Tuesday, May 26, 2015

EXPO 2015: A Missed Premise is a Missed Promise

When I happen to attend a social event, from a dinner party to the Venice Biennale and I want to figure out how the event is like I totally rely on perception. 

The best indicator to find out what you should expect from a certain event can be the general mood you perceive from the environment and the best way to conduct such a task is to snoop around starting from visitors and staff. 

If you want to be able to assess an environment's quality, you want to look into people's eyes.

I look at everyone's eyes throughout every department from the security guards to bar staff to the keepers to the stewards.

And that's exactly what I did yesterday night when I first visited the Milan Expo. I started by looking into the sad eyes of the army officer who was babysitting the bridge that leads to the exhibit main site.

Then I saw the shaky carabiniere who had just being called to help the guards at the security check and I noticed the drill instructor voice tone of the steward who was addressing the sheeple: "If you hold still to take pictures please step aside, don't block the way".

The Expo starts at the Pavilion zero where a giant Latin phrase welcomes the visitor: “Divinus halitus terrae” that can be translated as "the divine breath of earth". 

Curated by tv Director Davide Rampello and designed by Italian Architect Michele de Lucchi, Pavilion Zero is supposed to "take the visitor on a journey to explore how much humankind has produced, the transformation of natural landscape, through the culture and rituals of food consumption". 

What you see first is a series of wall-to-wall library shelves and drawers that in a sort of Hogwart-Victorian style are supposed to gather the whole food memory of our civilization. Unfortunately that first room didn't impress me much as I have felt no emotion in seeing such a waste of wood. 

In my book, human memory when portrayed through matter it's all about carved stones as that's the way through which  the great civilizations of the past were able to pass on their culture to us.

Certainly you can't leave behind a series of posh Victorian wooden shelves that remind more of the Harry Potter saga rather than of human memory. 

The second landmark presented at the Pavilion Zero is a large old tree that stretches through the roof. The tree is supposed to depict "the boundaries of time, nature's resistance to change and the quest for spirituality" except for the fact that the tree is a fake as it's made of iron and plaster and what had to symbolize nature's resistence just created the opposite effect.

Celebrating nature through a fake certainly isn't the best debut for an exhibit whose story premise is "feeding the planet" but I didn't want to spoil the party just at its beginning and I went on through this amazing journey into what was supposed to be our civilization's history. 

More plaster is on display as you proceed through the exhibit as you see a 300 squared meter (3200 sq ft) landscape model that depicts a series of human settlements: from the German mines to the English Agriculture, to the Italian village of Crespi d'Adda and the Argentinian pampas.

The journey ends with New York' skyscrapers as if that would be the top of what our civilization was able to reach. Maybe because every architect secret dream is to build a Manhattan skyscraper? 

We don't know.

The model provides no creative inputs nor it's able to project the visitor into our future landscape it's just a dull representation that completely lacks vision.

As cool hand Luke would say: "What we've got here is failure to communicate"

In the second to last room, you enter a dark environment where a huge stock ticker board displays commodity goods being traded worldwide to symbolize speculation on produce goods as today's ineluctable reality is the stock market rules over the world's destiny.

The problem is the visitor is presented with a massive shiny ticker board whose presence is the most overwhelming in the whole exhibit as if what has to be celebrated here is the technological achievement of being able to trade zillions of tons of produce goods in a matter of nanoseconds.

I guess this is the biggest mistake the authors could have made as visitors might be led to confuse Evolution with Technology which is also the greatest misunderstanding of our time. 

Evolution is only about Consciousness and has nothing to do with technology which is just a reflection of the first. We have been reading a lot of propaganda lately about robots and artificial intelligence taking over, only to keep us away from the real deal which is Conscious-Based-Technology. 

In the last room the visitor is presented with a little mountain of wasted food which is made of plaster and it is supposed to represent today's food waste. I praise the concept but the waste cannot be represented by a plaster model, waste must be waste or the concept won't reach the audience, unless the authors made it on purpose in order to send the message that in today's world made of media our only gateway to reality is just a representation of it but I strongly doubt it. 

After the Pavilion zero I went to the Thailand pavilion.

