This site uses cookies to provide a better experience. Continuing navigation accept the use of cookies by us OK

"Altri Orienti, altri Occidenti: la parola e l’immagine", conference and discussions by Mario Vattani and Giovanni Capriotti



The Italian Cultural Institute and the Language department, Literature and Italian-Cultural Studies of McGill University are pleased to present, as part of the conference program "Altri Orienti, altri Occidenti", Mario Vattani and Giovanni Capriotti in discussion on the theme: "Altri Orienti, altri Occidenti: la parola e l’immagine".

Thursday October 10, 2019, 2.35pm
McGill University
Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures-Italian Studies, Room 355
688 Sherbrooke St. West, Montreal
Conference in English

Asia, and particularly Japan have always been an inexhaustible source of stories, legends, myths and ideas and at the same time of inspiration for artists, writers, thinkers, poets ... Mario Vattani, writer and diplomat, and Giovanni Capriotti, awarded photographer in 2017 World Press Photo award (Sports Stories) discuss Japan and its contemporary reality, always mindful of the antiquity of its refined and ancient civilization. A dialogue fueled by different life experiences and animated stories from the word from the image of the writer and photographer.

Mario Vattani, Doromizu (Muddy Water), Mondadori, 2016

The main character is Alex, a penniless twenty-five years old who has been living in Tokyo for two years, on a student visa. Alex is Italian (Alessandro Merisi) but he grew up in London, and has an obsessive passion for Japan and its culture. Alex lives Tokyo intensely through cinema, women, the sex trade, and the time-consuming and painful traditional tattoo, the irezumi. Doromizu is striking for the crudeness and brutality of some of its images, but it is also a touching and sensual love story. Through the novel, we discover the beauty and horror of Tokyo behind the scenes, with its men and women who manage to combine hardness, violence, humiliation, with an almost childlike playfulness and purity.

Giovanni Capriotti, The Disposable Heroes, forthcoming

Japan’s post-war economic growth had its genesis among the unremarkable grey buildings of its labour-towns, dotted with signs advertising rooms by the night and men loitering in the alleyways. San’ya in Tokyo, Kamagasaki in Osaka and Kotobuki-cho in Yokohama offer a stark contrast with other areas in the same megalopolises. These communities flourished during the ‘70s and ‘80s springing up around recruitment sites for daily workers, but have withered following Japan’s economic collapse in the ‘90s, to become neighbourhoods inhabited primarily by welfare recipients mostly aged 60 and over. Towering skylines and capitalism were built on and are supported by a religious veneration of work and its central role in society. The work culture that resurrected the country from devastation now crushes it inexorably. In Japan, one’s profession is closely linked to identity. It is a cultural pillar, subtly replacing the ancient feudal model but ever entwined with the pursuit of shokunin. The term has no direct translation, but roughly means “mastery of one’s profession” and is associated with taking strong pride and joy in your work and showing loyalty to your employer. It also has a more sinister side, with its link to another Japanese concept – karoshi, or death by overwork, which is also likely connected to social alienation and destitution. Today, in the face of the looming crisis of an aging population, the workforce pyramid still acts as a modern form of feudalism. The forgotten souls, who helped build the world-class cities of Japan, have been swept aside by the turbo capitalism and urban existentialism of a modern society ruled by millenary traditionalism, and more dependent on electronic devices than aware of its citizens’ potential disposability by age, gender, education and suitability to production standards.

Mario Vattani is an Italian diplomat and author, born in Paris in 1966. His novels Al Tayar. La corrente (the current) and Doromizu. Acqua torbida (muddy water) were published by Mondadori respectively in 2019 and in 2016. Doromizu was chosen as a finalist in the Acqui Storia Prize in 2016. His book La Via del Sol Levante (The way of the rising sun) was published in 2017 by Idrovolante Edizioni. Foreign Service officer since 1991 – now with the rank of Minister Plenipotentiary – Mario Vattani has served in the United States and Egypt both in the economic and the consular field, then gaining extensive experience in Japan, with a focus on economic and cultural relations. Fluent in Japanese language, and author of the 2014 research: “イタリにおける日本愛の形成経緯:明治維新から1945年、親密な日伊政治関係の中での文化の重Building an Italian passion for Japan: the significant role of culture in the close political relations between Italy and Japan from the Meiji Restoration until 1945”) as a guest researcher in the Institute of Japanese Identity, at Takushoku University, Tokyo.

Giovanni Capriotti is an independent documentary photographer and videographer pursuing long-form visual narratives with a focus on unique and intimate stories exposing how time and inevitability of compromise affect individuals, communities, history and the human condition. In addition to his documentary practices, Giovanni deals with brand visual journalism as a Multimedia Image/Video Producer at the University of Guelph-Humber, and continues to accept commissions. He is on the Advisory Board of the Loyalist College Photojournalism Program and runs photography workshops, lectures and talks. Among several accolades that his work has earned him, Giovanni’s long-term project “Boys Will Be Boys” gained 1st Place Sport Stories at the 2017 World Press Photo, while recently ISMEO (Associazione Internazionale di Studi sul Mediterraneo e l’Oriente), awarded him a grant to follow the footprints of its former president and early Tibet explorer Giuseppe Tucci. Giovanni’s projects have been shown in exhibitions and installations at venues around the world, including the World Press Photo Foundation, Contact Photography Festival Toronto, NPAC, Italian Institute of Culture Montreal, DDProject Trieste, Tokyo International Foto Awards, IGR Bingham Cup Amsterdam 2018, PX3 - Prix De La Photographie Paris. WoPZines, an indie publishing house, is his latest ambitious endeavor.


Date: Thursday, October 10, 2019

Time: At 2:35 pm

Organized by : Istituto Italiano di Cultura di Montréal

In collaboration with : Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures

Entrance : Free


McGill University Department of Languages, Literat