Tomás Saraceno combines insights from space exploration, science fiction, and geometries found in the biological sciences. Cloud Cities, Saraceno’s most celebrated project, envisions a sustainable airborne city inspired by the morphology of soap bubbles, spider webs, cloud formations and astrophysics. In 2011 the artist’s exhibition Cloud Cities filled the entire main hall of the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin with a fantastical landscape of suspended sphere-like structures, proposing new ways of inhabiting the environment. A large-scale, interactive Cloud City sculpture was presented on the roof garden of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2012. Following the conceptual line of Cloud Cities, the Aerocene project that lends the title to the exhibition at Esther Schipper manifests as a choreography around the world, as traces in the air, as a series of airborne sculptures that will achieve the longest emission-free journey around the world: becoming buoyant only by the heat of the sun and infrared radiation from the surface of Earth. These aerosolar works are also presented in the exhibition.
For Saraceno, arachnology is an alternative tool for the investigation of the cosmos and he has embarked on a long-term artistic research dedicated to spider webs. One of his most spectacular arachnid inspired installations, Galaxy Forming along Filaments, Like Droplets along the Strands of a Spider’s Web was exhibited in the 53rd Venice Biennale exhibition Making Worlds, in 2009. Saraceno further expanded on this work, in collaboration with world leading arachnologists and researchers, by being the first to scan, analyse, and reconstruct a three-dimensional spider web.
Like the lighter-than-air Aerocene sculptures, white silken filaments of spider webs could float into a jet stream and sail at a considerable height above the surface of the earth, questioning anthropogenic claims to the earth. In a recent series of works on paper made of spider silk and ink, Saraceno explores social cartography via spider “ballooning,” the unique air travel method by which the spider propels itself straight into the air by releasing thousands of single threads of spidersilk in quick succession which float entangled, mapping the environment.
In 2014 the artist expanded into the realms of sound and interspecies communication with an exhibition at Museo d’Arte Contemporanea di Villa Croce, Genoa, Italy, further pursued in 2015 at the first solo exhibition in Southeast Asia, at NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore, for which he turned spider webs into musical instruments. Attuning to the invertebrate lifeworlds, Arachnid Orchestra embodied the structural properties of spiders’ silk as well as their sophisticated mode of communication.
Saraceno’s exhibition at Esther Schipper will premiere Arachno Concert: With Arachne (Nephila senegalensis), Cosmic Dust (Porus Chondrite) and the Breathing Ensemble, a chamber performance where wave frequencies extend from the vibratory world of the spider throughout the cosmos. In a dim room, an audience of ten visitors orchestrate an audiovisual piece as part of aa more-than-human ensemble resulting in a lasting spatial experience. Collaborating closely with scientists from highly specialized disciplines, Tomás Saraceno’s utopian project distils this interdisciplinary knowledge, occupying the intersection of art and science. As French philosopher Bruno Latour writes in a forthcoming essay on Saraceno’s work: “Rare are the artists who have published papers with scientists because the science they had to feed on was too limited! To extend the frontier of art, Tomás first had to push the frontier of [...] science.“