We've been waiting about fifteen minutes in line only to assist to a 360 degree projection in Cinerama style of a neverending video spot of Thailand as a tourist destination (Just like the infinite looping of Incredible India on CNN).

After the first commercial ended we were taken to a second room where a sort of 3D corporate Power Point was projected on the room surface. I starting asking to myself the big questions "what the heck is this? what am I watching? where am I?" I suddenly gained the exit and almost run to see the Thai food restaurant only to clash with the harsh reality of a ........Thai Microwave Diner.

You read it well, the Thai restaurant is a frozen food diner where you can buy your favorite frozen dish and the staff heats it up just like in the early 60's the famous New York chain called Tad’s 30 Varieties of Meals featured frozen dinners on its menu.

Customers at Tad’s cooked the frozen meals at tableside microwave ovens just like they do it today at the Thai Restaurant of Expo 2015. 

That's the weirdest way to unfold the premise of "feeding the planet", but I actually saw a happy crowd who was eager to see how frozen Thai food would have turned into their Expo fairy tale food experience.

An Italian/Thai Mystery. 

The very core of the Expo Exhibit is supposed to be the "Tree of Life" a wooden-covered structure with hundreds of leds surrounded by waterworks. Basically it's like the Fountains at Bellagio in Vegas, a show of water, music and a bunch of lightworks with the addition of hologram-style projections on the water haze.

Unfortunately the only intelligible thing I could spot through the waterworks was the hologram of the Pirelli brand that sponsored the show. That's right: in 2015 we're still stuck with branded communication just like we were in the Middle Ages. 

Where's the innovation? Where's the show? Where's the vibe? 

My first impression of the Expo from the Pavilion zero to the rest of the exhibit is just the huge lack of narrative that affects the whole project.

When you aim at representing something that has to connect to an audience it has to be something that inspired your entire life and that can be inspiring for the rest of the Universe otherwise you better stay home. 

The Pavilion zero, like the rest of this huge exhibit has no heart...no inspiration...and lack of inspiration affects the whole narrative. Since you enter the Expo you can tell the main problem of this huge exhibit is the absence of narrative development as it lacks what Robert McKee would call "the Controlling Idea" or what Lajos Egri would call "the Story Premise" that only exists on the event's logline that is "feeding the planet". Such a narrative flaw engenders a major disruption as the story never takes off.

The Expo Story Premise doesn't unfold along the way because of its lack of development that creates a general sense of dullness and a lifeless mood that you can also perceive from the eyes and the voice tone of the people working there. 

A missed Premise is a missed Promise.

In today's world you must not only master storytelling and narrative but you have to be the nastiest crackerjack on the market as in today's world it's all about sharing stories and if you don't know how to structure a concept into a narrative pattern you're going to kill the whole story, the whole product and ultimately yourself.

Expo should represent the world and what's ahead of us in the future. Instead, what I saw was a soulless dystopian Shopping Mall with no Inspiration whatesoever. 

Where's the chaos in which our planet has been prospering over the past two thousands years? Where's the idea contamination the world underwent down the road? 

Where are the new ideas? where's the enthusiasm that led our world to present day's? where's the earth's divine breath? and where are the hope signs which we desperately gasp for? 

And most of all where is Consciousness? which should has been the real Story Premise of this whole event?

Apart from the missing content and the arrested development of the Expo Story Premise, you have to consider each adult visitor pays an admission ticket of €39 (about $42 or £27) to get into the fabulous world of Expo.

When the Paris Expo closed its doors back on 1889 the Eiffel Tower was left in living memory of that event and in 2010 the tower received its 250 millionth visitor.

What the Milan Expo could leave behind its lack of narrative?  a Frozen Thai Dinner? 

Gianluca D'Agostino is the CEO of GLD Marketing, a company focused on the Marketing of Narrative. "In a world made of social media, Narrative is pivotal to distinguish your business from the digital static. In such an environment you don't have to cope with great storytelling, you have to be the Master and Commander". 
At GLD Marketing we provide your business with on-the-edge Narrative solutions and set yourself on top of the wave. We won't lure your customers with make-believe copies, our strategy is maximizing your existing potential to the very brinkmanship