Stefano Cagol, Gezeitenkraft (the time of the flood), 2020, HD video. Wadden Sea. Supported by the Italian Council

“The Time of the Flood”: an interview with artist Stefano Cagol on his exhibition at CCA Tel Aviv

On the occasion of his solo show "The Time of the Flood" at CCA Tel Aviv, artist Stefano Cagol takes the reader throughout the exhibition project with an intimate dialogue to the professionals involved, Nicola Trezzi, Mareike Dittmer, Silvana Greco and Giorgia Calò.
by Stefano Cagol
December 2, 2020
Stefano Cagol
Nicola Trezzi, Mareike Dittmer, Silvana Greco and Giorgia Calò

After the easing of the second nationwide lockdown that started in September, institutions in Israel are ready to welcome their visitors back. With perfect timing, CCA – Center for Contemporary Art Tel Aviv, directed by Nicola Tezzi  is presenting “Stefano Cagol: The Time of the Flood” which will be on view from December 12, 2020, until April 3, 2021.

Exhibited as a two-channel video installation featuring six episodes reflecting on our relationship with nature, the imminent danger and the flood as the summa of all the upheavals, the project started in November 2019 with the support of the Italian Council and became prophetic of the current state of affairs. On December 9 the artist will discuss it in a roundtable on Zoom at 7 pm IST / 6 pm CET (check out here for more info).

Organized by IIC – Istituto Italiano di Cultura in Tel Aviv as part of the annual program of “Giornata del contemporaneo – Italian Contemporary Art” and introduced by Fabio Ruggirello, Director of IIC, the roundtable will include interventions by Giorgia Calò, Art historian and Curator of the project, Silvana Greco, Adjunct Professor of Sociology, Institut für Judaistik Freie Universität Berlin, and Mareike Dittmer, Director of Public Engagement at TBA21–Academy at Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna / Madrid.

The flood contains the idea of subversion, changing the state of things. Nicola, I really like the definition “reality’s change-in-progress,” you coined writing on the project…

Nicola Trezzi: Did I coin it? I felt it “coined itself!” In other words, I feel this term came out very spontaneously while I was drafting the press release of the presentation of your project at CCA Tel Aviv. But in any case, I do believe no better term than change-in-progress can encapsulate the moment we live in. I have always been very suspicious of “progressive thinking” in art, which, at its best, could totally be regressive. At the same time, the presence of “change-in,” here as in your work, implies a rapture, the possibility of a sudden turn… maybe a way back?

Nicola Trezzi, Director of CCA Tel Aviv
Stefano Cagol, Gezeitenkraft (the time of the flood), 2020, HD video. Wadden Sea. Supported by the Italian Council

I took the biblical episode of the great flood as a metaphor for the anthropogenic interferences to nature. Such a starting point brought me to the following statement: “We are global warming. We are the pandemic. We are the flood”. What do you think, Mareike?

Mareike Dittmer: The flood is a very strong metaphor and interestingly enough, it can actually be provoked by humans and seen as a revolt against nature, although in the past it was also interpreted as being brought over mankind by godlike forces. The deluge, the great flood, was supposed to be the end and only the possibility of an ark set the potential for a new beginning. Either way, it is a force that cannot be stopped.
There is a saying about irresponsible behavior – “after us the deluge” – which is echoing exactly the great flood. The identification of such a catastrophic phenomenon into a persona makes it immediately more tangible and less abstract and theoretical. They could almost become characters in a drama, a drama that is unfolding before our eyes. By calling them out, we cannot close our eyes. And by turning them into us – that is “we” – it creates a very immediate effect that is making the global not only personal but also individual. Not “the others,” neither politics nor science. Every single one of us is part of this “we” and thus responsible. However, due to the inclusive nature of this “we,” its result is not a single accusation but rather the establishment of a community; in other words, it gives a chance, a possibility for shared action. Therefore I see your metaphors and your way of speaking with these metaphors not as a pointed finger but rather as a hug – you embrace this whole dreadful situation and its course in order to create space for a change.

Mareike Dittmer, Director of Public Engagement at TBA21–Academy at Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna / Madrid
Stefano Cagol, ABIOGENESIS (the time of the flood), 2020, HD video. Manziana, Rome. Supported by the Italian Council

Silvana, you told me that – from a sociological point of view – what intrigues you the most in my project is its capability of questioning our perception of danger. The title of your contribution to the roundtable is “Nature and Future. A couple in crisis” – can you give us a foretaste?

Silvana Greco: Your project, which enchanted me when I saw it a year ago at the Italian Cultural Institute in Berlin, aroused three issues. This is a project that must be seen, that must be experienced and perceived with all our senses. “The Time of the Flood” makes us reflect, shakes us… it is radical, in the literal sense of the word [radix, “root” in Latin], because it goes to the root of all the paradoxes and contradictions we are witnessing in post-modern societies – not only in Europe, albeit it being the set of all its episodes – inviting us to leave what is known in order to question ourselves. The first issue concerns the articulated, suffered and certainly unbalanced relationship between nature and mankind, between natural environments and urban settings, both experienced in the most immediate possible way there be. The second, on the other hand, refers to another central element that characterizes contemporaneity, which is the massive acceleration of rhythms and lifestyles, so well represented in the episode Just before. Taken by the whirlwind of daily actions, individuals are blind, deaf and apparently unaware of the danger created by past (and future) ecological disasters. The deafening siren in front of the German Reichstag, which is supposed to alarm citizens, produces no effect. As illustrated in The End of the Flood, the third issue – the most revolutionary one – concerns the invitation to question ourselves, to find a new relationship with nature, and to consequently rediscover our “life time” paying respect to the “world time.”

Silvana Greco, Adjunct Professor of Sociology, Institut für Judaistik Freie Universität Berlin
Stefano Cagol, Signal to the Future, 2020, HD Video. Water Light Festival, Brixen

Last but not least, I want to close this dialogue with you, Giorgia, who have been involved in the project as curator since the very beginning. Your curatorial practice often leads you to Israel and deals with topics connected to Judaism, and of course this is a link with my desire to go to the origins of the myth. But there is more: why did you join “The Time of the Flood”?

Giorgia Calò: I have always been fascinated by your method, your research, and – more than everything – by your ideas, which you pursue with extraordinary consistency. We know each other for many years and as you remember I invited you to participate to the group exhibition “Paesaggi Metropolitani” [metropolitan landscapes], at MLAC – Museo Laboratorio di Arte Contemporanea at La Sapienza University in Rome. It was 2007, and you presented the video The Mystical Rose, which you had made the year before in Tokyo, as a reflection on contemporary cities and their ever-changing identities. Since then, many things have actually changed: the world has been hit by natural disasters, digital revolutions, economic crises, and the current pandemic that can be interpreted as a sign of extreme anthropocentrism. I think we can see a fil rouge that links all your works to what is happening in the world: the human awareness of the dramatic changes we, as humankind, provoke, whether they are climatic, environmental or geopolitical. Israel is a country very dear to me, and I have been working with Israeli artists for more than ten years. Your journey is now taking you to CCA Tel Aviv – one of the most radical institutions in the country – where you will be exhibiting an “open work” which is the summa of your research and yet a step further. The issue remains the same – our relation to the environment and, while watching your video works, I can’t help but think about the question closing Sapiens – A Brief History of Humankind written by Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari: “Is there anything more dangerous than dissatisfied and irresponsible gods who don’t know what they want?”

Giorgia Calò, Art historian and Curator
Stefano Cagol, JUST BEFORE (the time of the flood), 2020, HD video. Reichstag, Berlin. Supported by the Italian Council
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