XXII Triennale di Milano, entitled Broken Nature: Design Takes on Human Survival, refers to a matter which is now at the centre of both public and cultural debate: the Anthropocene. Looking at the thematic exhibition, which includes more than 100 projects, the feeling is that curator Paola Antonelli has tried to offer an as-much-as possible complete overview of the opportunities within the relationship between humans and nature. The most addressed subjects are the experimental use of biomaterials and restorative design techniques, but also more lateral issues like borders and migrations. The most discussed feature is undoubtedly the Plant Pavilion, for which Stefano Boeri invited the worldwide famous scientist Stefano Mancuso as the curator, whose research on vegetal neurobiology focuses on the ability of plants to communicate. Unfortunately, the display controversially includes panels where plants talk about themselves just like humans would, and this specist point of view is confirmed by many other installations in the Pavilion. When talking about science, simplification is required, but oversimplification is dangerous.
Beyond the laudable initiative of putting nature at the core of the Triennale, the selected way to tell this (trying-to-be) inspiring story looks mutated by the familiar and full data green-washing language of late capitalist companies, a conflict of interest which sadly comes as no surprise when design industry is at stake. Last of all, the winning project, called Teatro della Terra Alienata (Australian Pavilion) is welcomed as a breath of fresh air: its radicality puts into question the recurring references about ingenuity and utopia mentioned in the curatorial text. But radicality doesn’t equate to naivetée, and maybe that’s what design needs now: to actually feel the agency of designing a new future.