The scenography for HEAD’s 2022 Défilé (Fashion Show) was developed by the Department of Interior Architecture at HEAD – Genève, continuing the interdisciplinary collaboration initiated between the school’s departments. The show was the first post-pandemic edition of this popular event, for which the team of architects Bertrand Van Dorp and Leonid Slonimskiy (KOSMOS architects) followed up on a two-week workshop with students to reflect on the ways technology both divides and connects people and to explore that duality in a project titled Digital Totem.
The dictionary defines a totem as “a spirit being, sacred object, or symbol that serves as an emblem of a group of people, such as a family, clan, lineage, or tribe.” Placed in the center of the fashion event, the vertical accumulation of flickering screens raised questions about the role of digital imagery in today’s society and what it means to be real nowadays. The installation opposed and combined virtuality and physicality, the presence and absence of human bodies in the material world, and conversely, the interaction of avatars in virtual spaces. Yet, it was far from decorative or purely symbolic: the layout of the screens, which were placed around the totem, was used to broadcast live, interact with, and display details of the students’ creations to the audience.
Due to the fleeting nature of fashion shows, the project was designed for easy disassembly, using reusable or rented materials. The installation, without welding, relied on bolts and lightweight aluminum profiles, allowing the core structure to be effortlessly stored and repurposed for future events. In contrast to the multi-armed digital totem, three 250 kg rocks from the summit of Mont Salève served as robust reinforcement for the vertical pole. The totem's construction involved available technology, including aluminum profiles, LED screens, and electrical cords. Each component aimed to reveal not only the visible design but also the underlying skeletal structure, screen cables, and rock support straps.