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Davide Zucco: The Green Fire

Text by Viola Castellano

The golden dust of the late afternoon, people aligned on benches and
walls at the edges of the water, laughing, smoking, drinking, talking.

In the memory of the artist, the Summer of 2018 was an almost endless bliss at the Landwehr canal in Kreuzberg, Berlin. Friends were gathering in front of the pétanque courts, always crowded with players. The site was a neighborhood living room, a space of sociality that was spontaneously performing as a ritual from May until late September. The sweet reminiscence of this anomalous prolonged warmth, stands as an entry point to this exhibition. For someone living in Berlin, Summer 2018 was a party of light and colors, a moment in which a weather condition became a vehicle for a collective feeling of harmony. The affective politics of the atypical heat, function here as a marker of the mismatch between timescales, the one tied to the social and human experience and the one of geological hyperobjects. The agent between the two is a specific phenomenon, the extraordinary blooming of cyanobacteria algae due to the high temperatures in the Spree during that time, particularly intense in the Landwehr canal. Getting brighter and thicker by the day, the cyanobacteria layer looked as if someone poured a huge can of green paint into the water, drifting and floating in front of the eyes of the canal goers, occasionally becoming the subject of casual and distracted remarks.

At night, you could see the suffused ghostly lights of Rudolf Kloos, the city oxygenation boat, glowing refracted in its crown of bubbles, trying to revitalize the underwater life of the waterway trapped by the algae surface film and its cyanotoxins, poisonous for fishes and potential swimmers.

Over 2 billion years ago, the same cyanobacteria algae were the first form of life using photosynthesis on Earth. They enacted the Great Oxygenation Event, which changed drastically the composition of Earth's atmosphere and led to the near-extinction of anaerobic organisms. The crises brought an unprecedented planetary flourishing, making solar energy and oxygen the main elements sustaining life on Earth as we know it.

Now, uncontrolled blooming of cyanobacteria stands as another partial expression, a metonym of the Anthropocene era. A recurrent and geographically ubiquitous phenomenon, it can be thought with Timothy Morton concept of phasing, which refers to the way hyperobjects as climate change cannot be perceived or represented in their entirety, but always in their local phases, each phase being a fraction of the shape it collaborated to draw.

As a dislocated rehearsal of that Summer, the exhibition stages the elements of the canal setting, as if they were sorted out because of their vividness by the oneiric labour of the subconscious.

The blue-green treated surfaces of the painting are reminiscent of aerial views or clumps of algae, an organic presence lacerating post-industrial materials. The bench and the pétanque balls make a remote appearance, as echoes of comfort and entertainment, suggesting the people interacting in the exhibition to reenact involuntarily the sociality of that period. In this sense, the exhibition is completed by their presence, as a scenography waiting for its actors.

Davide Zucco uses his intimate, subjective experience to draw out and face the hyperobject’s shadow in the background, isolating his memory of the canal as a place where multiple jarring encounters happen, across geological scales and between lifeforms. The Green Fire, as Dorion Sagan called the cyanobacteria blooming causing the Great Oxygenation Event, burns again, but discretely, in the scenography of another epochal shift, in which we are all absent-mindedly taking part.

May 18 - June 23, 2019

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