Community: in-conversation series for “SpectRoom: Fluid Narratives”. Interview w/ Milan-based fashion and culture journalist Jordan Anderson about racial biases and Black representation in fashion

👋🏾 cheers to the seasons of multiple layers 📷: Seakyu Family Mart 🖤. Courtesy of Jordan Anderson and the photographer.

I have always followed the amazing work of Jordan Anderson aka @symbiosity, whom I had the opportunity to meet in a café in Milan in September, before lockdown started. Among the many projects, Anderson just announced the selected names for the Tuscan artist residency Villa Lena for Queer Black Artists on the platform MQBMBQ: Mallory Lowe, Leasho Johnson, and Banji Chona. The curatorial project is kindly sponsored by Bulgari.

Racism is a systemic issue, which means that it is rooted in Western colonial thinking and it is embedded in so many different aspects of the world we live. Chatting with Jordan opened new perspectives on inclusivity in the fashion and cultural industry in Italy, addressing racial biases and decolonial thinking. According to Nelson Maldonado Torres, Professor at the Department of Latino and Caribbean Studies and the Comparative Literature Program at Rutgers School of Art and Sciences, New Jersey “Decolonial thinking refers to varied forms of knowledges that explore the significance of modern colonialism and that assert the relevance of decolonisation.”

Francesco Ferranti: Hey Jordan, can you first of all introduce yourself? What’s the story behind your Instagram handle @symbiosity?

Jordan Anderson: I’m Jordan, I’m a Jamaican, Milan-based fashion and culture journalist  whose work often magnifies & explores political themes in and outside the fashion industry including race, gender, identity & brand and cultural ethics. I use He-Him pronouns. I’m the editor at large of Italian fashion & culture publication nss magazine and the founder of a small digital platform called “My Queer Blackness, My Black Queerness” (@MQBMBQ), which is a platform created to highlight and explore different forms of Black Queer identity. 

I chose the nickname @symbiosity from a word I learnt in high school in biology class , symbiosis which means a long term relationship with two organisms – which can be mutualistic, parasitic or commensalitic . I thought of my social media in the same way, of having the potential to create these relationships , that are defined by the ways in which you choose.

Francesco Ferranti: What does Spectrum means to you?

Jordan Anderson: Spectrum to me has many different meanings in its many different contexts, but in its general essence I look at the word as a social concept and think of it as a blank page of possibilities, an empty canvas that is open to interpretations of many different kinds, sans restrictions.  

Portrait of Jordan Anderson. Photo taken by Leonardo Malè. Courtesy of Jordan Anderson and the photographer.

Francesco Ferranti: How has your work adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic? It’s humbling to see how the fashion industry has been adapting to this new cultural moment. For example, the Common Thread programme spearheaded by Vogue and in collaboration with the Council Of Fashion Designers America (CFDA).

Jordan Anderson: Personally, and thankfully, my work hasn’t changed too much. I’m used to working remotely so I’m very grateful that the circumstance for me has been that I’ve had more work during the pandemic. The absence of fashion week and physical events has also allowed me a lot of time to jumpstart projects I’ve wanted to get done for a long time. So I would say, although things seem dire and are quite dire for many, I’ve managed to find some good in it. 

Francesco Ferranti: Your work tackles diversity and inclusivity in and outside the fashion industry. For the “Photo Vogue Festival”, you moderated a panel called “A glitch in the system: deconstructing stereotypes”. What is a glitch? 

Jordan Anderson: That conversation in particular was an exploration of minorities in fashion and the way in which our existence can be seen as glitches in a system that is so used to operating in a single way with a single type of customer and/or muse in mind. It was a discussion on how difficult or easy it is to navigate in a system that wasn’t built with us in mind. 

Francesco Ferranti: You are the founder of “My Queer Blackness, My Black Queerness”, an online platform exploring Black Queer identities. Can you tell us more about this project and “The Black Jigsaw Project” in collaboration with Gucci

Self Love, 2020. BY KWESI BOTCHWAY. Limited edition puzzle: a collaboration between MQBMBQ and Gucci. Courtesy the artist.
Our Home, 2020 BY GGGGRIMES. Limited edition puzzle: a collaboration between MQBMBQ and Gucci. Courtesy the artist.

Jordan Anderson: “My Queer Blackness, My Black Queerness” is an ongoing digital project in exploration of the multiple existing facets of black queer identity. It is a protest, a celebration that frames blackness as a polyphony, a genre or melody with a vast variety of notes & textures — denouncing both white queer racism and black queer antagonism & queerphobia by way of art, film and literature through fundraising, journal entries, films screenings etc. 

First launched in June 2020, the project raised over 12K euros with a print fundraiser that featured the works of 12 artists such as Tim Walker, Campbell Addy, Emmanuel Sanchez Monsalve among other for the benefit of Black Trans centred organizations ForTheGworls & Transwave JA. Today the project  lives on through a series of various ongoing collaborations with the aim of platforming black and/or queer artists and honouring the value and beauty of black queer life and experiences. 

This project is in dedication and celebration of the lives of Trans siblings of colour — the ones who have survived violence and continue to exist unapologetically and the ones we have lost throughout the past few months & years. MQBMBQ is a partner of nss factory. 

“The Black Jigsaw Project” was a collaboration with two Black Artists Kwesi Botchway and ggggrimes who created two artworks depicting Black Queerness inspired by Gucci’s Epilogue collection, which we made into puzzles. The puzzles were an edition of only 100 copies which we put on sale, in aid of the organisation Movimento Identità Trans (MIT), which is one of Italy’s oldest and most important Trans organisations. 

Francesco Ferranti: Let’s discuss intersectionality. What does the word mean? What is your experience as a Black gay man in Italy?

Jordan Anderson: Intersectionality is a complicated and fascinating word that for me has many meanings to different people. The meaning which I choose to go by is an opportunity for abundance. I like to look at it as different canals that contribute to the building a rich identity. My experience in Italy has been many things , its been interesting, complicated, traumatic, depressing, flattering , among others. It’s an experience which I’m still observing and understanding as consequence of a society that I’m still getting used to. 

Anderson wearing a coloured blocked pastel coloured turtleneck @arthurarbesser sweater and black&white @versace vintage sunglasses.

Francesco Ferranti: As a White curator, I must question my biases and acknowledge my position of privilege. How can we dismantle racism and xenophobia in the art world? 

Jordan Anderson: That’s a big question that I could not possibly attempt to answer in one go as I’m not an educator. I would just say it is key to educate oneself, to read , and listen carefully to those who are asking for the change. 

Francesco Ferranti: What are your hopes for the future?

Jordan Anderson: I’d say change, I’m hoping for positivity to blossom from the pandemic and for things to change from the best as we slowly move into a new era. 

Follow Jordan and My Queer Blackness, My Black Queerness Instagram and Website

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