Visuology visits the Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life themed 2015 Milan Expo and discovers what visitors should know in advance:
1. Queuing to get into the pavilions
If you can walk quickly through an area that offers clear explanation, where what’s on display is easy to understand and interpret then you are on to a winner. If it’s not all in Italian, or aimed at teenagers, who are excited by the sounds and images generated by facile machines (if those are working), all the better. Pick the pavilions with the shortest queues, or arrive early in the morning to see the most popular attractions.
2. Style and design
If you are partial to prefabricated oblong buildings, resin replicas of all manner of foodstuffs and corny works of art, then this is the show for you.
The UK’s £6 million York steel meets live-feed beehive could be much more exciting. Perhaps someone who knows the Nottinghamshire location of the beehive could give it a crafty kick to add more of a buzz to the experience?
There is a lot of artificial vegetation on the site. Even the live planting is not a patch on the Chelsea Flower Show. Just as well that it rains fairly often in Milan – by the end of the Expo, the gardens should be blooming. Let’s hope they don’t get the chop, along with many of the pavilions, when the event closes on November 1st.
There are shops in many of the pavilions, selling produce from local regions – from food and candles to traditional handicrafts and souvenirs. If you want to buy something useful, like a rucksack or throat lozenges, there just isn’t anywhere nearby. Zero Expo merchandising is actually quite refreshing, unless you really need something – in which case, best to take it with you.
Ironically, this is not the best the place to feed on first hand evidence of sustainability, though there are some great stories of noble works. But it is a totally fascinating place to hang out. The sheer scale of the site means you have to decide between which of the 142 participants’ quarters you will visit. Will it be Angola or Oman, Colombia or Qatar? (We suggest you visit all of these).
And there are many other showcases besides – of social enterprise based fruit, veg, coffee and chocolate production, the regions of Italy… and of corporate partners and sponsors – the likes of Ferrero Rocher. Needless to say, violent protests in Milan did not impinge upon the ambassadors’ opening day reception.
1. Words of wisdom
A simple message from the United Arab Emirates pavilion (delivered in suitably ostentatious style): listen to and learn life lessons from your grandmother. And from Italy’s biodiversity promoting Slow Food movement: “Expo is giving space and visibility to representatives from the world of agro-industry, which sees food as a commodity, with no concern for its cultural and spiritual value… Although the amount of food currently being produced could feed 12 billion people, double the actual population, 800 million still suffer from hunger and malnutrition.” Difendo il Cibo Vero.
2. The food
For fine dining, go to the ‘art of food’ area, Identita Expo, where there are cookery master classes, and 200 chefs will be producing tasting menus throughout the course of the event, using recycled peelings and food waste to enhance their dishes. Bravo to Massimo Bottura for his Beautiful Sonic Disco of Love and Hate at the Gate of Hell Painting with Wicked Pools of Glorious Color and Psychedelic Spin-Painted Cotechnico not Flame Grilled (see below). Sagardi’s upstairs restaurant in the Spanish pavilion is also worth a visit.
And there are plenty of alternatives for foodies who prefer a more laid-back approach to dining.
The lighting at night is quite a spectacle. Plus Cirque de Soleil (shown rehearsing here) will be performing their Allavita! show every evening from 13th May to 30th August.
Expo should provide some much-needed nourishment for the Italian economy – and the event has created six months of employment for many who may otherwise have been without a job.
5. Kazakhstan’s pavilion
This has to be experienced – and, even if Milan doesn’t quite manage to feed the world this year, bodes well for another entertaining Expo in 2017.