“Unknown Unknowns” from the Milan Triennale offers new perspectives on our ecosystem

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“The planet we live on is an immense open-air unconscious. She is the flesh and life of everything. She is the only great creator of what we see. The one and only true decorator. It is thanks to her that everything can subsist. next to everything in our experience: galaxies and the brain, clouds and living beings. It is gravity and its force, gravity, which conceives everything we are and see: black holes and armchairs, roots and celestial observatories. It is not something unknowable and it is not simply a mystery. It is an ignorance that is in all forms of knowledge, like an immense desire that we cannot see only after it is extinguished. Presented on a large multimedia portal designed by the Italian philosopher Emanuele Coccia with the Dotdotdot studio, it introduces visitors to the Milan Triennale. Entitled Unknown Unknown. An introduction to the mysteries is a constellation of exhibitions, installations, debates, performances and events inaugurated on July 15 and open until December 11, 2022.




Emanuele Coccia, Portal of the Mysteries, 2022 Image: Courtesy of the 23rd Milan Triennale International Exhibition, 2022. Photo by DSL studio


Coccia’s words fully express the general meaning of the exhibition, the ecosystem we live in is much more complex than we realize and our actions have repercussions that we often cannot even imagine. We must also get used to the fact that our perceptual and analytical capacities are very limited and that there are realities which we do not even realize that they can exist: the Unknown Unknowns. “Presenting the unknown is an opportunity to unleash multidisciplinary creativity and balance between different temporalities. We are aware that the unknown brings with it a series of stereotypes and polarizations – black/white, light/dark, full/empty, science/art – which we instead seek to overcome by creating a balance between different gazes and activating unusual stimuli and new thoughts,” explains Ersilia Vaudo, astrophysicist and director of diversity at the European Space Agency. Vaudo was asked by the president of the Milan Triennale, the architect Stefano Boeri, to organize the main exhibition on 23rd International exhibition.



Unknown Unknown.  An introduction to the mysteries, exhibition view |  23rd Milan Triennale International Exhibition |  STIRworld
Unknown Unknown. An introduction to the mysteriesexhibition view Image: Courtesy of the 23rd Milan Triennale International Exhibition, 2022. Photo by DSL studio


“The unknown is above all a question of looking at things. unknown unknowns activates interdisciplinary contaminations and presents more than a hundred works, projects and installations by international artists, researchers, architects and designers who confront – more or less explicitly – the ‘unknown,’ continues the astrophysicist. by Vaudo is stimulating and pleasant, we find the right density of exhibited works. In the previous edition, broken nature, the projects presented were far too numerous and too compressed. Stimulating juxtapositions between works of art and scientific discoveries, and the right balance between reality and imagination. The layout designed by the Space Caviar studio, which used 3D printing technology to create all the media, is appropriate. The didactic device is clear and concise and allows visitors to approach hyper specialized universes without losing their curiosity. In short, unknown unknowns is an exhibition made to open the door to complexities and make us feel blissfully ignorant.



  • How did we meet?, exhibition view.  The entry of the Netherlands to the 23rd Triennale Milano International Exhibition |  23rd Milan Triennale International Exhibition |  STIRworld
    How did we meet?, exhibition view. Participation of the Netherlands in the 23rd Triennale Milano International Exhibition Image: Courtesy of the 23rd Milan Triennale International Exhibition, 2022. Photo by DSL studio






  • How did we meet?, exhibition view.  The entry of the Netherlands to the 23rd Triennale Milano International Exhibition |  23rd Milan Triennale International Exhibition |  STIRworld
    Louise Manson. Ujumbe, exhibition view. Entry of Kenya to the 23rd Milan Triennale International Exhibition, 2022 Image: Courtesy of the 23rd Milan Triennale International Exhibition, 2022. Photo by DSL studio



