Tomás Saraceno’s futuristic constructions and images occupy a space between art and architecture that calls attention to the aesthetic and poetic dimensions of forms. Pushing the conventions of sculpture and installation art, Saraceno (Argentina, b. 1973) uses such industrial materials as elastic ropes and plastic balloons to create clusters of spheres, radiant explosions of lines, and geometric constellations that wed materials and space into one. In residence at the Walker Art Center October 4–20, 2008, Saraceno will conduct workshops with community participants to complete construction on
Museo aero solar
, a solar-powered sphere made from thousands of reused plastic bags collected in the countries where the piece has been assembled. The launch and U.S. premiere of Museo aero solar will take place October 18–19 at Franconia Sculpture Park located in Franconia, Minnesota, in the St. Croix River Valley. Saraceno’s artist-in-residence project precedes a solo exhibition to be on view at the Walker April 30–August 9, 2009, an in-depth presentation showcasing the artist’s photographs, kinetic sculptures, and the premiere of a commissioned large-scale installation.
Saraceno uses principles from engineering, physics, aeronautics, and architecture to re-think the way we experience space and relate to one another. Indebted to the futuristic architecture and energy-saving movement, his work reflects a consciousness about waste and conservation, striving for a harmonic balance between mediated and natural worlds. As the artist has said, his grand vision is to “explore the possibilities of airborne housing as a conceivable solution to the problems of population growth and rapidly changing climates.”
Ecological themes are paramount in Saraceno’s work and evident in his processes, in particular his experimentation with found materials and self-sufficient technologies to find inventive solutions to aesthetic questions. His work often involves using materials otherwise unknown outside of the scientific community, such as aerogel, a sponge-like insulating substance developed for use in the aerospace industry. Saraceno describes the network of floating structures he creates as capable of embodying more elastic and dynamic rules related to political, geographical, and cultural borders. As he has noted, the hot-air and hydrogen balloon “came about as a means of escape and protection in the late 18th century, during the time of the French Revolution. It is significant that during these times of uncertainty, people looked to the sky to escape the reality on earth.”
Saraceno has articulated his artistic vision in a series of long-term projects, including Museo aero solar (2007-present). To create this massive balloon on a global scale, he has acquired more than 12,000 reused plastic bags, adding new sections each time it travels to a different country. Museo aero solar has traveled to Milan (Italy), Sharjah (United Arab Emirates), Medellín (Colombia), Lyon (France), Rapperswil (Switzerland) and, most recently, Tirana (Albania).
While in residence in Minneapolis, Saraceno will conduct a community-wide collecting campaign to gather bags to complete Museo aero solar for its public inflation and launch at Franconia Sculpture Park. Workshops to assemble new balloon sections will take place at community centers and libraries throughout the Twin Cities and during the Walker’s Free First Saturday family event on October 4 and its Student Open House on October 16.