How the 23rd Triennale Milano Unravels the Unknown Unknowns

For exactly one century now, the Triennale Milano has been the place where design, architecture, and visual art meet and thrive. Although perhaps not as immediately recognizable as some other cultural events in Italy, such as the Venice Biennale, it is definitely a force to be reckoned with. From its beginnings in Monza to this latest edition in Milan, the Triennale has been gathering nothing but giants in a dialog on culture and society.

Hosted by the eponymous museum at the edges of Milan’s beautiful Parco Sempione, the 100th edition of the Triennale Milano is now well underway. Once again, it welcomes a central thematic exhibition and a section dedicated to international participants. Joining these is an array of special projects, installations, and other unmissable exhibitions.

Unknown Unknowns, exhibition view, Triennale Milano 2022
Unknown Unknowns, exhibition view, Triennale Milano 2022. DSL Studio

Triennale Milano 2022 – Unknown Unknowns. An Introduction to Mysteries

What would happen if a group of designers, architects, artists, playwrights and musicians came together to question the infinite mysteries of our world and beyond? This seem to be the question that the curator asked herself and the 400 artists whose contributions are now in the show. But to simply call Ersilia Vaudo “a curator” here is a grave understatement, given she is actually an astrophysicist and Chief Diversity Officer at a place called the European Space Agency. When someone like her opens up a discussion about “what we don’t know that we don’t know,” you kinda have to pack your bags and head to Milan straight away.

The exhibition provides an opportunity for investigation, a deeper look (albeit metaphorical) at the hidden truths of our cosmos. I truly couldn’t explain it better than the exhibition statement itself: “…from the furthest universe to dark matter, from the bottom of the oceans to the origin of our conscience. The unknown thus becomes a dimension to be experienced, no longer in opposition to what we do not know that we don’t know, but as an element of surprise faced with the vastness of what escapes us.”

And so, over 100 intermedia works were sent on a mission to address gravity, maps, the new challenges facing architecture, extraterrestrial space, the mysteries linked to deep space. Here, we can also see special commissions by the Japanese designer Yuri Suzuki, the Italian designer Irene Stracuzzi, the US architects and designers collective SOM, and the Turkish-American artist Refik Anadol. Site-specific works by the likes of visual artists Tomás Saraceno and Marie Velardi are also shown, among others.

Within the Listening Chambers along the exhibition routes, leading figures from the world of science are sharing their wisdom through the spoken word. A neuroscientist, a philosopher of biology, and two theoretical physicists discuss matters of the self and the conscience, time, the origin of life and that which lies beyond our senses.

La tradizione del nuovo, exhibition view, Triennale Milano 2022
La tradizione del nuovo, exhibition view, Triennale Milano 2022. DSL Studio

The International Participants

A total of 23 countries sent their representatives to the Triennale Milano 2022, with six coming from the African continent. Supported by institutions, universities and governments, the artists bring a vibrant diversity of cultures, contexts and themes to the table. Over the course of the Triennale, the visitors are also able to attend numerous talks and meetings to deepen their understanding of the variety of cultures across the globe.

Exhibitions like those of Lesotho and the Democratic Republic of Kongo explore their respective natural resources, and what these mean in practical and cultural sense. Poland investigates the ways plants are able to manifest their needs, translating them to sounds as part of an installation. Going beyond the physical is Mexico, bringing to life plants that do not exist in real life, with the help of scientific and technological methods. Rwanda and the Roma Pavilion, on the other hand, tackle issues of identity in their own ways. While artist Christian Krüger explores his need to return to his native Rwanda after growing up in Germany and what that means, Emília Rigová celebrates her alter ego Bári Raklóri, through a series of Roma narratives. Last but not least, a more familiar face in form of Gideon Appah, the rising art star, representing Ghana with dreamlike landscapes and rituals.

Francis Kéré - Under a Coffee Tree, Triennale Milano 2022
Francis Kéré – Under a Coffee Tree, Triennale Milano 2022. Photo © Gianluca Di Ioia

But That’s Not All!

The Triennale Milano 2022 really went all in for its centenary. It invited the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, and its Artistic Managing Director Hervé Chandès answered. The exhibition “Mondo Reale” shows films, paintings, photography, installations and sculptures of 17 renowned international artists. Staying on Earth, the show wanders around its wonders and secrets, unveiling and questioning them in parallel.

Triennale Milano’s own Museo del Design Italiano, directed by Marco Sammicheli, unites the museum’s collection and archives of previous triennials in “A Tradition of the New.” Here they showcase the most significant examples of research by Italian design in all aspects of life between 1964 and 1996.

And if all this is not enough, the 2022 Pritzker Architecture Prize winner Francis Kéré aims to tackle all our senses with works inhabiting the Triennale’s common areas. The first one you can’t miss (quite literally) – a 12-meter tower graces the museum entrance. As part of Burkina Faso’s exhibition, Kéré created an installation titled “Yesterday’s Tomorrow”, examining the country’s vernacular architecture. At the Café Triennale, a coffee tree brings people together just like coffee is, across the continents.

“1923: Past Futures” is an experience created in partnership between the Triennale Milano and VIVE Arts. The first ever virtual reality event created at the museum, it celebrates the most important and impactful exhibitions that took place here throughout history. It reconstructs spaces and moments in an immersive and interactive journey, honoring the mission and ongoing legacy of this important institution. On this walk down memory lane, the visitors can revisit some of the most iconic moments of the Triennale Milano: Tinto Brass’ video commission from 1964, Lucio Fontana’s iconic staircase installation from 1951 and 1968, the turbulent late 1960s’ which saw demonstrations and the occupation of the exhibition spaces, and more.

1923 Past Futures, stills. Courtesy of Reframe Productions, VIVE Arts
1923 Past Futures, stills. Courtesy of Reframe Productions, VIVE Arts

With all this said, if you haven’t already, make sure you visit Triennale Milano’s 23rd International Exhibition until December 11, 2022. You can buy your ticket online or at the museum. More information on the programing here.

Angie Kordic

Visual Arts Editor

Angie Kordic is a 31-year-old Serbian based in Stockholm, Sweden. She holds a BA in Photography from the Istituto Europeo di Design from Milan, where she lived for five years. Her rich experience in the field of contemporary art includes work she did for an arts PR agency in Bari, Italy, as well as the six years she spent at Widewalls magazine, as both Junior Editor and Editor-in-Chief. Currently, she is working for a Swedish fashion corporation and does freelance writing on the side. Although she is an avid traveler, Angie's heart will always belong to Italy - perché la vita lí è semplicemente più bella.

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