Milan gets greener for the Universal Exposition, to explore the theme “Feeding the Planet, Energy For Life.” The King of Fashion, Giorgio Armani, as Expo Ambassador brought Hollywood stars to the Italian city to celebrate 40 years of his brand, with a grand opening of his new space. These included Tom Cruise, Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Tina Turner, Glenn Close, Sofia Loren, Chris Pine, Pierce Brosnan, and Janet Jackson. The Italian classical tenor, Andrea Bocelli performed with the choir and orchestra of Teatro alla Scala for the pre-opening concert in Piazza del Duomo. The repertoire included opera pieces from Giacomo Puccini and Giuseppe Verdi.
The premise of the Expo focused more on glamour than the fight against food waste. The riots that were meant to underline the unsustainable outcome of the event transformed into brutal acts of violence, by protesters who were caught damaging property and setting cars on fire, tossing Molotov cocktails and paper bombs at police, who responded with tear gas.
As for the actual Expo – whose focus should have been on allocating the resources of our planet – the Pavilion Zero truly embraces the zero hunger challenge, through the United Nations’ extraordinary mise en scène. Plants’ biodiversity is thoroughly explored with a majestic video art project and installations that plunge visitors in the magic of nature. The exploration of men encountering wild beasts shows the process of domestication, as the journey of the UN pavilion continues from the rural to the industrial world, food gradually succumbs to the industrial revolution, switching from windmills to the mass production process. Once nutrition becomes a globalized product, all that matters is its stock market revenue. The United Nations thusly create an incredibly powerful storytelling on the topic of food waste from its origins to today, sending out a strong sign of alarm.
Not as effective were all the other pavilions. Roaming around the gigantic vast space of Expo a day alone does not suffice to visit all the pavilions. There are several though, that are worthy mentioning for good or for bad.
Nepal’s Pavilion against all expectations is still unfinished: the media reported that since the country’s representatives had to return to their homeland, following the devastating earthquake that killed more than 6,000 people, Milan’s volunteers would have worked around the clock to complete the pavilion. But this is not what happened.
Brazil’s approach to Expo’s theme is through technology, biodiversity and democratization of nourishment. A cobwebbed structure can be climbed by visitors, almost to make them intertwine with Mother Nature’s threaded food chain. Not as effective is Brazil’s country neighbor: Argentina. The motto of the country “Argentina feeds you” explores the question of food security within its economic development policies, through the emblem of the steel grain silos used to store grain, in a very plain manner.
Azerbaijan treasures biodiversity, as its pavilion has been designed with utmost attention to the environment and to natural heritage; with its architectural structure exemplifying the protective biosphere that the country offers to the planet. Whereas Kazakhstan goes on stage with a performance that has a Westernized flavor, to promote the upcoming Expo 2017 in Astana, focusing on Future Energy.
The philosophy espoused by Hungary’s participation in the Universal Exposition revolves around the interaction between quality food and a healthy lifestyle, showcasing the country’s mineral and natural resources and thermal water in a copper fronted structure.
But one of the most charming pavilions of all is the one designed by France, through an enchanting setting, with lavender hanging from the ceiling and videos that explain the country’s sustainable measures. Austria is even more impressive, as it invites visitors in a forest, that is key to reinforce its reputation worldwide as an attractive place to live, that channels its landscape and climate to using sustainable resources.
Turkmenistan’s catchphrase “Water is life,” is portrayed in all the artistic expressions of its pavilion, including the music performed by country representatives playing the traditional songs from their country. Whilst other countries play their cards on grand sceneries, like Oman, that explores the challenges of feeding the planet, weaving topics such as land, food, energy and water in a grand scenery.
America, The Beautiful evokes the lines of a traditional barn in its pavillion, to showcase leadership in the global food arena, especially through the production of meat, i.e. the ever so popular burgers. In relation to burgers, the pavilion that was the most populated at Expo2015, was the one hosting the sponsor McDonald’s. Many wondered how this franchise could represent sustainable food, but the question still remains unanswered, considering also the menu clearly did not turn organic.
Yet the triumph of Expo 2015, despite the organizational flaws and horrific riots, was epitomized by the Frecce Tricolori (Tricolour Arrows), the aerobatic demonstration team of the Italian Air Force, that depicted the colors of the Italian flag in the sky, almost to encourage the entire boot-shaped land to return to its mighty glory.