Text by Gaia Amorello
All Images © Antonio Miucci
Antonio Miucci (Manfredonia, 1994) is an Italian visual artist and fashion photographer who lives and works in Milan. He holds a BA in Art and New Media and an MFA in Photography from the Brera Academy of Fine Arts in Milan. His research deals with the themes of Queerness and with the aim of redefining the perception and representation of gender identity in contemporary society, focusing on the deconstruction of visual and cultural stereotypes related to masculinity.
In his works, fashion and portraits are tools meant for creating imagery that refers to the concepts of metamorphosis, transformation, rebirth and cyclicity. An intimate dialogue takes place between the different identities that relate to each other on the scene, to the point of overlapping and interchanging. ”Each person in front of the camera is in a certain sense my alter-ego, my Other-From-Self, which takes on multiple forms through the power of dress, light and shadows”, as Miucci says. It is in this relationship that both the artist’s inner reinvention and that of the subjects portrayed take place, breaking free from social constructs and celebrating the freedom to be oneself to the full.
It is precisely in the encounter with the Other that ARCADIA comes to life, a project that began in 2018 and lasted three years, which sees in the dialogue with Stefano Filipponi, aka Arcadia, the creation of an artist’s book and a documentary aimed at investigating the multiple identities of the permorfer artist. ”I saw so much of myself in Stefano and I wanted to give back that story through his sincere portrait,” says Miucci. Although they immediately recognised each other, it took time to completely understand the relationship between Stefano and Arcadia. ”The moment I understood how they communicate was during a studio performance in which he sang Giacomo Puccini’s “Un Bel Dì Vedremo” from the opera Madama Butterfly. I was catapulted into an undefined dimension. Arcadia emanated a light you don’t see every day, its aura was palpable in that room”. Arcadia represents for Stefano the place of inner poetry, where he can freely reconnect with himself through the singing of his voice and give expression to his purest inner light.
The idea for the artist’s book stems from the desire to encapsulate Stefano’s multiple and fascinating identities in an aesthetic object. ‘’In the formal realisation of the work, I started from the idea of a suit of armour which, once unveiled, lets you perceive the vulnerability, gentleness and whimsy of Stefano Arcadia”. The box, extracted from the case, contains the thirty-one individual plates in warm, enveloping colours, of different weights and yields. The reading begins with the ”ARCADIA Manifesto”, a booklet contained in a small pocket, where the pages pages are lightweight (30gr.) to underline the delicacy and uniqueness of the story that will be experienced. The book uses the technique of collage as a connection of opposing elements such as formats, techniques and materials. In the summer of 2019 Stefano, who is also a designer and art director, went on holiday to Tokyo where he collected various local paper objects: stickers, fanciful adhesive tapes, newspaper clippings, brochures of exhibitions and art events. The artist’s choice of collage is dictated by a reflection on the performativity of the male gender and the deconstruction of stereotypes through the language of art, which is possible through ”listening to the Feminine and all that can be fluid or non-binary, inherent by nature in the Masculine. The intersection of these essences can give rise to new languages and ways of being that are authentic and fascinating, amusing and ironic”. The collage thus becomes a dialogue between different natures that overturns and deconstructs roles and rules. The juxtaposition of different paper materials, which refer to characters from Japanese animēshon pop culture, and photographs, which portray the icons of beauty of the history of Western art, create a glittering context for Arcadia’s portraits and celebrate a Queer universe with a decidedly Camp aesthetic sensibility. Camp is the deliberate, conscious and sophisticated use of kitsch in art, clothing and attitudes. Tracing the thinking of Susan Sontag, who was the first to examine the camp sensibility in Western culture, it is a style or aesthetic taste that consists of a love for all that is unnatural, artificial and exaggerated. It represents the victory of style over content, of aesthetics over morality, of irony over tragedy. They celebrate exaggeration, androgyny, masks and transformism, in a continuous dialogue between different cultures, languages and styles. Disguise and mask are the means by which metamorphosis can take place and roles and categories can be transcended, making discontinuity the place of gender creativity. The concept of a single identity is overcome and a plural space deconstructing stereotypes of beauty and sexuality of masculinity is opened up. According to Miucci ”the mask amplifies the enigma, adding layers to one’s identity. The mask allows one to dwell within the extraneousness that is inherent in every individual. It is an exercise in doubling, in living with the Other and the Elsewhere”. The aesthetics of Camp have therefore allowed the artist’s artistic and cultural imagination to establish a strong relationship with Stefano’s.
Miucci points to the urgency of rethinking masculinity, reflecting on the machismo that pervades it. For too long, men have played roles that embody strength and control, that adhere to the ideal of the predatory and overpowering subject. Masculinity will no longer be dangerous when it stops defining itself in opposition to femininity.” The concept of masculinity is undergoing a rebirth within a newfound collective consciousness that is committed to unhinging a toxic ideal of masculinity, freeing itself from the confines of the cages of gender and sexuality, and opening up to a plurality of identity and relationships.