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Tomás Saraceno in Zurich
Tomás Saraceno’s realizable utopia inspired by physical and biological phenomena and his “more-than-human” dwellings are on show in Zurich at the Museum Haus Konstruktiv.
For the first time, a large solo exhibition on artist Tomás Saraceno is held in Switzerland. With his spatial installations at the intersection between art, architecture and the natural sciences, Saraceno asks questions about future forms of “more-than-human” dwelling. His artistic research can be seen as an invitation to reconsider ecological and social relationships. Saraceno was trained as an architect and artist, and attended Thomas Bayrle’s master class at the Städelschule in Frankfurt. He now lives in Berlin, where he works on highly fascinating projects with his team.
Tomás Saraceno sees his multidisciplinary work as artistic research, in which he pursues the notion of a “realizable utopia”. Inspired by physical and biological phenomena, such as the thermodynamics of the atmosphere or the structures of spider webs, he works together with relevant experts, including biologists, engineers and architects, developing sensational works: enormous airfilled sculptures that float upwards, relying on nothing more than solar radiation and the infrared radiation from the Earth’s surface, or web structures that are as spectacular as they are delicate. His visionary projects can be linked to the Russian constructivists and suprematists Kazimir Malevich and El Lissitzky, who were already pursuing the notion of flying cities in their day. In response to global, ecological and societal challenges, Saraceno’s works act as models for future, sustainable living.
Part of the exhibition at Museum Haus Konstruktiv is dedicated to Saraceno’s latest works and experiments from his project “Aerocene”, the era of air. Various floating sculptures are on display that do not rely on fossil fuels, inert gases or solar cells, and, in various configurations, could fly around the world, solely on the basis of thermal lift. The first test flights have already been carried out, as documented in this solo exhibition’s large-format photographs and videos.
Saraceno, who has attended the NASA Ames program and held a residency at the French National Space Agency (CNES), is currently working with the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston. Initially conceived as an art project, “Aerocene” has quickly developed into a forum for addressing acute ecological problems, such as environmental pollution, and human dependency on fossil and hydrocarbon fuels. Against the backdrop of the current energy crisis, Saraceno works with a group of artists, natural scientists and activists to seek solutions for sustainable travel, life and research, so as to protect the Earth’s biological diversity for the long term. The latest invention is the “Aerocene Explorer”, a tethered-flight starter kit that enables anyone to lift an “Aerocene” sculpture up into the sky. The portable backpack is equipped with a Raspberry Pi minicomputer, a camera, and a number of weather sensors that are used to collect data on air quality, temperature, humidity and air pressure.
Alongside “Aerocene”, spiders and web structures are also exhibited at Museum Haus Konstruktiv. Saraceno, together with a diverse community of scientists, has accumulated over a decade’s worth of research into arachnids. In cooperation with arachnologists, he has set up several open frames in his studio, housing around 300 spiders from twelve species in total, which are classified as either solitary, semi-social or social. Saraceno lets spiders encounter the webs of other spider species and observes the emergence of new, hybrid web structures, conceptually reminiscent of hypermodern cityscapes, or of the cosmic web – a term used to describe the structure of the early observable universe. At Museum Haus Konstruktiv, Saraceno is installing the work “Arachno Concert”, in which a spider is situated in an open cubic frame, where its web is connected to a microphone. The spider’s own activity causes this web to vibrate, and these vibrations are simultaneously turned into sound. At the same time, the artist makes “cosmic dust” visible, whereby the paths of dust particles moving freely through the air are recorded by a camera and transferred to a monitor. Whenever anyone present moves, this in turn influences the movement of air currents, the dust trails and the spider silk. Saraceno compares the installation to a “Jam session between the spider, the dust and the people moving in the room. They interact and I hope that I can unite them all in this cosmic din.”