Interviews - Commissariato Italiano Esposizione Universale di Shanghai 2010

Aldo Bonomi
Aldo Bonomi

"A hi-touch theme park to represent the gentle power of Italy"
An interview with Aldo Bonomi, Sociologist and Director of AASTER Research Institute.

Since their birth, the Universal Expositions have been a mirror of the vision of progress in the global economic system. Originally, this was expressed through performances designed to celebrate the ability of human genius to go beyond any constraints the nature placed. In this direction, the nuclear threat represents an ideal divide, when the genius gives the mankind the potential to destroy the world by pushing a button. Since that very moment the expositions begun to represent a new vision of the future that enhances the concept of limit, defined as a barrier that protects harmony from chaos. This assumes further significance today, when we are experiencing a financial and economic crisis whose causes lie in the illusions of an unlimited growth, of a social inclusion for all through mass consumption and investment in debt, and in the vain illusion of having discovered the modern philosophers' stone – the derivatives - that generate money by money.

Today more than ever, therefore, there is a strong need to identify development paths that subsume an inner logic of "limit". That does not mean regression and decline, as suggested by the proponents of the theory of degrowth that "nothing will be the same" On the contrary, it means looking for new germs of confidence in a future no longer dominated by the logic of pure individualistic possession, in a future when it is known how to give the proper weight to the value of bonds. Knowing that it is to imagine the community to come, its better cities and its better life in a deep relationship with the local territory and the world.

I believe that to represent Italy at the 2010 Expo in Shanghai, we can try to answer this question. Opposing the cold hi-tech, with a new hi-touch way to life and production. It would make smile, after all, if we would think, in the place where the advance of modernity is a theme park - Shanghai, with its skyscrapers and its lights and architecture – to challenge with the power of technology the effects of gigantism incorporated in the power representation of the theme park.

In what is going to be the largest universal exposition in history, we must be the sweetness that generates power. In generating a better life, for example, reinforcing the image of Italy as a country capable of exporting quality of life, understood not only as a luxury, but in its broadest sense. A talent, that is an alternative to the idea of wellness locked to the mere dimension of work and income, but that also explores the dimension of meaning. A search for meaning that takes place - through a kind of long-term drift of humanism - through reason, experience and shared human values, from the family value, for example, the quality of interpersonal relations, to the ability to produce wealth and style. Or, to put at the centre of the debate which are the better cities, describing local systems capable of matching memory with future, through a continuous and spontaneous process of layering of experience and knowledge that is rooted in long history drifts. This in a place where there are major world research institutions that - in a logic of "growth without limits" - suggest the Chinese government the creation of fifteen super cities, with an average population of twenty-five million people, or the development of eleven urban clusters with more than sixty million people.

Finally I feel important that these ideas are shaped through a representation of the country based on a Lo-Bal (local global) logic, that means to give visibility to all those local space phenomena (productive, social, cultural) that represent an evidence of the ability to hook the local tradition to the simultaneity of global flows. To conceptualize these messages into a form enjoyable by the general public is not easy, especially trying to avoid slipping in the classic stereotypes of Italy and simultaneously creating a representation that can emotionally engage the visitor. From this point of view the added value of the mode of presentation of the content will reside in the balance between spectacular, the use of universal languages and the possibility of making an experience involving the meaning of "Italian life". A theme park more high-touch than high-tech, but based on a model that knows how to be sweet but power. This, to me, is the message to be represented.