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Stefano Cozzi

December, 11th 2020

From his art and its implications in COVID-19, Italian digital and video artist Stefano Cozzi delves into his work and into the greater significance of sustainability. The dichotomy of nature and humanity, and all of life’s paradoxes, form the basis of his philosophy and creative practice.

Words By Gabrielle Hollenbeck

From Caravaggio and Italian realism, Stefano Cozzi embraced his cultural heritage and enrolled in the The Slade School of Fine Arts in London. As an Italian, the influence of realism was, pun intended, very real. It became the foundation for his work. Realism was an artistic movement that rejected romanticism and exaggeration in favour of a true portrayal of contemporary subjects. Realism has been connected to Italian culture since the 16th century with one of realism’s most prominent artist’s being Caravaggio. As a digital and video artist, realism is an intrinsic element to his practice. “My art comes from a desire to capture the reality of the world around me,” Cozzi tells us. 

For the Italian artist’s current project, his sights are set on the Italy Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. Set to take place next year, his project will explore the potential of personalized medicine with a focus on the social responsibility that comes with it. In collaboration with the Regenerative Medicine Research Center in Modena, Italy, Cozzi looks specifically at how personalized medicine is developing in Italy and within a larger international framework. Cozzi explains how personalized medicine is a step forward for Western medicine, using genetics to understand how disease develops in specific patients. Through genetic engineering, new tissues can be produced for each patient. For instance, the “butterfly boys”, a name given to those with epidermolysis bullosa due to their very delicate skin, have been helped considerably by this process at the research center in Modena. When considering the social sustainability of this medical development, Cozzi mentions the impact of COVID-19. The virus has shown that we need to learn how to treat groups of people, not just individuals. Curing groups of people must become as efficient as personalized treatments.

Previously, Cozzi worked with Eurolab on a project about European identities, driven by his views that changes needed to be made within the internal communications of the European Commission. The collaborative research project was spearheaded by Wolfgang Tillmans, an award-winning German photographer. Together, alongside a small group of other artists they designed campaigns for the European Commission Strategic Communications Unit. Cozzi argues that it is important for European citizens to have a second political representation beyond their national identity. During this project, he suggested the implementation of a two-folded communication strategy that specifically addresses and engages young people. In these projects, he focuses on social, political and economic sustainability to shape his work.

Adopting a more philosophical approach to understanding sustainability, Cozzi says, “I realize how much the topic of sustainability implies the discussion of creation and destruction. Realizing what is generative and destructive in humans is actually very natural, and very important to me. I perceive sustainability as this dichotomy within humans and nature being damaged. As long as we live in this dichotomy, we cannot move forward.” Cozzi believes that there is a connection between creation and destruction within humanity, akin to the cycle we see in nature. He sees this paradox as conflicting with the concept of sustainability because everything that is born must eventually die.

Through the lens of his camera and his philosophical outlook, Stefano Cozzi tackles real-world social and sustainability issues, bringing them to light. His perception of sustainability and the paradox it represents imbues his art with powerful messages. We eagerly await the fruition of his project at next year’s Expo Dubai.