Visualising Ideas: Lorenzo Risani’s Decadence and Surrealism

A Renaissance garden and a mysterious figure wandering around it. A dark mask conceals its face, and it wears garments from a luxurious era.
These are the key elements in Multimedia Arts student Lorenzo Risani’s project Involutus (2023): an investigation of the decadence of excellence through Wes Anderson and Guy Bourdin’s visual codes.


​​By Giulia Piceni. Cover image: Lorenzo Risani, Involutus, 2023. Model, concept, styling and creative direction by Lorenzo Risani. Giorgia Bulli as Camera Assistant.

A fountain’s distant gurgling accompanies the birds chirping as they seek shelter: rain is about to wet the garden’s sculptures, make the soil fertile and replace the birds’ singing with the melody of its gentle drops. A slight breeze makes the cypresses’ branches sing stories of a distant past that once inhabited the giardini all’italiana inside Villa La Pietra in Florence.

An aristocracy that no longer exists would play games of seduction and pure otium among its bushes and flowerbeds, yet their lavish lifestyle still attracts us, inevitably affecting our imagination.


For his recent project, Involutus (2023), the Multimedia Arts student Lorenzo Risani has been inspired by this opulent world and reshaped it according to his artistic sensibility. The starting point of his research was the extraordinarily colourful and fashion-friendly Wes Anderson: a contemporary director who has addressed on multiple occasions (The Tenenbaums, 2002, and Grand Budapest Hotel, 2014, to mention the most known) this ‘decadence of excellence’ concept: the aristocracy’s disastrous fall of costumes and morality with recognisable bitter irony and sarcasm.

In this sense, the choice of the location was especially fitting: built inspired by Renaissance, a time when man was the measure of everything, Villa La Pietra perfectly highlights the self-centred mentality that dominated the aristocracy of the time: self-reliant of their golden bubble, nothing else existed outside it.


The young artist and photographer has also considered another two aspects of Anderson’s filmography: the surreal images and imagination and the theatrical composition of his shots. And who could transform any picture into a glossy page better than anyone else?

Madames et Monsieurs, it’s Guy Bourdin! The great photography master, once a pupil of Man Ray, was a great role model for Risani in the case of this project. Bourdin signed a long collaboration with the shoe house Charles Jourdan, which made it boom. The photographer established a colourful, geometrical aesthetic in the 1960s.

Towards the end of his contract with the brand, however, Bourdin gradually depersonalised the woman, keeping the legs as the only attribute to show. The 1960s Surrealist version so dear to his master was successfully achieved. In this sense, Lorenzo Risani’s shots, in which he also appears as a model, go back to this concept as he conceals his face.


With all the above ideas in mind, Lorenzo had all the winning ingredients to create a successful photoshoot. Well, maybe not all of them: the clothes were missing. But why look around when you can simply DIY them? One day, in the company of his collaborator on set, Giorgia Bulli, Risani started looking for the perfect outfit in the street market in Cascine.

Red and blue windowpane tartan, a brown houndstooth jacket and a beige checked top, a blazer cut from the underarm to reach almost the hem. Lugubrious but with a significantly sophisticated allure, the clothes the young couple has given life to are the physical proof that when there are strong ideas, the technique can simply follow. 

Many prominent designers adopted the same method: in SS 1992, Martin Margiela gave life to a collection mainly consisting of garments shaped from colourful square scarves from Paris’ marchés aux puces flea market. Those were the years when deconstruction dominated the more avantgardist runways.

Lorenzo Risani applied the same approach to the clothing he bought: a true act of resignification, accompanied by a curious discovery of how certain garments were made. Even the choice of patterns is no coincidence and refers to a particular way of dressing; we could describe it as old money, using Gen Z-friendly vocabulary.

Giulia Piceni is an Arts Curating Undergraduate student at Istituto Marangoni Firenze.
Lorenzo Risani is a Multimedia Arts Undergraduate student at Istituto Marangoni Firenze.

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