One of the more unusual projects in Milan this year is a collaboration between Jules Wright, founder and creative director of The Wapping Project in East London, and international travel accessories brand, Tumi. Wright was commissioned to create an installation to mark the launch of Dror for Tumi, a new collection of bags debuting globally at Salone del Mobile 2012 designed by Dror Benshetrit of New York based Studio Dror. Titled 'Passaggio', the immersive multimedia installation is hosted by Tom Dixon's MOST - and staged in the Museum of Science and Technology's Sala delle Colonne, a breathtaking space rarely opened to the public.
Despite being no stranger to large-scale installations at Salone - she curated the monumental Swarovski Crystal Palace exhibition in 2010 - Wright admits she's unsure what visitors will make of Passaggio, which combines film and images (shot by photographer Thomas Zanon-Larcher) plus music and live performance. 'It's a slightly odd thing to have at Salone,' she winces. 'It's not very Milan.'
One of the main reasons Wright took on the project was the bags themselves. 'I liked the fact that movement was suggested by the bags,' she explains. 'They're very witty, intelligent pieces. We used them as our luggage as we raced around Europe shooting the film and images.'
The film part of Passaggio is a dark, surreal thriller that begins in Cambridge then races across Europe before culminating in a hotel room in Milan. It was shot on location in Switzerland, France, England, Austria and Italy, referencing thrillers such as The Day of the Jackal, The Third Man and Death in Venice.
On entering the installation at the Museum of Science and Technology, visitors find themselves in a carpeted hotel corridor flanked by vintage 1960s TV sets showing black and white images relating to the film. At the end of the corridor we discover a simulacrum of a Milanese hotel room where 'Julia' lies on the bed, sporadically acting out moments from the film as if replaying them in her mind. The accompanying musical score is by Scottish composer Billy Cowie.
Despite the project's glossy feel, Wright insists it didn't have a big budget. 'Thomas and I worked in a very lean way. He shoots on a huge, old-fashioned camera and only uses available light, like Stanley Kubrick. We had no assistants, no lights; we styled it ourselves, designed it, did the art direction - everything.'
And while the bags appear in the film and have a presence in the installation, Wright is adamant they were the not the stars of the show. 'This is not a product shoot,' she insists. 'Passaggio isn't about the bag. It's about the manner in which the bag inspires an idea.'