a liquid platform on the climate crisis, anthropocenic interactions and ecological transition 
conceived and curated by Stefano Cagol

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Manifesto  
Concept  
Stefano Cagol   
Colophon


WE ARE THE FLOOD is a MUSE project conceived and curated by Stefano Cagol to engage the public with the Anthropocene using the language and interpretation of contemporary art.

WE ARE THE FLOOD is a creative and interdisciplinary platform born out of today’s urgent problems that uses contemporary art to address that undeniable need to probe into and decipher increasingly complex ecology-, virus- and climate-related issues.

Conceived and curated by Stefano Cagol, the MUSE project aims to establish a shared we perspective, build a new awareness of today and envisage different ways of being in the coming decades, in order to rise to the epoch-making challenges facing humanity and planet Earth!

As the quintessential universal language, art provides the perfect means through which to accept, sift and face these challenges, giving rise to a con-science, where the prefix “con” means precisely “with”, “together”. It is we who are interfering with nature – not the politicians, not the scientists, not the industrialists – and it is we who have to look after it.

WE ARE THE FLOOD consists of multiple activities and these will be presented to the public in waves.

 

A network has been created and will bring together institutions that are already working with the museum and the artist, as well as new partners interested in joining the conversation on the Anthropocene between art and science.

To begin with, the network benefits from the contribution of Giorgia Calò, Elisa Carollo, Alessandro Castiglioni, Blanca de la Torre, Gianluca D’Incà Levis, Mareike Dittmer, Julie Reiss, Rachel Rits-Volloch and Nicola Trezzi, all in the role of researcher advisors. This group is joined by the MUSE “Anthropocene" think tank coordinated by Massimo Bernardi.

An archive of the people and the materials presented, produced and gathered during the project will serve as a tool for reflection and be made available online.

WE ARE THE FLOOD is therefore be many things:

wave, network, platform, archive, masterclass, residency and liquid exhibition.

 

Manifesto

priority

As a museum platform for “creative and interdisciplinary” research and “space of encounter” between artistic expressions and scientific knowledge, the tool will inextricably connect to the critical issues of our time and the strategies of the NextGenerationEU and its call to a New European Bauhaus, establishing the MUSE as a centre of excellence and a stronghold in Italy in this domain.

The goals of “WE ARE THE FLOOD” embrace and build on MUSE’s mission to develop research and disseminate knowledge in the field of environment.

accessibility

As an investigation into our relationship with the environment, ecology encompasses climatic, viral, economic and social issues. In this situation, art steps in as a universal and preferential “decoder”, a bridge between us, science and reality. It makes complex problems accessible to all, providing the possibility to deal with them and “design new future ways of living”.

plurality

In order to create a plural “we”, sharing and the hands-on engagement of the public is essential. One key is to collaborate with thinkers, including from other fields, to trigger the debate. Another key is to network and establish a dialogue with prominent institutions from the world of culture and science, in Europe and beyond, that will be all about knowledge, discovery, production and research sharing.

fluidity

The urgent challenges of our time are constantly evolving, multifaceted, unstable and widespread and so are the needs arising from them. The platform responds with a fluidity “inspired by creativity, art and culture” that “goes beyond the material dimension”. It expands in a variety of ways and levels, embracing on-site, online and extra-muros projects in the form of exhibitions, performances, meetings, and field investigations, in conjunction with the various museum sites and their local areas and through the interaction with a large network of institutions.

title

The title mirrors the distinctive characteristics of the platform – fluidity, inspiration and identification – and is open to other interpretations, with flood construed as the sum of all upheavals.


       


Concept

Art as the bridge between science and conscience. The driving force behind the project “WE ARE THE FLOOD” is the desire to encourage a new attitude to nature, one that is first and foremost shared. Establishing “we” as the subject is the crucial starting point: it is we who are interfering with nature – not the politicians, not the scientists, not the industrialists – and it is we who have to look after it if we are to meet tomorrow’s challenges. Therefore, as the quintessential universal language, art provides the perfect means to shape a con-science, where the prefix “con” means precisely “with”, “together”.  WE ARE THE FLOOD.

