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The Enigma of Vast Multiplicity
Aldo van Eyck

Exhibition at the XIV Triennale di Milano, 1968


The 1968 Triennale di Milano, with the theme The Big Number, addressed world population growth, the achievements of modern science and the connection between Western wealth and deepening poverty in the so-called Third World. At the invitation of curator Giancarlo De Carlo, Aldo van Eyck designed an exhibition that provided a disturbing view of the collapse of Western welfare societies. Visitors had to cross through a forest of tree trunks, and enter into a space dressed with distorting broken mirrors. Laughter came out of speakers. In the next room, huge photographs depicted Western civilisation as, unlike most traditional cultures, unable to solve the problem of the large number. ‘Mourning also for all butterflies,’ announced a wall text. Hidden in the last, round space, an installation made of a series of multi-coloured streamers brought a message of hope — a vast multiplicity does not necessarily lead to catastrophe. The panorama reveals fragments of this work which, in the midst of the students protests of ‘68 that led to the occupation of the Triennale, never opened to the public.