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Coop_70 at the Triennale and the value of “us” (in the “me” era)

In a time when many, too many, play to divide the world into factions, we desperately need narratives that make us rediscover the sense and joy of doing things together. Like the one suggested by Coop_70: Values in Box at the Triennale in Milan. An optimistic exhibition.


At the opening di Coop_70: Valori in Scatola (at the Triennale, til January 13th) everyone was very busy. There were people discussing which of the slogans (taken from “the street” and from the brand) was more worth being used in a selfie. Kids running amongst apple trees, trying to collect them, or playing with toy hens and eggs. There was a queue to look into the movies periscopes. And also in front of the photomaton, that allowed people to take a picture with a friend and see their faces into a Coop logo. Everyone was laughing.

There were, of course, also many who were reading the manifestos, studying the history of products in the multimedia station. And generally enjoying a history that mirrored the one of the nation.

But when you exited the show, it was above all the sense of community that was imprinted in one’s memory. And that made you think that Coop_70: Valori in Scatola is a show that should be seen because it teaches us something that we have lost through the years. And that was the founding value of cooperatives. The value of being and doing together to build something bigger than us.

The story that Coop_70: Valori in Scatola tells the Triennale

is that of the Italian leader of large retailers. A giant whose turnover is 1% of the national GDP (more than 13 billion euro), with 3800 points of sale. A narration that is developed in an exhibition (by Matteo Ragni) made of seven stations. in which the protagonists are the history of the Coop and that of Italy and of the Italians. in a relentless intertwining between past, present and future. That of the products, obviously, and how they are born. But also the story of dreams on how everything could be.(with the supermarket of the future by Carlo Ratti, already at Expo, and the food for the astronauts made by Coop).

There is an excursus through the becoming of communication.

From the “anti-publicity” of Ugo Gregoretti with the songs of the rice collectors in the fields to the drawings on the conscious consumption by star illustrator Makkox. From the spots of Woody Allen on aliens at the supermarket (and the one, hilarious, with steaks behind display cases, as in an art exhibition), to those with Italian tv celebrity Luciana Littizzetto.

But the guiding thread of the whole path is the drive towards aggregation.

Coop_70, in fact, was developed as an opportunity to «enter as individuals and leave as an idea of us», explains Giulio Iacchetti. (co-curator of the exhibition with Francesca Picchi).

In the exhibition and laboratory spaces, in fact, interactive stations require cooperative intervention and group action. Expedients that entertain and teach, of course, but above all they want to restore the sense of participation and to rediscover visitors the joy of working on a common project.

Cooperative thinking at the center

«Coop_70 celebrates seven decades of products», continues Giulio Iacchetti, «but it is a pretext to focus on the thought that led to the creation of the cooperative movement. Made up of people who saw the purpose of their work as offering good products, children of a work ethic and quality. In this sense, there is not and should not be any difference between an object sold in a supermarket and a “design” one. And although unfortunately the design is still confined to the world of a few companies, my desire is that this exhibition stimulates the birth of a new desire. collaboration between designers and large retailers ».

Design and large distribution

This is a red thread that accompanies all the thought of Giulio Iacchetti always. It is not in fact the first time that the designer brings “the supermarket to the Triennale”. (on this see also here).Design at Coop (2005) is an exhibition that has remained in the annals of the history of Italian design.

«As Chiara Alessi has well interpreted in the contemporary section of the XI Design Museum of the Triennale (Stories, until January 20, read what it was all about  here).distribution is a key topic of contemporary design, but one tends to forget. While huge design efforts go towards types of products. that unfortunately – precisely by virtue of their poor distribution and therefore also the price – fail to significantly affect the majority of people».

The children’s farm

Inside Coop_70 at the Triennale, the past intertwines with the future, especially through the Children’s Farm. «A collaborative space that is not a parking lot or a games room», continues Iacchetti. «But an environment in which the little ones do a light and playful exercise that leads them to understand what it is hard to collect, pack and sell the fruit, the vegetables, the eggs together. To learn the meaning of conscious consumption and the value of animal welfare».

Slogans that talk about us

While the communication section (edited by Leonardo Sonnoli) that creates a parallel between street slogans and advertisements in the seven decades of Coop’s history leads to interesting reflections on today.

«In the decade 67-77, the communication Coop was engaged, it did not hesitate to take a position on issues related to civil rights», says Giulio Iacchetti. «Between 48 and 57, the focus was peace, the positioning against the speculative maneuvers of the big monopolies, the guarantee of a brand that gave” quality, weight and price». There was talk of “satisfying needs rather than forcing consumption”. In the last ten years, however, we have struggled to find emblematic slogans. And it was not possible not to notice a general flattening of the thought: of the people and of companies. It is as if suddenly taking a position in front of something has become an impropriety. What have we lost on the way? In my opinion, the values of collective feeling. That Francesca Picchi and I have tried to get back into play».

Coop_70: Valori in Scatola

curated by Giulio Iacchetti and Francesca Picchi, set up by Matteo Ragni, graphic contribution by Leonardo Sonnoli. At the Milan Triennial until January 13th.

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