Stefano Boeri introduces the symposium “The Earth seen from the Moon”
June 18 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 introductory speech by the President of Triennale Milano Stefano Boeri.
The Earth seen from the Moon, the second symposium of Towards the XXIII International Exhibition of Triennale Milano
Thank you first of all for being with us today and for participating in this second preparatory Symposium on the themes of the next International Exhibition of the Triennale di Milano, the 23rd of its history, which began in 1923, almost 100 years ago. As you know on June 3rd, we all decided together to postpone this symposium by one week, as a sign of respect and participation for the protests of the "BlackLivesMatter" movement following the murder of George Floyd.
If we start this Symposium today, it is not because something has changed in the living conditions and rights of the minorities that inhabit the planet. Nothing has changed and nothing could change in a week. On the contrary, the murder of George Floyd has exploded the awareness that today we are living a crucial moment of rethinking the evolution of our species.
Actually, we are living in a unique moment in history. A moment in which the climate crisis, which became evident to everyone in 2015 and the crisis of the economic development model that exploded with the financial collapse of 2008, have added – following the Corona Virus pandemic and the murder in Minneapolis – the awareness of the crisis of our relationship with the sphere of natural phenomena and the fundamental certainty that there will be no prospects for an evolution of the human species if we do not first face the scourges of racism and social injustice with courage and new determination. A theme, that of social justice, to which we have decided to dedicate the next Symposium, as Joseph Grima, director of the Museo del Design italiano, will illustrate at the end of our dialogue.
If we are here today it is because we would like to try all together to make the next International Exhibition start off on the right foot, considering the formidable intertwining of these four great crises and the imbalances that all together determine and exaggerate social and economic relations between us humans – thus accentuating the distances between rich and poor in the world. The financial crisis, the climate crisis, the pandemic crisis and the crisis of social justice are both an ancient legacy and the greatest hindrance to any evolution of our life on planet earth. And there is no doubt that it is precisely the interweaving of these crises that brings the prospect of species extinction closer together.
The Earth seen from the Moon, June 11, 2020, photo by Gianluca Di Ioia
Fragility of Species I would now like to introduce our exchange of opinions and thoughts starting from a brief reflection on the concept of Fragility. Actually, I believe that the real great legacy of this pandemic is that we have finally acquired, everyone and everywhere in the world, an irreversible awareness of a Fragility of Species. We have discovered ourselves fragile in our technocratic presumptions of dominance over Nature – suddenly revealed to be damaging to ourselves.
We have recognized ourselves as fragile in our intellectual capacity for prediction – which turned out to be incapable of predicting an infection that simply represents the last one in a chain of infections from a virus. We are fragile in our desperate desire to be present, physically in the world, and to delay the prospect of our death – in the face of a pandemic that like a storm (the beautiful metaphor of Pope Francis) and yet without being a war, has swept hundreds of thousands of living bodies from the surface of the world.
We must, I believe, accept and work on this unveiled and in many ways unexpected Fragility. And perhaps the only way to use this fragility as a fertile company, and not just as a trembling weakness, is to critically rethink our centrality on the planet, our place at the center of the stage on the pedestal of life.
Which anthropocentrism? Reasoning about a new Anthropocentism does not necessarily mean choosing a decentralized position and lulling oneself into a sort of ontological relativism, but rather favouring a sort of double simultaneous movement.
On the one hand, learning to conceive human life by understanding it as that of a living species immersed, like the others, in the great miscellany of Life (as Emanuele Coccia keeps reminding us). This means measuring and calibrating every gesture, every policy, every decision that operates in the present of the world and of cities and spaces, taking into account the perspective, expectations and needs of other living species. It means to decentralize oneself starting from an empathic point of view, which assumes the point of view of the other – that of every living species – as a necessary resource for every action in the world. Therefore, as a measure and potential correction (both in the sense of resizing and in that of extension) of our actions.
On the other hand, it is indisputable that this decentralization is born and now creates the conditions for a cognitive strengthening. Not only because, as James Lovelock and Ersilia Vaudo Scarpetta showed us, the vision of the earth as a unitary ecosystem was born from a visual, optical decentralization - that of seeing us from the Moon or Mars; a decentralization that needs all our wisdom, technology and I add a will to dominate the world.
But also because the movement towards taking on the gaze of others requires a gigantic cultural and cognitive leap, which questions our cultural and scientific capacities. It asks us to transform a conquered fragility into the conscious strength of a new type of intelligence of the species. We must be aware though that this new intelligence will first of all have to come to terms with not only economic and social but also cultural imbalances, which still condemn our species to unacceptable forms of racism and contempt for minority rights.
The Unknown World In the gigantic portion of the world that we do not yet know, we will have to introduce the point of view of minorities, of those who have no voice, of those who live in unacceptable conditions of poverty and lack of rights, of those who pay for all the effects of global warming, desertification, the lack of water and food.
With the 23rd International Exposition we would like to understand how to stage, and show, the crucial interweaving of the 4 crises that upset our lives today and the cultural, political and research projects that aspire, thanks to a new anthropocentrism, to face them with a new courage and a new determination.