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

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

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

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

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. §

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