Tomás Saraceno’s environmental art implores us to live together differently

Through his own practice and the work of the Aerocene Foundation, artist Tomás Saraceno has advocated for a radical transformation of our relationship with one another, and with the planet. He features as one of 25 creative leaders of the future in Wallpaper’s 25th Anniversary Issue ‘5x5’ project, nominated by fellow artist Michèle Lamy

Aerocene Pacha by Tomás Saraceno, 25 January 2020
Fly with Aerocene Pacha at Salinas Grandes, Jujuy, Argentina, 25 January 2020. Produced by the Aerocene Foundation and Studio Tomás Saraceno, supported by Connect, BTS, curated by DaeHyung Lee. Courtesy the artist and Aerocene Foundation. Photography: Studio Tomás Saraceno © Tomás Saraceno
(Image credit: Studio Tomás Saraceno)

Tomás Saraceno believes that we’re at the point of no return. His current installation at Copenhagen’s Cisternerne – navigable only by boat – is titled ‘Event Horizon’, after the astrophysical term for the moment when gravity makes it impossible to escape the pull of a black hole.

His art, which from the start has investigated the relationship between humans and the planet and called for a radical transformation, has taken on an added urgency in the face of the climate emergency.

Artist Tomás Saraceno at the vineyards at Maison Ruinart

Artist Tomás Saraceno, photographed by Dario Laganà in May 2021 at the vineyards of Maison Ruinart in Reims, France, where he staged a fossil fuel free Aerocene flight

(Image credit: Dario Laganà)

Parallel to his studio practice (which is in itself unconventional, he may be the only artist to operate a state-of-art spider lab and work with arachnid collaborators), he also runs the Aerocene project, which aims to answer the question: ‘Is it possible to circumnavigate the world, using no other resource than the sun?’

Through fossil fuel-free flights, made possible by balloon sculptures that are kept afloat by the sun and travel with atmospheric currents, he has captivated audiences around the world, from the otherworldly salt flats of Bolivia to the storied vineyards of Champagne. A human flight in January 2020, at Salinas Grandes in Jujuy, Argentina, travelled 1.7km in 21 minutes, setting 32 world records and demonstrating the viability of a project that once sounded like a pipe dream.

Aerocene Pacha by Tomás Saraceno, 25 January 2020

Fly with Aerocene Pacha at Salinas Grandes, Jujuy, Argentina. Aerocene and aviator Leticia Noemi Marques made the most sustainable human flight in history in this Aerocene hot air balloon, setting 32 world records ratified by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. Produced by the Aerocene Foundation and Studio Tomás Saraceno, supported by Connect, BTS, curated by DaeHyung Lee. Courtesy the artist and Aerocene Foundation. Photography: Studio Tomás Saraceno © Tomás Saraceno

(Image credit: Studio Tomás Saraceno )
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Flying a black kite

(Image credit: Dario J Laganà)

Aerocene is a collaborative endeavour, involving scientists, engineers, and volunteers of all backgrounds, and inviting the general public to join in: anyone can borrow an Aerocene backpack to try out themselves, and the less adventurous can still get to know the project through the Float Predictor app, imagining the zero-carbon airborne journeys of the future. For his recent collaboration with Maison Ruinart, Saraceno additionally created an augmented reality experience which would allow the trajectories of Aerocene flights (‘Aeroglyphs’, as he calls them) to be shared with a global community.

The Argentine artist’s upcoming exhibition with Neugerriemschneider, his first with the Berlin gallery since joining its roster in 2021, continues his exploration of environmental concerns and how we can live together differently. From the exhibition content – visualisations of air quality, photos printed using air pollutants from Mumbai, and blown glass works that heighten our consciousness of breath – to auxiliary gestures such as shifting the gallery’s opening hours with daylight and powering it with renewable energy, we get a sense of the expanse and ambition of Saraceno’s groundbreaking practice, which will only continue to soar in the years to come.

