Artist Dena Yago Reviews NICOLA, MILAN, a new book by Lodovico Pignatti Morano

9781584351283As you casually travel between foreign countries, each landing and departure creates a shadow that trails you. When you reach a final destination, they then graft onto your skin like the fine dust of fuel exhaust.

For the Easy Jet-set creative class, the moment of one’s arrival is relative to their audience. Without one it’s possible to endlessly wander the streets of foreign cities and remain a shadow. You live in your mind and draw up lists of a city’s specifics – of the nightly frequented bars and their oversized ice cubes that melt slowly in a glass, of the distracted conversations held on recent travels, or of “Céline and de Sade.”

An unnamed protagonist arrives into the empty city of Milan as a shadow. As a young brand strategist, he works to obscure emptiness, constructing the grand narratives of heritage, craft, material, and taste – all to be exported as luxury. Quickly he meets Nicola, the man that he could become if he stayed in Milan for long enough. The shadow now has an aspirational obsession with Nicola, who embodies the tenuous life of the neither rich nor poor – the life that trades in the currency of access. Nicola grants his shadow access, bringing him to well-attended parties and luxurious dinners across Italy. These favors are not out of friendship, but rather from a need for affirmation that he is, in fact, the man he claims to be.

As their relationship progresses the stench emerges from a man who’s character fails to be as desirable as the stories, travels, expensive clothing, furniture, and books that fill his otherwise empty life. In the face of this emptiness, and Nicola’s incapability to do the job that the brand strategist does so well, the protagonist’s once strong desire for Nicola is followed by miasmic repulsion.

The perverse relationship between these men, as one shapes the tastes and desires of another, produces the protagonist’s internal dialogues and speculations that unsettlingly confirm that things are just as bad as you had imagined. The sociopaths around you are, in fact, taking stock of the details. By cataloging the details in Nicola’s life, a dark economy of the creative class is revealed, one where details become currency traded within a community of people that guard their knowledge, carefully modulating the release of any sign that they know too much or too little.

Nicola, Milan, by Lodovico Pignatti Morano, is published by Semiotext(e) (Los Angeles, 2014). 

Dena Yago is an artist based in Los Angeles. 

 

By DENA YAGO

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