric.
With Au Revoir, Favini delves deeper into the historical memory of a fabric that has united the cities of the Mediterranean basin since the 2nd century. B.C. through research carried out in Egypt (Al Fustat and Egyptian Museum in Cairo), in Athens (Benaki Museum), in Chieri (Fondazione per il Tessile and the Museo del Tessile), in Genova (Museo Diocesano), in Nîmes (Musée du Vieux Nîmes) and in Turin (Egyptian Museum). Among the discoveries of this fascinating historical reconstruction were the strong similarities between denim and fustian wefts, which originated in Al Fustat, an ancient suburb of Cairo, and later spread throughout Europe. This fabric was processed in a specific blue colour in the areas surrounding Chieri since the 15th century.
Work on the project will begin on October 7, 2019 with a series of workshops at the Fondazione per il Tessile e il Museo del Tessile in Chieri where the artisans selected by Connecting Cultures will create fabric panels using five antique looms. The panels will subsequently be coloured during a workshop on natural dying techniques using officinal plants.
The project also includes a participatory laboratory at the Museo del Novecento on Monday, November 11 with the Egyptian and North African community of Milan where pieces of fabric taken from everyday objects will be collected. These pieces will be used during the smelting process which will produce the bronzes: a testimonial of the contemporary stories brought by today’s migrants that will serve as a compendium to the ancient stories of the tapestries.
Au Revoir will be exhibited for the first time at the Carré d’Art Contemporain in Nîmes from March to June 2020 and will be accompanied by a dedicated publication. During Manifesta 2020 in France, the project and book will be presented at the Dos Mares in Marseille.
The Au Revoir project will be presented at NABA in Milan and at the Accademia Carrara in Bergamo in April and May 2020.
In June 2020 a conference dedicated to the theme of Mediterranean identity will be held at the Genova Zones Portuaires – International Festival between the City and the Port.
The journey of Au Revoir will conclude at the Museo del Novecento in Milan which, having supported the project, will welcome the artistic installation of Ettore Favini into its permanent collection.
Au Revoir is supported by the Italian Council (6th Edition, 2019) program to promote Italian contemporary art in the world by the Directorate-General for Contemporary Creativity and Urban Regeneration of the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism