Art & Design

Milan creates an important center for digital culture

Bettina Bush Mignanego

By Bettina Bush Mignanego26 novembre 2020

MEET, Digital Culture Center, the new international center of digital culture, opened its doors in Milan, end of October. Imagined and presided by Maria Grazia Mattei with the support of the Fondazione Cariplo, it will enable the understanding of the crucial issue that is digital revolution.

On the first floor is the Immersive Room, a 250 square metre room with 15 projectors designed, installed and equipped to explore the potential of creative technology through the body and the senses (DR).

During the strange year 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, the powerful digital revolution has made its way to the general mindset. A vast subject that MEET wants to analyze in order to discover new means of communication and creativity, while always following the same idea: innovation is first and foremost a cultural fact rather than a technological one.

The “Digital house” is located in a 1,500 square meter space at the center of the Lombard capital. Three floors were imagined by the architect Carlo Ratti, a professor in urban technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The vertical space unravels over the “life staircase”, a 15-meter construction that can be transformed into a theater or a workspace. “It is becoming essential to use architecture in order to create serendipity and unexpected connections between individuals which – as explained by Carlo Ratti – rarely occur on the web.” The space will welcome many activities at the same time, for “hybrid functions”.

The Living Staircase, which can be transformed into a theatre or work space, is at the heart of the MEET Centre (DR).

MEET will also have a modular auditorium and a cinema managed with the Cineteca Italiana, a theatre with 200 seats, a cafe and an immersive room with fifteen 4k projectors. At the moment, the spectacular in situ installation of the Turkish artist Refik Anadol, titled “Renaissance Dreams”, can be viewed on display. This installation was specifically created for MEET, from an artificial intelligence sourcing thousands of images from artworks of Renaissance art and architecture, to create a hypnotizing march following the steps of Italian art history. A piece that explains fully MEET’s philosophy, born to erase the gap between people and digital technology and convinced that digital culture benefits the country’s growth and society’s well-being. This is why MEET will reunite the most important international Masters of Digital, as well as companies of all sectors of the industry. Maria Grazia Mattei reveals how digital will grow our society.

The spectacular installation by the Turkish artist Refik Anadol, entitled "Renaissance Dreams" (DR)

What does digital culture represent today?

Today, these words encompass all evolving processes: our lifestyle, work, communication, society life, the industry, economics, politics, to understand where intertwined reality and new technology will lead us. During this year 2020, the change was strongly accelerated. We have a duty to explore all of its new dimensions.

Can you tell us what the objectives of MEET are?

Maria Grazia Mattei, Founder and President of MEET (DR)

We want to create a physical and virtual habitat, a center of reference to understand digital culture. Our mission is to overcome forces that are slowing down this revolution, in order to better use this tool. Italy for instance is very late when it comes to digital, according to the DESI (the index of economy and society digitalization), which is the tool used by the European Commission to follow the digital progress of its members. In 2020, Italy was classified 25th of 28 countries in the EU. The European Union has realized that the cultural and creative industry, which included 7 million people and 2.5 million companies before the pandemic, is fundamental to developing new scenarios about digital innovation.

What do the experts of digital have to offer during these unprecedented and uncertain times?

Generally, they are artists, scientists, engineers, designers. One of them struck me above all. I am referring to Daan Roosegaarde. He is Dutch and has founded the Roosegaarde studio. His sensitivity is comparable to that of Leonardo da Vinci, in my opinion. Both manage to unite technology, art and nature, to interrogate the environment, the planet, while presenting spectacular solutions that have great artistic attributes. With him and many others, we are witnessing a new digital humanism, which creates new solutions for a society that is more and more computerized and complex, and which will have to be organized differently.

During lockdown, digital replaced real events in all areas of our lives. Do you believe this to be a sustainable solution?

I think about performing arts, one of the areas which was most affected because of events and fairs. There occurred a true shut-down between consumers and the industry. Many digital projects then happened but transferring the memory of a real event through online is not enough. We now need to step into this dimension. We witnessed attempts to do so, like the enlightening experience of the virtual participation to a concert. But we now need to try harder in order to explore this new digital space through other means.

MEET is a physical and virtual space for the production and dissemination of events, exhibitions, master classes and digital experiences. (DR)

MEET also thinks about the worlds of business and economy. Will everything become virtual?

Digital creativity can be very helpful to the business world. However, I don’t believe in a completely virtual dimension, but rather in a strong hybridization of both. We are transitioning from a mass society to a society dominated by hybrid processes.

What do you think of the power of social media and influencers? are they good examples of digital culture?

Today, influencers are quick, smart and understand the current changes. In the future they will become even more influent. I am referring to our digital gurus. But we are still at the pioneers’ era. Regarding social medias, these are extraordinary means but of which we are delegating the power. Today they have become digital giants, but their infinite growth is uncertain. With MEET, we are working to raise awareness, to confront people to innovation with a holistic vision, thanks to exhibitions, trainings and considerations about the future. Then, we would like to be able to measure the impact of innovation processes which we are developing, to contribute in creating greater well-being.

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