Curated by Francesco Zurlo and Carlo Martino, the Italia Geniale exhibition at Expo 2020 Dubai seeks a new meaning to the concept of genius and invention, more human centered

Melandri was also asking this, in the cult movie Amici Miei. What is genius? Until November 22 at the Italian Pavilion of Expo 2020 Dubai (and from December at ADI Museum in Milan), an answer is sought in the Italia Geniale exhibition.

According to Francesco Zurlo and Carlo Martino , who curated it, it is found in the transition from a technocratic logic to one centered on man. The exploration of the projects from the ADI Index and the Italian Patent Office was guided by the humanistic vision of Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum on contemporary welfare.

That is: human beings must not only have the right or the freedom to be well and fully express human potential. But they must also be enabled to do so, to become capable of being fully human. A look that disrupts the logic of the invention, to seek a more contemporary definition.

The capability approach and the genius of design

We have left behind the historical and typological approach already used in other exhibitions of this type, and we have chosen to be inspired by the capability approach theorized by the two American academics  explains Francesco Zurlo. We have defined five categories: work, relationships, care, mobility and imagination. Objects ingenious, patented or not, which suggest behavior and make sense of technology.

What was the contribution of the Italian Patent Office?

We confronted them directly. And we were inspired by the two exhibitions already organized with Fondazione Valore Italia. This time avoiding the technocratic cut. We did not start from a user friendly approach only, because people are not organic containers of needs. Imagining, getting excited, taking care: these are all elementary necessities that make us truly human. Design enables by overcoming the self-referential and egoic dimension.

It makes sense to patent, but the ownership logic needs to be revised

About a third of the selected products are not patented, because they are the result of the work of several agents, as it must be to achieve a good result - continues Zurlo. The trigger is important, but in general it is followed by a collective effort whose exact authorship is difficult to define. I see it here at PoliHub with startups: they always start from an asset, from a patent, usually technological.

Design also has the task of reconfiguring technology to become more human. But no one has a paradigm to explain the innovative aspect from a human point of view. While this is exactly what design activates: continuous technological epiphanies.

An example of enabling design? The bottle of Depero's Campari Soda.

Enabling skills and competences is a process made up of many factors. To make the path clearer, there are so many examples.

The bottle of Campari Soda designed by Depero. The La Conica coffee maker by Aldo Rossi. These are projects that ignite relational skills  explains Francesco Zurlo.

And again there is the brilliant bicycle of Richard Sapper for the Triennale of 1969. And the Vespa, in its electric version, the Isetta city car: brilliant examples of how to activate the ability to move independently with a flash of invention, irony and emotion.