* Fabio Novembre is an architect and a designer. Since 2018 he is the Scientific Director and Brand Ambassador of Domus Academy
I am a heterosexual Italian male, and I am 53 years old. For me, seduction has always had the classic narrative structure of the hero’s journey. Like the one that Joseph Campbell described in his book The hero with a thousand faces narrated in 1949, who comes across extraordinary forces in his ordeals, in pursuit of the happiness of final victory.
Strange but understandable, there are similarities between the Hollywood narrative scheme (Campbell influenced scores of directors, first of all George Lucas) and the trials facing my generation to gain the favors of a young woman. This explains the old unidirectional idea of male conquest: a mountain to climb, with the prize of the beloved at its peak. As a result, seduction between the two sexes has implied a passive character for women and an all-too-active character for men.
Luckily, as the old saying goes, “it takes two to tango,” and this is the premise from which I would like to talk about seduction today, calling on all the stages of feminine emancipation, from the suffragettes to #metoo.
Sexual clichés are no longer acceptable
The most lasting form of subjection in the history of the human race is not racial in nature but sexual, and its acceptance has been driven by clichés and acquired habits of thought that are no longer tolerable.
Let’s be clear: I do not believe that men and women are equal, to the extent that we could not be more different in terms of sensibilities and visions of the world. But we can no longer think about men and women as two different teams, or even as belonging to two different championships.
Seduction is means to create a relationship with objects
The term seduction comes from the Latin seducere, meaning “to lead astray.” In psychology and sociology, it indicates the process with which one person induces another, deliberately or unconsciously, to enter into a relationship of an emotional or sexual nature.
Widening the field of interpretation, seduction has become the sole model of reference to establish a relationship with the things around us.
Today the purchase of an object is never dictated by a condition of need, because we live besieged by presences that have lost any functional alibi.
To be seductive, objects need to connect with our bodies
At the start of the 1900s, an affluent family of four lived in its home surrounded by a panorama of objects that did not exceed 200 items, including clothing and tableware. Nowadays, we have lost track of how many things we possess, and for this reason we feel the need to fall in love with things.
The seductive power of objects is connected with the special relationship they establish with our bodies. There are furnishings seen as pets, objects that keep us company and make us feel less lonely. Zoomorphic design, in fact, has been a feature of many styles, from the time of the ancient Egyptians to the present, a sort of expressive emancipation to get out of the cage of pure functionalism.
But for me, furnishings have always seemed like seashells made to contain the fragile nature of which we are composed, exoskeletons to wear in a balance of complementary affection. Sticking to this analogy, it is inevitable that each of us will seek their own shell, the pearly enclosure in which to feel at ease.
I don’t want to think it is by chance that the Italian language assigns a gender to objects: the chair (f) and the throne (m), the armchair (f) and the divan (m), the lamp (f) and the chandelier (m). Books could be written about the psychological intentions behind attribution of gender to objects.
The human body as inspiration
In my humble endeavors, I have always been inspired by the ideal of beauty that has nurtured the work of artists for thousands of years: the human body. When Michelangelo, including predecessors and successors, had to give a face to God the Creator, he painted him in a human form, unable to imagine a loftier model of perfection.
My objects let themselves be anthropomorphically shaped, suggesting presences in absences (S.O.S.), casting off racial prejudices (Nemo) or perplexities of a sexual nature (Him & Her).
My objects desperately cry out for completion with the presence of human beings (Murana), touching heartstrings as only seduction can.
We live in a time in which it is impossible to convince anyone to do anything. The only force that still moves the world comes from the seduction of love.
And so be it!
Cover Photo, Ren Hang, Peacock, 2016. Courtesy Stieglitz19 and Ren Hang Estate. From‘Ren Hang. Nudi’, Centro per l’arte contemporanea Luigi Pecci, Prato (Italy), June 4 - August 23, 2020.