Triennale Milano shares details of the 23rd International Exhibition

Triennale Milano is delighted to present the program of 23rd Triennale Milano International Exhibition, entitled Unknown Unknowns. An Introduction to Mysteries, to be held from July 15 until December 11, 2022. The Triennale Milano International Exhibition, which in 2023 will celebrate 100 years since its foundation, is one of the most important events devoted to design and architecture in the international field. The exhibition is sponsored by Triennale in collaboration with the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) and Italy’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs and International Aid.

The 23rd International Exhibition addresses the theme of the unknown, asking questions about the mysteries of the known world, and opening up a discussion concerning the issue of “what we do not know that we don’t know”. Unknown Unknowns puts forward a new way of looking at the topic, not by means of polarization – light/dark, full/empty, science/art – but as an opportunity for investigation: 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.

Unknown Unknowns. An Introduction to Mysteries takes the form of a constellation of exhibitions and projects and brings together 400 artists, designers, and architects from more than 40 countries; more than 600 works22 international participants, with a strong presence on the part of the continent of Africa, represented by 6 national pavilions (Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Rwanda).

In line with the tradition of Triennale’s International Exhibitions, the 23rd edition will include the thematic exhibition – curated by Ersilia Vaudo, an astrophysicist and Chief Diversity Officer at the European Space Agency – and a section dedicated to international participation, invited under the auspices of the Bureau International des Expositions, through government channels. Francis Kéré – the winner of the 2022 Pritzker Architecture Prize, the most important international prize for architecture – will design the display installations in the common areas of Triennale and will curate two installations dedicated to the voices of the African continent.

Together with the thematic display, the 23rd International Exhibition will also host two major exhibitionsMondo Reale, curated by Hervé Chandès, General Artistic Director of the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, and A Tradition of the New, curated by Marco Sammicheli, Director of Triennale’s Museo del Design Italiano. There will also be a series of installations and special projects that will see the involvement of the art historians Giovanni Agosti and Jacopo Stoppa, the musician and writer Francesco Bianconi, the philosopher Emanuele Coccia, the researcher and lecturer at the ABC Department at Politecnico di Milano, Ingrid Paoletti, the artist and Triennale Grand Invité for 2021-2024 Romeo Castellucci, and a master of architecture and design, Andrea Branzi.

Stefano Boeri, President of Triennale Milano, stated that: “The 23rd International Exhibition aims to be a platform for dialogue and research, an opportunity for exchanges and encounters involving artists, designers, architects, curators, schools and collectives, as well as cultural institutions, museums and research institutes coming from all over the world. This plurality of points of view will allow us to expand our gaze to encompass what we do not yet know we don’t know. At a time as dramatic and complex as the current, we believe that it is more important than ever to preserve and promote the exchange of ideas, experiences and reflections between different countries and different cultures.”

Shows and projects at the 23rd International Exhibition

The thematic exhibition Unknown Unknowns

The thematic exhibition curated by Ersilia Vaudo, will be the nerve center of the 23rd International Exhibition. An area whose boundaries will be hazy and permeable, and that will present more than a hundred works, projects and installations by international artists, researchers and designers dealing with the unknown.

Unknown Unknowns will address a series of themes including: gravity, seen as “the greatest designer”, an artisan that tirelessly shapes the universe to which we belong; maps, systems by which trajectories and routes are determined; the new challenges facing architecture, that is opening itself up to brand new prospects such as how to live in extraterrestrial space; and, ultimately, the mysteries linked to deep space.

The thematic exhibition will include four special commissions that Triennale has handed to the Japanese designer Yuri Suzuki, the Italian designer Irene Stracuzzi, the US architects’ and designers’ collective SOM, and the Turkish-American artist Refik AnadolMoreover, the show will include a series of site-specific installations, including those produced by Andrea GalvaniTomás SaracenoBosco SodiProtey TemenJulijonas Urbonas and Marie Velardi.

In addition, along the exposition route, also present will be four Listening Chambers, spaces in which sound becomes spoken words, and visitors can abandon themselves to the narrations of leading figures from the world of science. Thus, the neuroscientist Antonio Damasio will address the theme of the self and of conscience, the theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli will deal with time, the philosopher of biology Telmo Pievani will reflect on the origin of life, and theoretical physicist Lisa Randall on the mystery of what lies beyond our senses.

Following the values of reuse and sustainability, the staging for the thematic exhibition – designed by Space Caviar and created by Wasp – will be wholly created by 3D printing. It will be produced in the spaces of Triennale by large printers on an architectural scale, using only organic materials, largely deriving from the food industry.

The International Participations

There will be 22 International Participations at the 23rd International Exhibition, promoted by institutions and universities regarded as international centres of excellence, as well as by numerous Governments. Compared to previous editions, the presence of the African continent, represented by 6 states, is especially significant.

