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Towards the XXIII Triennale Milano International Exhibition

DIARIO 2022

by Dimitri Kerkentzes
June 26, 2020

On June 11 took place the second symposium of Towards the XXIII International Exhibition of Triennale Milano, entitled The Earth seen from the Moon. The symposium was part of a three-appointment series that address some key issues of our present. Below is the speech by the Secretary General of the BIE Bureau International des Expositions Dimitri Kerkentzes.

The Earth seen from the Moon, the second symposium of Towards the XXIII International Exhibition of Triennale Milano

Triennale Milano is a unique institution and cultural organisation. Within the context of Expos, it represents a “niche”, highlighting – on a more specialised scale – the most dynamic and innovative aspects of international exhibitions. It has been evolving over the course of years, interpreting the transformations of the 20th and 21st century. A long history connects the BIE and Triennale Milano. The first International Exhibition of Triennale registered by the BIE was held in 1933, namely two years after the BIE was established. Since then, 15 editions of the International Exhibitions have been organised under the BIE umbrella. The registration of XXI International Exhibition under the theme 21st Century. Design after Design marked a historic milestone in the cooperation between the BIE and Triennale. After a gap of almost 20 years, the two institutions re-joined efforts and realised an extraordinary art, design and cultural event of the 21st century.

Each edition of the International Exhibition of Triennale is a reflection of the era in which it is held. Each International Exhibition is an extraordinary forum and a platform that reveals the visionary power of design and its ability to respond to contemporary challenges. The XXII International Exhibition was an emblematic example of the in-depth exploration of the strands that connect humans to the natural environment, which have been gravely damaged or entirely compromised over the years. It examined the relationship between humans and nature showing how design can offer an understanding of the urgent contemporary issues, their trends and challenges.
I would like to emphasise how significant the work undertaken by Triennale has been in recent years.

Photo by Gianluca Di Ioia

The innovative exhibitions, events, workshops, concerts, conferences and meetings organised within the framework of the International Exhibition along with the thematic forums held in the run-up to each edition have had a widespread impact on the physical and virtual audiences by heightening awareness and engagement. Innovation has always been at the forefront of Triennale. Its unique approach of synthesising various trends, without opposing them, reflects its innovative nature.

The conferences of Towards the XXIII International Exhibition of Triennale Milano highlight how each thematic event contributes, by bringing together international experts, to the understanding of the theme. It is equally an occasion for the organisers to sharpen their vision of the event and of the contents that should be offered to the visitors. Expo are mirrors of their times. They reflect the achievements, challenges and innovative ways of addressing the outstanding problems faced by humanity. They are emblematic gatherings that encourage sustainable solutions and contribute to the debate of how to shape our future. They have a great power of transformation. Over the years they have adapted and anticipated future trends.

Within this new world context of the Covid-19 pandemic, of the environmental crisis and of the recent tragic events that took place in the United States, Expos and Triennale will find new paradigms to continue supporting the cultural and societal changes that will emerge and allow for better prospects for humanity. The important challenge posed by the pandemic as well as by the economic, environmental, social and cultural crisis calls for a profound mind shift to happen.

World Expo, Milan, 2015

Expos and Triennale allow us all to stand back, consider a diversity of perspectives and standpoints, to understand, to empathise and to openly discuss. Through their direct communication channel with citizens and the non-formal education that they provide, Expos and Triennale are well placed to explain, engage and interact with the public on these paramount questions. The current global issues necessitate a collective and dynamic response to enable and empower all actors to meet these unprecedented challenges. By bringing together a diversity of stakeholders within a non-confrontational setting, Expos provide a high-level stage for cooperation, coordination and joint action on these themes of vital concern for humanity.

In this age of an unprecedented global pandemic, the world finds itself at the intersection of acute universal sanitary, economic, environmental and societal challenges. The need for shared, coherent and coordinated responses needs to be privileged.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had an important impact on the hosting of events across the world and on the life of cultural institutions and operators. All physical events including major international events have been cancelled or postponed. In this respect, I wish to touch on our experience with Expo 2020 Dubai. To ensure the health and safety of workers, staff and participants in the pre-lockdown period, the Expo 2020 Dubai organisers adopted a number of dedicated measures to prevent the spread of the Covid-19. This was particularly urgent for those working on the construction of the exhibition site.

After the request of the UAE Government to change dates of Expo 2020 Dubai, and in concertation and solidarity with the participating countries, which expressed their wish to postpone the Expo’s opening in order to overcome the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the decision to postpone the Expo was taken by the BIE General Assembly. The adoption of this resolution by a two-thirds majority underlined the vitality, solidarity and engagement of the international community behind Expo 2020 Dubai and Expos more generally. In those intense weeks, special attention was dedicated to communication. Once more, the institutional stakeholders spoke with a single voice, relying on official press releases to deliver the same message to the wider public.

In this respect, I would like to focus on the role of social media in the communication of Expos. The BIE has been following with great interest Triennale Decameron project, an educated way to strengthen the Triennale community and elaborate on the emerging themes in the face of the adverse situation. Similarly, social networks such as Instagram offer the Expo 2020 Dubai organiser and the most active participants a platform to develop the theme, taking into account emerging issues and thus fine-tuning the Expo contents.

General Assembly of the Bureau International des Expositions

To anticipate the challenges that may lie ahead, the BIE has been working closely with Expo 2020 Dubai to study the measures that will enable a safe visitor experience. Considering the uncertainties that still characterize the future, it is paramount that all cultural institutions collaborate to identify innovations and solutions that will allow visitors to experience the exhibitions in person, safely and in a new way. The cooperation and engagement of these cultural institutions will be paramount to the successful adoption and implementation of the next steps.

In conclusion, the symposiums organised to prepare the XXIII International Exhibition of Triennale Milano enable a dual approach: on one hand, the continuation of the thematic development that began in the last edition of the International Exhibition, and on the other hand, the discussion of the unprecedented challenges faced by humankind in the face of the current global pandemic and the economic, environmental and social crisis, which all require urgent answers and common and effective action. I am convinced that both aspects will be developed and showcased in the XXIII edition of the International Exhibition and will benefit from a multitude of perspectives thanks to the unique privileged environment that Triennale has always cultivated and promoted. The BIE and Triennale Milano, drawing on their deep historical ties and long collaboration, will work closely to identify solutions and to realise an extraordinary and innovative event.

The Earth seen from the Moon, the second symposium of Towards the XXIII International Exhibition of Triennale Milano

Dimitri Kerkentzes is Secretary General of the BIE Bureau International des Expositions, the intergovernmental organisation that regulates and oversees International Exhibitions. Kerkentzes joined the BIE in 2003 and was appointed Deputy Secretary General in 2015. He previously worked in the energy industry in London, before moving to the United Nations in New York in 2001. He graduated from the University of Kent with a Master’s degree in International Relations and Human Rights.

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