The vision proposed by the exhibition is extended by a section dedicated to international participation, 23 installations designed as insights into specific questions that can be assimilated to the macro-theme of the unknown. Of particular interest is the Dutch proposal, entitled How did we meet?, which promotes new ways of understanding our planet as a shared space for plants, microbes, humans and other animals. The presence of six African countries among the nations invited by the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) is also particularly significant. Undoubtedly influencing this choice, the presence of the internationally renowned architect Francis Kéré, winner of the prestigious 2022 Pritzker Prize. Kéré was invited as chief curator of the 23rd International Exhibition, with Ersilia Vaudo, to create four large installations in the interior and exterior spaces of the museum. The architect evokes the importance of the presence of African countries for the exhibition and its opening: “Africa is often excluded from the international debate. Burkina Faso, Rwanda, Ghana, Kenya, Central Republic of Congo and Lesotho are not countries in need of help but they have something to say and a lot to share with the rest of the world. Being here in Milan to deal with topics of global importance is fundamental for us, it is a great opportunity to show something different from the usual stereotypes I am convinced that this choice fits in with the theme of Unknown Unknown because Africa is a huge continent and very close to Europe, but we feel that we don’t know each other very well.”



  • Mondo Reale, exhibition view |  23rd Milan Triennale International Exhibition |  STIRworld
    Mondo Realeexhibition view Image: Courtesy of the 23rd Milan Triennale International Exhibition, 2022. Photo by DSL studio






  • Situations, exhibition view.  Participation of France in the 23rd Triennale Milano International Exhibition, 2022 |  23rd Milan Triennale International Exhibition |  STIRworld
    Scenarios, exhibition view. Participation of France in the 23rd Triennale Milano International Exhibition, 2022 Image: Courtesy of the 23rd Milan Triennale International Exhibition, 2022. Photo by DSL studio



In addition to the thematic exhibition, the 23rd International Exhibition will host two other major shows: Mondo Realeimagined by Hervé Chandès, artistic director of the Fondation Cartier Pour l’Art Contemporain, and The tradition of the newTriennale Milano, curated by Marco Sammicheli, director of the Triennale Italian Design Museum.

If the exposure unknown unknowns goes away from Earth to explore the mystery of the Universe, Mondo Reale rather investigates the mysteries of our daily lives. The unknown is understood as an unexpected reality that leaves one fascinated, incredulous, perplexed, bewildered, filled with questions, fears and curiosity, as well as yearning to transcend the limits of knowledge. Among the works selected by Chandés is that of David Lynch Weather report, which will be broadcast daily at 7 p.m. in a space of the exhibition. The project, absolutely Lynch-esque in its strangeness, combines empiricism and imagination, perfectly representing the point of view of the exhibition.



La tradizione del nuovo, exhibition view |  23rd Milan Triennale International Exhibition |  STIRworld
The tradition of the newexhibition view Image: Courtesy of the 23rd Milan Triennale International Exhibition, 2022. Photo by DSL studio


The tradition of the new tries to approach the general theme through the history of Italian design which, according to curator Sammicheli, “has always had a courageous and dedicated approach to exploration. It has faced the unknown, it has confronted what was not yet possible or permitted through She eroded the ground into the unknown by attempts, failures, actions which by mistake, by will, by chance or by passion led to the acquisition of knowledge unprecedented.”

However, the Italian design approach is typical of modernity, linear and assertive, designed to meet needs and not to pose new questions. The general tendency of contemporary design is rather to question our way of producing objects, by trying to move from design to process, from biology to ecology, from object to hyperobject, that is to say to complex systems. New approaches – critical, speculative, narrative – are not really part of the Italian DNA. An exhibition that is forced to enhance the vast archive of Triennale Milano in one way or another can hardly question or criticize the history of industrial design. Although deep, varied and interesting, the exhibition The tradition of the new does not easily assimilate to the general theme of the 23rd International exhibition.

To unite science and imagination, or to tell the story of scientific evolution in a stimulating way, is an arduous and also very urgent task. Dotted with many other special projects, installations, events and miscellaneous previews, the 23rd International Exhibition is moving away from the traditional conception of design. You may like it or not, but you can’t say it doesn’t offer an interesting perspective.

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