The coming-out

In the history of international agreements, the United Nations 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change, which mentions anthropogenic (human-induced) interferences with the environment and precedes the Kyoto Protocol and the most recent Glasgow Climate Pact, can be viewed as the moment of our coming out, the moment we admitted our responsibility for what is taking place and from which we cannot step back by pointing the finger of blame somewhere else. 

The flood

If an interference is an action or interest that influences, and is in contrast with, something and if ecology studies the relationship between living organisms and their environment, then we can conclude that until now humans have had a mainly conflictual and antagonistic relationship with the environment. Bruno Latour reminds us that exploitation and appropriation have been at the basis of the value order we apply to nature. He calls it “cheap nature”. We already had a feeling thirty years ago that we were somewhat to blame for our “relationship problems” with the world. Films were already addressing the nuclear issue in the '70s and there are essays, such as those from the philosophical and scientific series “Adventures in Human Thinking”  with titles such as “Our Plundered Planet” and “Man and Climate” dating as far back as 1950.

However, we can go even farther back in time and still find this hostility in the human DNA. According to the first book of Genesis, the universal flood was caused to counteract humankind’s arrogant urge to gain control over everything that surrounds it, and this is an image we find across many different cultures and creeds.

Hyperobjects

Perhaps the Covid-19 pandemic made us finally realize that humankind has but one destiny, that the fire or flood is not something happening far away on the other side of the Planet.

On a par with winds of tremendously destructive power, flooding of epic proportions, the rapidly shrinking glaciers, and rising sea levels, pandemics are a seismic shift in the status quo that English-American philosopher Timothy Morton defined as “hyperobjects”, because they are widespread, multifaceted, unstable and fleeting. They are “things” before our eyes, for everyone to see, but that we still have a hard time grasping due to their complexity. The idea of a simple and constant nature was shattered with Einstein in the 20th century. Art can summarise, translate and dismantle this complexity, making it more graspable. How? By using a metaphoric language. Art, for example, can use flood as a shared symbol of a mass of water but also as the sum of all the disruptions we are causing. The flood myth found in many stories on the origins of humankind and rooted since time immemorial in nearly every culture around the world, uniquely portrays the concept of a total event that turns reality as we know it upside down. WE ARE THE FLOOD.

Art and science

Art can be a bridge between us, science and the real. Art and science are innately synergistic. Ancient thought did not distinguish between scientific and philosophical knowledge. In ancient Greece, in fact, the word techne was used to refer to both art and technique. The divide between the two is only relatively recent, when in 1959, in Cambridge, English writer and chemist Charles Percy Snow stated that there had been a split between the “two cultures”, the sciences and the humanities. Even the very root of the word science tells us that the two cultures overlap. Science comes from the Latin scire, meaning “to know”, a word which according to linguists was associated with the senses of taste and smell more than with mental ability. The intellectual Giuseppe Manna used to say that knowing “began at the mouth… moved up two-fingers, reaching the nose… and with another short climb, there it was, housed in the palace of the brain to govern all that is learned. Moral of the story: since knowing originated in the tongue to the tongue it must return”. After all, science and art are both approaches that people use to relate to the external world through ideas, representations, theories and hypotheses, their only difference being that Kunst gibt nicht das Sichtbare wieder, sondern macht sichtbar (Art does not reproduce the visible but makes visible that which not always is”). This was written by Paul Klee in 1920, when he was called to Weimar to contribute to the Bauhaus with his teachings.

