Exhibitions, Projects, Projects highlight
Leave a comment

Broken Nature: what to expect from Paola Antonelli’s XXII Triennale

Broken Nature, the XXII Triennale curated by Paola Antonelli, will show how design can regenerate the gap between man and nature. And between people and human values. In Milan, from March 1 through September 1, 2019

There is a quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet that came to my mind yesterday, during the first symposium on Broken Nature, the XXII Triennale curated by the MoMA Senior Curator Paola Antonelli. «Time is out of joint». I came across it again a few days ago on the entrance stairway of the National Gallery of Rome, and for the first time I realized how newsworthy it was today. Because it indicates the rift between what should and could be and what it is, between the natural progression of events and species and the one that is falsified and corrupted by human intrusion. And these are precisely the reflections underlying the curatorial concept of Broken Nature, the exhibition that will occupy the spaces of the Triennale in Milan from 1 March to 1 September 2019.

More about the Triennale here

A collective research

But Hamlet’s sentence ends: “O cursèd spite, that ever I was born to set it right!” Because when things really go upside down, tradition tells how the hero, alone, takes on the task of saving the situation. Not so, however, for Paola Antonelli. In the face of this individualism – typical of so much literature, art and even design – the MoMA senior curator proposes collectivity and working together as fundamental added values of today’s design culture.

Design has a great task

Because it is precisely the design community, according to Paola Antonelli who should take charge of “putting things back together”. By working with a multi-disciplinary and open source methodology: not by chance the one that is typical of science and technology. Doing together, to do better. It is an approach that should be applauded, especially in a time when thinking beyond the individuals’ immediate interests seems difficult for most.

Can synthetic biology save nature? A project by Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, keynote speaker at the Broken Nature Symposium

The first symposium

Involving the audience and enlarging the debate is an operation that culminated with the first symposium at the Triennale on the Broken Nature themes. It has staged different skills: from forensic oceanography to art, from robotics to biology. But it is not the only means to participate in the exhibition’s creative process. «When I organize an exhibition, I build a website where the public is able to follow the curatorial developments, and participate actively», explained Antonelli. And it is commendable that what usually happens behind closed doors is visible and debatable with the public. Online, therefore, through the site, and with scheduled meetings such as that of today, with free access for all.

The XXII Triennale will provide thinking tools

Design, explained Antonelli, has the tools to become the catalyst for different skills and to describe alternative ways of solving the world’s great problems. And not just theoretically. In fact, the curator promises, her purpose is to involve everyone. «To provide every visitor of the XXII Triennale with a clear idea of what he or she can do, as a citizen, to contribute to change. To reconstruct the broken relationship with nature».

Broken Nature and Milan’s ambitions

Staging a star curator like Paola Antonelli is in line with the ambitions of the Triennale and Milan to be at the forefront on issues that are often not addressed by our design culture. Such as mass extinctions and biodiversity, the re-design of the landscape and territorial or marine boundaries so they do not become weapons for annihilating individuals. And expectations are obviously very high.

Gamification of Mexico City. An urban design regeneration project led by Gabriella Gomez-Mont, keynote speaker at the Broken Nature Symposium

Design Takes On Human Survival

Also because the impression is that the purpose of the exhibition goes well beyond the ecological theme. And that Broken Nature is emerging as a work of reconstruction of the rift between man and the environment but also between human beings and what makes them so. The capacity for empathy, respect, openness to the different. A theme of dramatic current affairs in the United States as well as in Italy. It is no coincidence that the ambitious sub-title of Broken Nature is Design Takes On Human Survival.

The real challenge will be to engage the public

The challenge for Antonelli and her team is therefore enormous. And it is not yet clear how an exhibition will succeed : not so much in facing it but in making it appealing and comprehensible for a wide audience. Nor to engage those who by their nature are led to see this kind of experimentations as elucubrations from intellectuals elites.

Design and ethical choices

The hope is that these global and complex issues will be articulated into projects that are understandable and close to people. Explaining their concrete consequences in terms of quality of life, of everyone. It would be great if the project managed to link public institutions and realities that were focused on the territory, within the reach of citizens. To which one could then turn to continue the discussion well beyond the temporal boundary of the exhibition. And of course the dream would be the emergence, from Broken Nature, of a clear model on how to manage the complexity of the eco-system in which we move. Because if, as some of the speakers have amply explained, «everything that has been created by man can be rethought, redesigned, improved». But how to do it is a matter of fundamental and ethical choices. That the Triennale could stand for.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *