Expo 2020 Dubai and Cartier are celebrating International Women’s Day this year by hosting a global forum under the theme “Creating New Perspectives”.
The two organisations also collaborated on the Women’s Pavilion, on till 31 March 2022, which takes visitors on an immersive journey to celebrate and recognise the central role women have played throughout history and to the present day.
By showcasing the contributions, personal stories and achievements of women around the world, as well as the challenges that they still face, the message is clear: when women thrive, humanity thrives.
On the upper floor is another exhibition sponsored by Cartier and curated by French actress and filmmaker Mélanie Laurent. The 39-year-old, who has received two César Awards and a Lumières Award for her work, has appeared in movies such as Inglourious Basterds (she played Shoshanna Dreyfus, the gutsy Parisian cinema owner who plots to burn down a cinema full of Nazis), and directed The Nightingale, an upcoming American drama film starring Dakota and Elle Fanning as two sisters struggling to survive and resist the German occupation of France during World War II.
“Cartier CEO Cyrille Vigneron told me about this project over a splendid dinner and I immediately wanted to collaborate on it, especially since Cartier always gives me a lot of freedom and encourages me to stay true to myself. The topic was about women across the world. We had the idea to talk about visible and invisible women so that all of them would have representation,” she says. “Things are changing. There are more women film directors being granted big budgets. This would not have been easy 10 years ago.”
Laurent’s immersive exhibition tells the stories of a diverse group of women navigating the world through their experiences.
“The idea was to meet women, known and unknown. These women were proposed by both Cartier and myself; we discovered many of them on our travels. All of them were generous and allowed us into their private lives,” she says in tribute to the women featured in the exhibition.
The first section highlights the universal link between women and their environments through a sculpture and a series of exclusive photographs shot and selected by Laurent. The second invites visitors to discover a virtual reality (VR) film.
“I wanted the second part of the exhibition to be like a cocoon, looking inside the mother’s womb. I took the sound of the noise heard by the child during pregnancy to amplify this idea of immersion, placing paper blades on the ceiling as a passage through the clouds. When the visitor puts on the VR headset, they attend a colourful journey through one of the 36 women we met in the different countries,” Laurent explains.
The third and final section brings an exclusive audio-visual art piece to life, reflecting women’s voices across the globe.
“When I met [Swiss virtual artist] Cee Roo, his videos, where he shows the best and the worst in the world, overwhelmed me. He works on sounds so that life becomes music. Together, we mixed our artistic worlds,” she says.
While Laurent shares that the biggest challenge was working and reinventing herself in the middle of the pandemic, her greatest joy has been sharing this project with people who share her vision for a world where “women would no longer need to speak louder, to fight to exist, to convince at all costs”.
“We’re still a long way from achieving an egalitarian world,” she adds, recounting how there are still countries denying girls the right to an education or allowing forced marriages. But Laurent is optimistic that with enough global initiatives like hers, the future can be female.