The pavilions offer a diversified proposal in terms of themes, outlooks, contexts and provenance, which is an indicator of complexity and different cultural traditions. The International Participations are involved not only in the form of exposition projects but also with events of the public program, a packed calendar of meetings and events which, over the course of the five-month show, will afford opportunities for further examination, dialogue and exchange.

The projects of Francis Kéré

The works that Francis Kéré, the 2022 Pritzker Architecture Prize-winner, has devised for the 23rd International Exhibition invite visitors to use all their senses, and are reminders that there is a kind of knowledge that is all too often neglected and that we ought to rediscover, in order to face the “Unknown Unknowns” that lie in store for us. The first project is a 12-mt high tower at the Triennale entrance, that brings together images and materials that speak of that which has been, and that which is yet to come. The installation entitled Yesterday’s Tomorrow, at the center of the International Participations section, examines the vernacular architecture of Burkina Faso, with its practices and representations in order to allow it to live again in a new way. Kéré also designed the seating for Triennale’s common areas, and the installation Under a Coffee Tree, made in collaboration with Triennale and Lavazza Group, and situated in the Caffè Triennale. A tree, bringing everyone together, just like the coffee ritual that unites different people from all over the world. Kéré was also tasked by Burkina Faso – which is taking part in the International Exhibition for the first time – with creating the Drawn Together project, a wall that visitors are invited to co-create.

Mondo Reale

The Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain has been invited by Triennale Milano to be part of the 23rd International Exhibition. Mondo Reale, curated by Hervé Chandès, Artistic Managing Director, is a reaction on the idea of mystery and unknown through the work of 17 international artists.

If Unknown Unknowns steps away from the Earth to revolve around the notion of mystery in the universe, Mondo Reale is imagined as a landing in our real world, to focus on the wonders that inhabit our planet and all the secrets beneath its inscrutable perfection.

Including films, paintings, photography, installations and sculptures, Mondo Reale explores reality as a reverie, proposing an aesthetic experience around knowledge and its erasure: a direct, emotional encounter with multiple visions of the unknown through the lens of art and science.

The exhibition design is conceived by Formafantasma, bringing together works – many of them especially realized for this exhibition – by iconic and emerging contemporary artists: Jean-Michel Alberola, Alex Cerveny, Jaider EsbellFabrice Hyber, Yann Kebbi, Guillermo Kuitca, Hu LiuDavid Lynch, Ron MueckVirgil Ortiz, Artavazd Pelechian, Sho ShibuyaAlev Ebüzziya SiesbyePatti Smith, Sarah Sze, Andrei Ujica, Jessica Wynne.

The Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain will also contribute to the Public Program of the 23rd International Exhibition with a series of conversations that involve artists, authors and scientists, special screenings and a Nomadic Night inviting traditional choirs to perform their songs about love, nature, and the struggle to survive.

A Tradition of the New

Triennale Milano’s Museo del Design Italiano, directed by Marco Sammicheli, appears in a wholly new guise, and proposes a project which, setting out from Triennale’s collection and the archives of previous International Exhibitions, recounts how Italian design has always had a courageous approach dedicated to exploration, and has tackled that which is not yet known by means of research. The exhibition, entitled A Tradition of the New, brings together works, installations, documents, creative processes and experimental pieces that have contributed to the development of society, touching on sociological, commercial, ecological, technological and cultural aspects between 1964 and 1996.

The section offers visitors some of the most significant examples of research by Italian design, and invites them to explore them further with separate exhibition areas that follow a development through time – from the 13th Triennale Tempo Libero, in 1964, to the 19th Triennale Identità e differenze, in 1996 – and a range of themes that take the form of an archipelago of words, phenomena, and actions – Gravity, The Mystery of the Self, Environments, ‘80s Movements, ‘90s Playground, Synesthesia and Music – and creatives who have fostered unexpected events, doubts, answers, and technical progress, such as Liisi BeckmannClaudio SalocchiRoberto SambonetExhibition Design GroupFiorucci DxingAlberto Meda, and Clino Trini Castelli.

The staging for the show, designed by Zaven, foregrounds materials, project design and project culture methods, outlining new formal and creative approaches, to renew the process of experimentation and discovery that is an intrinsic part of research applied to Italian design.


Installations and special projects

The International Exhibition will include a series of special projects commissioned by Triennale from a number of figures from the world of culture. The art historians Giovanni Agosti and Jacopo Stoppa will curate the show entitled The Red Corridor, to design plans by Margherita Palli and with lighting by Pasquale Mari, an exposition that will reconstruct, in an extremely realistic way, the interior of a middle-class home in the early 20th century, where mystery is hidden behind every closed door.

