For Cuoghi, the invitation to develop a solo exhibition at Castello di Rivoli is an opportunity to make a vertiginous leap backward, landing in Mesopotamia, at the time of the Assyrians. From the sequence of facts that punctuate Assyrian history, the artist focuses on the most dramatic moment, when the empire fell into ruin between 612 and 609 B.C., after Ninevah, the official last capital, and then Harran, fell victim to attacks by the Medians and the Babylonians. As a result of these clashes, the defeat of the two cities coincided with the end of the Assyrian civilization.
The artist became absorbed by one of the most fascinating chapters in archaeology, for it is precisely because of Ninevah that a forgotten world began to be rediscovered and the history of the origins of Western culture began to be rewritten. Almost as if he were moving about the streets of Ninevah, Cuoghi breathes in its heat and dust. He observes the men, women, and children and absorbs their language, rituals, and superstitions and when, the fatal assault is unleashed, it is as if he were participating personally in the flight of the survivors. Šuillakku, the sound work conceived by Cuoghi for the exhibition at Rivoli, is the result of this latest metamorphosis on the part of the artist. Changing his thoughts and multiplying them into those of some hundreds of ancient Assyrians, Cuoghi shares their anxieties and beliefs, resolving them in a lamentation addressed to the gods. Pronounced “shoe-ee-lah-coo,” the title refers to a prayer position in which one hand is raised, practiced by the ancient Assyrians and accompanied by a choral union of noises, music, and chants, which Cuoghi hypothesizes might be the response of the survivors to the gravity of the moment. If his imagination is captured by the dramatic moment of flight, Cuoghi is reasoning allows him to create and interpret every sound or voice in. Šuillakku in complete solitude and to reconstruct an entire orchestra of instruments, among which a large lyre, the shofars made from the horns of animals and additional instruments, using contemporary industrial materials.
He also reproduced the sound of alilissu, the large sacred drum and he created sistrums. He balances philological reconstruction with imaginative invention, following a method that is highly serious but also ironic and playful.