Carlo Giordanetti, Creative Director of Swatch, in conversation with Mara Sartore to tell us more about the events that the brand is hosting and sponsoring during the56th Venice Biennale, Expo Milan and Art Basel.
Mara Sartore: Before discussing the specific events that Swatch is hosting during the Venice Biennale, I would like to ask you something more about the relationship between the brand and contemporary art in general.
Carlo Giordanetti: This relationship is definitely one of the pillars, it’s part of the DNA of Swatch because our relationship with art started back in 1984. As a brand that identifies itself with a very contemporary environment and with a very fast renewal of the aesthetic criteria that we use every season we could only be related to contemporary art. We are not a brand that does anything related to the past, we very much live the present. This relationship continues with different collaborations and what I found very interesting was to see how Swatch would be perceived from many artists that work in different disciplines: it’s not necessarily only visual art, we have been working with people from the movie industry, with people from a more traditional environment, a lot of musicians, so it really becomes like a gym for artists, as I call it. This is because you have the freedom to express yourself and of course it’s a challenge because the surface of the watch is very limited and that’s why we create for the artists something that goes way beyond the watch itself.
The project that we created in Shanghai called The Swatch Art Peace Hotel was started in 2011. It really is a space for freedom of expression, a space for artists from whatever culture — they’re free to develop their own projects. Swatch is a founding partner of the project, and the idea is to support the work of contemporary artists in this way.
MS: The project in Shanghai is also somehow related to the project in Venice you’re doing this year, could you tell us more about it?
CG: Our partnership with the Venice Biennale is really important for us because it gives us an even more international platform than the Shanghai project, so in our mind it’s almost like an ideal bridge between Venice and Shanghai, and that’s the value of our collaboration with the Biennale. We have an ambitious project for 2015: every six weeks we are hosting different artists from the group that we have been working with in Shanghai. Two of them are showing their work and one of them is working on premises, and every six weeks there will be new artists coming in and actually working during the Biennale inside the Swatch Pavilion. I think it is interesting because without knowing it we are following the idea of Okwui Enzewor, the curator of the Biennale, who wants it to be a really dynamic show, not a static exhibition. Basically, as they say, you get to the same conclusion if you breathe the same air.
MS: If I understand correctly, every six weeks we’ll have the opportunity to see the art and to explore the work of different artists for the duration of the seven months of the Biennale, so until November?
CG: That’s correct. We have five different waves of artists coming in between May and November.
MS: Swatch will also be involved in a project in Milan during Expo 2015 so your presence in Italy this year is really strong.
CG: Yes, absolutely! And both projects are really global, and on top of this Italy has always been really important in terms of market for Swatch. There’s a really strong connection between the Italian vision of life and the Swatch vision. For the Expo we’re one of the partners, actually we are the official timekeeper. We will also have a presence inside the main exhibition of Expo with a Swatch Pavilion, which will be a really playful place. That’s a very important element of Swatch: the will and the ability to smile or to make you smile. We take ourselves seriously, but we also know how to take ourselves lightly.
MS: You will also be having a very strong presence in Basel this year.
CG: Yes this is an interesting project, it’s an absolute premiere, the first time we do something like this. We have been developing an idea together with Beyeler Foundation and the Vitra Museum and we did this quite interesting artist walk which will take people either on foot or by bike from Switzerland to Germany, so from the Beyeler Foundation to the Vitra Museum, and Swatch will be supporting this throughout: Tobias Rehberger will be making twenty-four installations immersed in nature. The first one will be seen this year, but the project will be completed in 2016 when we will have a big celebration. I’m really curious to see people’s reactions because of course we will play a lot with the idea of crossing the borders, it’s going to be really playful in the middle of nature. We are very proud and at the same time very curious about this project.
MS: I would like to end this conversation talking a bit about you and your personal collaboration with Swatch. What kind of opportunity does it represent for you from a creative perspective?
CG: Well I really think that my relationship with Swatch is a love story of some kind. It’s like in your life, when you’re lucky enough to meet the partner that will accompany you on and off for your whole life, and you know that there is a connection based on the amount of inspiration that can you can find and generate for Swatch.
What I also love about Swatch is that there’s a creative connection between me and the brand based on the potential to add stories to the product. I think Swatch is a fantastic story teller, it has the ability to capture a story and translate it into a product and then carry it to the world. This is absolutely unique, there are very few brands in the world that are still able to do so.
Swatch also has diversity in terms of profile, the idea is very much to embrace diversity as an asset both in terms of clients and in terms of projects. These are the things that resonate with me and this is also the way in which I can contribute more to the brand. And then of course there’s a really big element in Swatch which is democracy: it’s a brand that is ideally really affordable and available for everybody. I think it’s a luxury product but a product which is both for the mind and the emotions, not related to the money you spend, which I believe is a fantastic combination.
MS: I’m really curious to understand how much was already in place before your collaboration with Swatch started. How important was your role in pushing this collaboration between the brand and contemporary art?
CG: The strength of this kind of collaboration is that it has been there since the very beginning when the brand was founded, so it’s been in place for 31 years. Then when you come in with this role you have the opportunity to drive it and to interact with the artists in a way which could be maybe more personal, and you have an opportunity to interface with talents on a personal level, so although being able to bring in my point of view was interesting and important, the foundation of the collaboration was already there as part of the DNA of the brand from a long, long time ago. Every time I’ve worked with Swatch I have enjoyed tremendously this part of the job. It’s probably more visible now, but it has always been part of the balance in the identity of the brand, because as much as we do art projects we also do projects in sports, in particular with unusual sports, and we are always working on technical innovation, and keeping our eyes open in different fields makes each collaboration more interesting.
MS: Can you give us some sort of anticipation on future projects after this intense period? What’s the future vision?
CG: We have a few connections with the projects we are hosting now, for example in Venice we will present a future project by Eva and Adele and Joana Vasconcelos.
Our eyes and our heart will be going back to Shanghai often, to make sure we collaborate with other artists over there. The project there goes way beyond the brand and the product themselves, that’s why it’s very important for us to be there. One of the things we will present, for example, will be a Swatch soundtrack written by an artist in Shanghai who has now been spending weeks in Switzerland recording the sound of Swatch from her point of view, and this can really be seen as one of the ways to project the brand into the future and to work on projects that are not only linked to the product itself. The mission for me is to show how much more than a product the brand can be.