Francesco Bianconi, the writer, singer-songwriter and musician, will present the installation Play the Unknown, which reflects on the concept of the unknown as a wonderful and habitable space, evoking the depth of the oceans. The philosopher Emanuele Coccia, as well as curating the two publications that accompany the Exhibition, has devised the video installation that will greet the public, introducing the themes of the shows, developed by the Dotdotdot studio. Ingrid Paoletti, in collaboration with other members of the teaching staff at Politecnico di Milano,will present the Alchemic Laboratory project, a place that reformulates the categories of inert and alive, artificial and natural, exhaustible and renewable, in researching the materials for the project.

The artist and theatre director Romeo Castellucci, Triennale’s Grand Invité for 2021-2024, will participate in the form of two projects: one is a performance, entitled domanithat precedes the Exhibition and will take place from May 27 until June 5, 2022, and one is an installation, EC, scheduled for November 2022. Finally, the International Exhibition will be an opportunity to celebrate a master of architecture and design, Andrea Branzi, who, together with Lapo Lani, will present, from July 19 until September 4, 2022, Andrea Branzi. Mostra in forma di prosaa film that traces the intellectual activities, in a career spanning around 70 years, of a figure who foreshadowed important social and cultural transformations, and was an interpreter of those transformations.

Additionally, a show will be presented within the Casa Lana space, entitled Ettore Sottsass. Il calcolo, the second event in the cycle devoted to the great architect and designer. The exposition will deal with the relationship between mass society and technology, and Sottsass’ collaboration with Olivetti.

Planeta Ukrain

Planeta Ukrain, the Ukrainian Pavilion at the 23rd International Exhibition, will be a multi-site project in Triennale’s internal and external spaces. Ukraine’s participation took shape by means of meetings, reflections, dialogues and an exhibition that have taken place since March 2022 and which will continue until the opening, and throughout the event. Planeta Ukrain, curated by the writer Gianluigi Ricuperati with the actress Lidiya Liberman and the pianist Anastasia Stovbyr, presents an overview of contemporary Ukrainian culture, touching on several different disciplinary fields. Important Ukrainian artists will be involved in the project, including the artist and photographer Boris Michajlov, the artist Nikita Kadan, the illustrator Sasha Sinimova, and the photographer and writer Yevgenia Belorusets.

Bee Awards

As for the 22nd International Exhibition Broken Nature: Design Takes on Human Survival, at this edition too, the Bee Awards will be handed to the three most deserving contributions among the International Participations, chosen on the basis of the accuracy of interpretation of the theme, and the quality and importance of the ideas proposed. The jury that will award the prizes will be appointed in June, and the awards will be announced on July 13, 2022, on the occasion of the inauguration ceremony. The three awards were created by the designer Nina Salsotto, Unurgent Argilla, with material from the Triennale garden.

Publications and graphic design

Two publications, curated by Emanuele Coccia and published by Electa, will accompany the International Exhibition. These are a volume of essays, and a catalogue, that will provide the reader with a guide and a valuable tool for understanding the themes of the event. The volume of essays will bring together several theoretical articles, penned by international authors, while the catalogue will present an annotated inventory of the works on show, and pictures of the exhibition.

The visual identity of the Exhibition and of the publications has been developed by the 2×4 graphic design studio, in New York. The graphic system is built on a metaphor that is as fascinating and as it is enigmatic: a sliver of light separating two voids, a fraction of knowledge in a universe of mystery. The dimension of the unknown is coupled with that of wonder and amazement, inviting the viewer into a world of discovery and of the imagination.

The Public Program, and digital activities

The themes of the 23rd International Exhibition will also be addressed by means of meetings that are part of the Public Program, curated by Damiano Gullì, which, between July and December 2022, will provide opportunities for further exploration and discussion. All the International Participations and bodies that are contributing to the event will be involved in this programming. A series of digital projects, from gaming to podcasts, and the articles in the Diario 2022 section of the Triennale magazine will offer further bases for thought and reflection.

The 23rd International Exhibition, realized under the auspices of the Bureau International des Exhibitions and in collaboration with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Aid, is supported by the members of the Fondazione La Triennale di Milano: the Italian Ministry of CultureLombardy RegionMilan City Council and the Chamber of Commerce of Milan, Monza, Brianza and Lodi.

The 23rd International Exhibition was made possible thanks to the support of its partners: Eni and Lavazza Group, Main Partners; Franklin Templeton, Partner; ViveArts, VR Partner; Scalo Milano Outlet & More, Education Partner; Salone del Mobile.Milano, Institutional Partner; and ATM, Institutional Technical Partner.

The 23rd International Exhibition’s Advisory Board is composed of

  • Hervé Chandès, General Artistic Director, Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain;
  • Emanuele Coccia, philosopher and professor at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris,
  • Joseph Grima, curator, architect and author
  • Sarah Ichioka, urban planner, curator and author
  • Mariana Siracusa, designer and researcher
  • Weng Ling, curator and founder of Arts Innovation