The New Bauhaus

The Bauhaus, the art and design school founded in Weimar in 1919, fostered the relationship between culture and technology through the contribution of many important European figures. The European Union is modelling on this influential 20th-century movement to inspire the regeneration of our society. The “WE ARE” project is a timely response to this urgent need and fully reflects the words and goals of the NextGenerationEU. “WE ARE” is a “creative and interdisciplinary” museum research platform, a “space of encounter” between artistic expressions and scientific knowledge to “design future ways of living”, “inspired by creativity, art and culture” that are “beyond the material dimension”. The text in quotation marks comes directly from the presentation of the NextGenerationEU, defined by Ursula von der Leyen as the New European Bauhaus. In her speech, the president of the European Commission reiterated the need for art in society. Not surprisingly, the Green political party was founded in Germany thanks to the important contribution of artist Joseph Beuys, who in 1978 made his “Aufruf zur Alternative” (“Call for an Alternative”) and in 1973 had already a project in place for a Free International University for Creativity and Interdisciplinary Research (FIU), later brought to the Documenta 6 exhibition in Kassel.

Con-science

Scientific data has become readily available online yet “the communication on these topics has become a major problem not only for scientists but also for society as a whole,” writes science journalist Pietro Greco. “Today, a fully democratic society is one that, in essence, is very mindful of current scientific issues and the communication processes revolving around them”.

Art often takes on the language of science by incorporating data and charts. And sometimes science adopts the artistic language to create science exhibits. However, art that stimulates a con-science in dialogue with science is another thing. And so, many important scientific research institutions have a long tradition of hosting artist residency programmes, including the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. Add to this list the experiences of artistic institutions such as the Haus der Kulturen der Welt with the research project “Anthropecene Curriculum” or the Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary Foundation with the TBA21-Academy and the Ocean Space.


                   

Stefano Cagol is an Italian contemporary artist. His works were featured at the 55th Venice Biennale, Manifesta 11, 14th Curitiba Biennial, the 2nd OFF Biennale Cairo, and the 2nd Xinjiang Biennale. He held solo exhibitions at the CCA Center for Contemporary Art Tel Aviv, MA*GA, Mart, CLB Berlin and ZKM Karlsruhe. He has given lectures and participated in conferences, including at the Bauhaus University in Weimar. He studied at the Brera Academy and at the Ryerson University of Toronto on a postgraduate scholarship granted by the Canadian Government.

Mostly multiform and multisite in nature, his works have been reflecting the problems of today for years, often predicting them: border protection, viruses, environmental issues and human interference with nature. On the topic of the Anthropocene he produced “The Ice Monolith”, left to melt during the Venice Biennale in 2013; “Atomica” in the ‘90s; solo exhibitions, such as “The Shape of Wind: Perceptions on Climate Change” (2019) and “Hyperobject: Visions between borders, energy and ecology” (2019); and several installations, including the video installation during the COP23 at the German Ministry for the Environment, whose collection includes one of his works. For MUSE in 2015, he conceived and curated the project  "BE-DIVERSITY".
In 2022, Cagol participated in the exhibition “Macht! Licht!” at the Wolfsburg Museum (Germany) with a performance; at 59th Art Biennale in Venice in the exhibition of Perak state-Malaysia entitled “Pera+Flora+Fauna. The Story of Indigenousness and the Ownership of History” and realised as collateral event at the Archivi della Misericordia; and in a series of conferences entitled
“The State-of-the-art Science” organized by the IBSA Foundation in collaboration with MASI Lugano, Museo d’Arte della Svizzera italiana. In addition, he presented a personal video at the Kunsthall 3,14 in Bergen (Norway) and until 30 September he is the “Primaparete” featured artist at Verona’s Galleria d’Arte Moderna.



Colophon

Supervisor Michele Lanzinger

Conceived and curated by Stefano Cagol

Board of research advisors
Massimo Bernardi, Giorgia Calò, Elisa Carollo, Alessandro Castiglioni, Gianluca D'Incà Levis, Mareike Dittmer, Khaled Ramadan, Julie Reiss, Rachel Rits-Volloch, Blanca de la Torre, Nicola Trezzi et al.

Project Management Carlo Maiolini

Graphic project  Stefano Cagol 

Translations Studio De Novo

Press office, web, promotion & marketing Settore Comunicazione – MUSE, Settore Marketing e Fundraising – MUSE

Exhibits manufacturers, ICT & technical assistance Area tecnica – MUSE



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