Fly with Aerocene Pacha at Salinas Grandes, Jujuy, Argentina

Fly with Aerocene Pacha at Salinas Grandes, Jujuy, Argentina. Produced by the Aerocene Foundation and Studio Tomás Saraceno, supported by Connect, BTS, curated by DaeHyung Lee. Courtesy the artist and Aerocene Foundation. Photography: Studio Tomás Saraceno © Tomás Saraceno

(Image credit: Studio Tomás Saraceno)

Aerocene flight at Climate Change Demonstration Berlin, 2019

Aerocene flight at a climate change demonstration in Berlin, 2019. Photography: Studio Tomás Saraceno, courtesy Aerocene Foundation. Licensed under CC by Aerocene Foundation 4.0

(Image credit: Studio Tomás Saraceno)

Tomás Saraceno's Aeroglyphic sculpture for Maison Ruinart

Tomás Saraceno, towards and Aerocene era Making of Movement [49.190091, 4.064507] 20.05.2021 Reims, France. Photography: Dario J Laganà, augmented reality Aeroglyphic sculpture for Maison Ruinart

(Image credit: Dario J Laganà)

Museo Aero Solar: For an Aerocene Era, by the Aerocene Foundation at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2021

Museo Aero Solar: For an Aerocene Era, on view at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition in Venice (La Biennale di Venezia) until 21 November 2021. The installation presents 'stories and Aero(s)cenic journeys, the possibilities for living together—not only with ourselves, but with the geos, bios and cosmos surrounding our web of relations'. © Studio Tomás Saraceno

(Image credit: Studio Tomás Saraceno)

Tomás Saraceno's sculptures Aeolus 36,184 and Aeolus 8.79

Tomás Saraceno, Aeolus 36,184 and Aeolus 8.79, both 2019 © Studio Tomás Saraceno, courtesy the artist and neugerriemschneider, Berlin

(Image credit: Studio Tomás Saraceno)

Installation view of Tomás Saraceno's 'Du sol au soleil' at Domain des Etangs, Massignac

Installation view of 'Du sol au soleil' (From the ground to the sun), a solo exhibition by Saraceno at Domain des Etangs, Massignac, France. The project will culminate in 2022 with the installation of the site-specific, monumental and permanent work Du sol au soleil, 'an aerial structure, both cloud and spider’s web, which will unveil perspectives otherwise inaccessible to humankind'. © Studio Tomás Saraceno

(Image credit: Studio Tomás Saraceno)

Installation view of Tomás Saraceno's installation ‘Event Horizon’ at Cisternerne, Copenhagen

Installation view of Saraceno's installation ‘Event Horizon’ at Cisternerne, Copenhagen, including his piece A Thermodynamic Imaginary (2020). Photography: Torben Eskerod

(Image credit: Torben Eskerod)

Installation view of Saraceno's solo exhibition 'We do not all breathe the same air' at Neugerriemschneider, Berlin

Installation view of Saraceno's solo exhibition 'We do not all breathe the same air', on view at Neugerriemschneider, Berlin until 31 October 2021. Photography: Jens Ziehe © Studio Tomás Saraceno, courtesy the artist and neugerriemschneider, Berlin

(Image credit: Jens Ziehe)

Tomás Saraceno, Particular Matter(s), 2021

Tomás Saraceno, Particular Matter(s), 2021 © Tomás Saraceno, courtesy the artist and Neugerriemschneider, Berlin

(Image credit: Tomás Saraceno)

INFORMATION

studiotomassaraceno.org

aerocene.org

‘Tomás Saraceno: We Do Not All Breathe The Same Air’, 18 September – 31 October 2021, Neugerriemschneider, Berlin, neugerriemschneider.com
‘Tomás Saraceno: Du Sol au Soleil’, until 24 April 2022, Domaine des Etangs, Massignac, France, domainedesetangs.com
Museo Aero Solar For an Aerocene Era, until 21 November 2021, part of the 17th International Architecture Exhibition, Venice, labiennale.org

A version of this article appears in Wallpaper’s October 2021, 25th Anniversary Issue (W*270), on newsstands now and available to subscribers – 12 digital issues for $12/£12/€12 (opens in new tab).
Meet more creative leaders of the future nominated by Michèle Lamy here.

TF has been editor of Wallpaper* since December 2020. He is responsible for our monthly print magazine, planning, commissioning, editing and writing long-lead content across all our content pillars. He also plays a leading role in multi-channel editorial franchises, such as our annual Design Awards, Guest Editor takeovers and Next Generation series. He aims to create world-class, visually-driven content while championing diversity, international representation and social impact. TF joined Wallpaper* as an intern in January 2013, and served as its commissioning editor from 2017-20, winning a 30 under 30 New Talent Award from the Professional Publishers’ Association. Born and raised in Hong Kong, he holds an undergraduate degree in history from Princeton University.