Surrender to the suggestive biodiversity of the sea and the secrets of its extraordinary ecosystem through the language of illusion. Until 31 January 2022, the University of Milano-Bicocca is hosting “IllusiOcean™”, an exhibition conceived and coordinated by Paolo Galli, professor of ecology at the university, and created in collaboration with Mondadori Media and the National Museum of Cinema in Turin.
The aims of the exhibition dedicated to the sea include raising awareness – among civil society, schools of all levels, the academic world and the scientific community – of the importance of achieving the sustainable development objectives for oceanic sciences set by the United Nations for the decade (2021-2030) of oceanic sciences, in particular Goal 14: to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources.
The exhibition is an interactive experience divided into three thematic areas.
The first area consists of four rooms and two corners, each examining an aspect of the sea: from the biodiversity of tropical marine ecosystems to the problem of plastic pollution.
The exhibition path begins with a corner dedicated to “Virtual Reality” where, thanks to 3D viewers, visitors can explore the wonders of the world’s coral reefs and discover the process of coral restoration. It is also possible to simulate the sensory experience of an underwater geyser and enjoy an special natural spectacle.
In the “Sottomarino delle illusioni” (Submarine of Illusions) visitors can dive into the depths of the Maldives, an archipelago that hosts some of the world’s largest coral reefs: an area of over 4500 km2 of extraordinary biodiversity and nearly 300 different species of coral. In this room, visitors will have the opportunity to get to know the marine organisms that shelter here. But to do this, they will have to sharpen their senses: walking from one side of the space to the other, where they will see the figures shrink or enlarge and algae and fish that transform into strange shapes.
The “Stanza degli specchi” (Room of Mirrors) places us among schools of jellyfish, fascinating marine animals that are found in seas around the world, where they float, driven by currents. And among the luminous umbrellas of these creatures, we can also see traces of the all-too-human threat called pollution.
This room was designed with the support of master glassmaker Fabio Fornasier from Murano, who created glass jellyfish using the traditional manual method and reproduced – also in glass – some of the many plastic objects that infest our seas.
The room “Mare sotto i Riflettori, il cinema racconta gli oceani” (The Sea in the Spotlight, the cinema and the oceans) is the result of collaboration with the National Museum of Cinema in Turin. This section offers a new interactive experience with all the magic of underwater filming, with clips, objects and unique curiosities. “The relationship between man and then sea has always been one of the recurring themes in the history of cinema,” said Domenico De Gaetano, director of the National Museum of Cinema, “our fascination with the underwater world lends itself well to illusions and special effects and we are delighted with this prestigious collaboration, which allows us to show another fascinating side of the Seventh Art.”
The sea is a treasure chest containing many different species of animals and plants: some are easy to spot, others hide and blend in. To recognise them, you need an expert eye, patience and a lot of attention. In the “Labirinto dei segreti marini” (Labyrinth of marine secrets) children from three to five years old can have a lot of fun looking for them and getting lost among the walls of this special room
The second corner, “Messaggio in Bottiglia” (Message in a Bottle), takes us back in time, to when letters were placed in glass bottles and thrown into the sea letting the currents carry them ashore. Fortunately, today we no longer need to throw a message into the ocean to communicate with the world: but through the “ocean that is the web”, visitors can launch their own message of hope to be launched on social networks using a virtual glass bottle.
The second area of the exhibition features 30 giant photographs, taken by some of the greatest experts in underwater photography – including Massimo Boyer – and depicting the evocative illusions created by nature that make our oceans so spectacular: the mimicry of some species of fish, for example, or the phenomenon that generates the effect of underwater waterfalls in Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean.
The third block is dedicated to the work done by high -chool students from the Vittorio Veneto and Luigi Cremona scientific high schools in Milan and the Emilio Sereni Agricultural Technical Institute in Rome. In recent months, around 500 students participated in the “Percorsi per le Competenze Trasversali e per l’Orientamento” (Paths towards Crossover Skills and Orientation) by designing and creating parts of the exhibition: reconstructions of models of the seabed, scientific games, illustrative posters, drawings and audio guides for visitors.
“With IllusiOcean the Milano-Bicocca University takes another important step towards restarting after the pandemic, inviting schools, families and citizens to discover an exhibition dedicated to the sea. We are delighted to inaugurate this exhibition which, thanks to the language of illusions, is not only great fun, but also encourages us to reflect on one of the priorities set by the UN 2030 Agenda: the protection of the health of the sea. It’s a challenge in which our researchers are engaged every day in the study of sustainable development solutions for the protection of the marine ecosystem,” said Deputy Rector, Marco Orlandi.
The exhibition is free and open to the public every Friday from 11am to 6pm and on Saturdays, twice a month, at the same times, at the Galleria della scienza (Buildings U1/U2, 1st floor, Piazza della Scienza, Milan).
Entrance is by reservation only and you can book on the illusiocean.it website and present your green pass (vaccination passport) at the door.
In addition, every Tuesday and Thursday morning, from 8am to 10am or from 11am to 1pm, by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org, you can book guided tours for schools.
Thanks to collaboration with Mondadori Media, from the end of October the “IllusiOcean™” exhibition will also be available online, exclusively on the website of Focus, Italy’s most widely read monthly, a reference point for fans and enthusiasts of technology, science, nature, medicine and innovation. By accessing the dedicated section of Focus.it., users can navigate in immersive mode inside the rooms of illusions and discover, in a virtual journey, many curiosities about the sea and its inhabitants.
“The Milano-Bicocca University exhibition organised by Professor Paolo Galli on the optical illusions and the sea is original, stimulating and fun. Three adjectives that have always been part of the DNA of Focus and it was therefore natural for us to offer our partnership to IllusiOcean. A partnership that, in addition to narrating and describing the exhibition, allows people to visit the exhibition also virtually on Focus.it,” said the editor of Focus, Raffaele Leone. “It is original because it is the result of an original and creative idea; stimulating because it wants to encourage us to reflect on the wonders of the sea and the need to preserve them; fun because it communicates playfully with the special effects of optical illusions. How could Focus not be there?”
And the experience with “IllusiOcean™” is not limited to the exhibition. Throughout the exhibition period, a rich programme of initiatives promoted by Focus and Focus Junior, the magazine that is a point of reference for kids, has been planned to raise the awareness of readers, teachers and students about the marine world and explore the issues raised by the initiative. Starting from the issue of Focus on newsstands this month, which is entirely dedicated to the importance of water: from the cycle of the sea, the planet’s real liquid engine, to the life of the cetaceans that populate the waters of our peninsula, to the story of the coral clinic in the Maldives, with lots of other special unmissable content.
Every week, on focusjunior.it and the magazine’s social media channels, young people can also find insights and curiosities on the issues raised by the exhibition, but not only. In fact, they can also share photos, articles, ideas and suggestions for looking after the seas and oceans with the editorial team, using the email address email@example.com: and the most original content will be published both online and in the magazine. “Children, and young people in general, are worried about climate change and the future of the planet: so, as always, Focus Junior gives voice to their thoughts and ideas,” said Sarah Pozzoli, the editor of Focus Junior.
The exhibition is sponsored by the Società italiana di Ecologia (Italian Society of Ecology) – (S.It.E), the Lombardy Region and the City of Milan.