Reiner Werner Fassbinder, Alberto Arbasino, Carlo Emilio Gadda. Toshio Matsumoto. Visual researcher and creative director devoted to fashion and cinema, Giangi Giordano tells his story
Milan, Italy. February 20th 2021
«Milan keeps to itself; it doesn’t want to overwhelm you. You have to understand how to read it and, in your own way, how to conquer it». Visual researcher for director Luca Guadagnino, creative director and consultant for curatorial operations and style offices, from the desks of the Fashion Styling course at the IED in Milan he sat at the chair of Sociology of Fashion, which he considers his observatory in the present. «From my generation, those who studied design, fashion, or other creative disciplines lived Milan as a moment of passage, the starting point to then develop their careers in London, Paris, or New York. Today the opposite happens: a high percentage of my students come from Japan, England, France, countries anchored to their institutions and academies». The students are a reflection of what is happening to the city of Milan, and Giordano identifies the origin and dynamics of the transformation. «Triggers have aligned (Expo, terrorism in France, Brexit) that have brought influences and energies from abroad to Milan, making it a ‘place to be’ even for people who had never considered it as such. We are learning to internalize what comes from outside and put it to use here, no longer elsewhere. As a result, a creative scene is being established».
From this scene, a female artistic reality emerges, composed of women who become aware of their role not only socially, but also aesthetically, physically and sexually and manifest it with full mastery of their expressive tools. «When I think of the art world, Flaminia Veronesi, who deals with decoration and intersections with design, comes to mind. Miss Goffetown, a painter of absolute brutalist reminiscences, sexualized in her work that is spontaneous, almost rough. Priscilla Tea continues to be a prominent name. For photography, Zoe Natale Mannella. Rooted in her femininity and at the same time violent in looking at women, as only a woman could be. She has an explicit aesthetic that is not that of the male gaze: she observes herself from the inside. For the illustration, Elisabetta Bianchi and her dreamlike imagery. Credible voices because they are not stereotyped: they don’t eulogize themselves, they don’t want to be prissy».
Giordano’s upbringing took place in a gynoecium. His grandmother and mother were examples of an unostentatious femininity. They passed it on to him so much that he can observe it from within himself: «My way of reasoning was conditioned by their experience. My gaze toward the figure of the woman comes from there. It’s an almost feminine gaze». Giordano includes her grandmother as a reference that guides his life, even now that she is gone. «My grandmother was a pragmatic woman, she taught me a sense of responsibility and concreteness in facing things. From her I learned that, in my own way, I can take care of myself». Her country estate, in the isolation of the province of Bergamo, welcomed Giordano’s childhood: «My most vivid memories are tied to the house, the living room, the sage green sofas with lion’s paw-shaped feet, which as a child I looked at from a different perspective and seemed enormous. A safe place for me that enveloped me». There he has known the time of boredom and the time of longing, like the boy in the Spoon River Anthology who ‘Lies in the grass near the feet of the old man, and looks up at the sailing clouds, and longs, and longs for what, he knows not’: «I have memories of time that passed very slowly and in which nothing particular happened to me». Venus in Virgo has given him an obsession with all things aesthetic, which must be rigorous, consistent and precise and which combines with another family teaching: «the sense of freedom and self-determination. I also tie these two values to appearance. Appearance is a tool of manifestation and I try to process it in an almost maniacal way».
His adolescence was set in the small town of Crema, the same town that a few years later director Luca Guadagnino would ask him to evoke in the film Call me by your name. «A small provincial bourgeois town. Suitable, if what you’re looking for is a quiet life. Boring, if you live it as an avowed homosexual boy in a context that, at the time, was not used to diversity: political correctness is recent, until a few years ago it did not exist». His mother from Lombardy, an art lover, and his father from Amalfi, a photojournalist, imprinted a cultural bipolarity that was combined with a restless nature and an attraction to everything that is to be looked at, objects, books, photographs: the visual language has always been there, it is «the first one I have learned to manage». In that reality without Instagram, without real-time images and simultaneity of information, «I would order international magazines and have them shipped to me. I was looking, reading, perfecting languages. I would spend whole days in the library flipping through books, or researching on the internet to understand what was going on in the world, beyond Crema. There was a lot of intention behind the desire to learn. Today the world conveys itself by overwhelming you with information, but just ten years ago, if you wanted to know, you had to take the trouble to want to know. You had to have intention in doing it».
The inclination to observe evolves into an inclination to research, a means of escape from a place perceived as dissonant. The curiosity towards contemporaneity, the hunger to find what is not around, become, without knowing it, a method: «A name found on the page of a newspaper connected me to another word, which connected to another name, which connected to another word. It was a path of concatenation». These initial searches soon went on to form collections of images: «I filed everything on my computer in an endless series of folders organized by subject, by category, by designer or character. Even badly scanned images or photographs that I in turn photographed with a camera».
A solid part of Giordano’s training comes from literature and includes authors who observe what they know from the inside, from a critical or caricatured point of view: «Fratelli d’Italia and Alberto Arbasino’s L’Anonimo lombardo. L’Adalgisa by Carlo Emilio Gadda. L’Arte della gioia by Goliarda Sapienza. Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford. Fabulous Bobodies by Lee Tulloch». Among the cultural references, Mario Mieli was definitive: «When I was young, I read Elementi di critica omosessuale and Il risveglio dei faraoni. They opened my eyes and mind to what I could be, to what we could all be and that sometimes we don’t become because of social conventions or habits. Diversity and equality are two spectrums of the same thing: identity is not one; identity is a possibility. In this, my family has been present. Even with its bourgeois rigidity, which taught me a sense of discipline, my family left me free in my choices. I was able to be, and this is the dearest thing that no one can touch». The cinema also constitutes a source from which to draw inspiration, a collection of references that are, with time, incorporated and that serve to refine the aesthetic. Le amiche, by Michelangelo Antonioni. Storia di Piera, by Marco Ferreri. The bitter tears of Petra von Kant, by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Funeral Parade of Roses by Toshio Matsumoto. The suggestions Giordano receives from the films he transfers onto his body, which becomes a vehicle of expression: «What I see, what I feel, translates into how I dress, how I make myself up, what perfume I use, what pair of shoes I wear. It’s the first step, it has always been, since adolescence: the body is the instrument through which I manifest my personality».IMAGE GALLERY
Giangi Giordano is a professor of Fashion Sociology at the European Institute of Design, IED Milan, Creative Director and consultant for curatorial operations, style offices, video and photo shootings, Visual Researcher for Luca Guadagnino and Saverio Costanzo.