Milan, 23rd Triennale: making room for ‘unknowns’

The international event is back with a program that addresses the following stimulating but mysterious issue: “what we don’t know we don’t know”

Unknown Unknowns: BIG + Icon Build + NASA, Project Olympus, Courtesy of ICON + BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group
Unknown Unknowns: BIG + Icon Build + NASA, Project Olympus, Courtesy of ICON + BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group

“What we don’t know we don’t know.” This is the concept behind the 23rd International Exhibition of Triennale Milano, on view from 15 July to 11 December, with the title Unknown Unknowns. An Introduction to Mysteries.

The focus in various fields, from the most distant universe to dark matter, sea beds to the origin of awareness, involves designers, architects, artists and researchers, attempting to turn our habitual convictions upside down.

Unknown Unknowns: Jan Hosan, Super Kamiokande, Courtesy of the artist

“The event sets out to be a platform of dialogue and research, an opportunity for exchange and interaction between realities from all over the world,” said Stefano Boeri, president of Triennale Milano, at the presentation press conference. “This multiplicity of vantage points will allow us to widen our gaze on what we still don’t know that we don’t know. In a dramatic, complex moment like the present, we believe it is more important than ever to preserve and encourage the exchange of ideas, experiences and reflections, between different countries and cultures.”

Organized by the Triennale in collaboration with the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the Triennale is a constellation of exhibitions and projects bringing together 400 artists, designers and architects from over 40 countries; over 600 works and 22 international contributions, produced by institutions and schools considered examples of excellence on a worldwide level, as well as many government-supported projects, many of them from the African continent, which is represented by 6 national pavilions (Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda).

Unknown Unknowns: Andrea Galvani, Study on Leptoquark, Courtesy the artist and Eduardo Secci Contemporary © Andrea Galvani Studio
Also from the main exhibition, Unknown Unknowns: Walter Tschinkel, Aluminium casts of ant nest, Courtesy of Walter Tschinkel

Besides the theme exhibition Unknown Unknowns curated by Ersilia Vaudo, astrophysicist and Chief Diversity Officer of the European Space Agency, the Triennale will host two other major exhibitions: Mondo Reale, envisioned by Hervé Chandès, general artistic director of Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, and La tradizione del nuovo, curated by Marco Sammicheli, director of the Triennale Design Museum. There will also be a series of installations and special projects involving important figures in the academic and intellectual worlds.

The designer Francis Kéré, winner of the Pritzker Prize 2022, will curate the displays in the shared spaces of the Triennale, and two installations on voices from the African continent: Yesterday’s Tomorrow and Under a Coffee Tree.

La tradizione del nuovo: Ferruccio Laviani, Orbital (Foscarini), Photo © Amendolagine Barracchia
La tradizione del nuovo: Denis Santachiara, Robot Ines (Archivi Triennale Milano)

The Italian Design Museum of Triennale Milano, directed by Marco Sammicheli, takes on a new guise with La tradizione del nuovo, an exhibition project that starts with the collection of the Triennale and the archives of past International Exhibitions to narrate how Italian design has always had a courageous approach, coming to grips with the not-yet-known by means of in-depth research.

Ukraine will be a focal point with the Planeta Ukrain pavilion, a project distributed in the internal and outdoor spaces of the Triennale, curated by the writer Gianluigi Ricuperati, with the actress Lidiya Liberman and the pianist Anastasia Stovbyr: an overview of the country’s contemporary culture, touching on various disciplinary areas, with the involvement of important Ukrainian artists.

La tradizione del nuovo: Carlo Forcolini, Apocalypse Now, Photo © Amendolagine Barracchia
La tradizione del nuovo: Studio Alchimia, Il Mobile infinito, Photo © Federico Manusardi

In the exhibition space around Casa Lana, the show Ettore Sottsass. Il calcolo is the second in a cycle on the architect and designer, investigating the relationship between numbers and technology and the long period of collaboration between Sottsass and Olivetti.

Finally, the themes of the 23rd International Exhibition will be addressed in the encounters of the public program coordinated by Damiano Gullì, which from July to December 2022 will offer opportunities for exploration and discussion. All the international participants and contributors to the event will be involved. A series of digital projects, from gaming to virtual reality to podcasts, and the articles of the Diario 2022 section of the Triennale magazine, will provide ulterior food for thought.