Welcome to Aerocene and Arachnophilia, beautifully presented in 25,000 square feet of exhibition space at The Shed in New York. If you’re unfamiliar with the work of Argentinian-born, Berlin-based artist and visionary polymath Tomás Saraceno, then even more reason to rush in with a visit as there are only two weeks left until the end of this spectacular spectacle.
“Tomás Saraceno: Particular Matter(s)” occupied two-thirds of The Shed’s exhibition space and features Saraceno’s existing and newly commissioned works. Curated by The Shed curator Emma Enderby and her assistant curators Alessandra Gómez and Adeze Wilford, this is the artist’s largest exhibition in the United States to date – we can only be grateful to Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Rockwell Group for the adaptive structure of the building capable of hosting this unusual retrospective.
WHAT: “Tomas Saraceno: specific question(s)”
WHEN: From February 11 to April 17, 2022.
WHERE: The Shed, 545 West 30th street, NYC.
At the heart of Saraceno’s artistic practice is a revision of the anthropocentric and gravity-bound paradigm. He evolved from his lifelong obsessions – spiders and air balloons; By taking an unconventional look at the interactions between the layers of Earth’s habitats, his work questions the nature of perception, inviting awareness of non-human forms within and beyond our planet’s borders. The artist generates this awareness by initiating community-led artistic explorations of “new modes of sensibility” and “ethical collaborations”, enabling new hybrid relationships involving multiple entities: from spiders to humans and gravitational waves to dust particles.
One of these collaborations, the Aerocene Foundation, ushers in the era of the Aerocene, which, unlike the Anthropocene era, is a society free of carbon emissions and, ultimately, fuels. fossils: “a state without a state, both captive and floating; a community, an open source initiative. Designed by Studio Tomás Saraceno, it originated in 2007 through “Museo Aero Solar” – “a traveling project in which aerosol sculptures are created from plastic bags brought in by people from various communities around the world. The sculptures are able to fly using only the power of the sun and, thanks to their biomorphic shapes, are a decidedly arresting sight.
A large-scale installation of one of them, on the ground, is presented in gallery 4. You have to take off your shoes before entering the sculpture, and you can marvel, standing under its enormous dome plastic, the ingenuity of its quilt-like construction. . Also presented in the gallery, a DIT (Do-It-Together) kit – “Museo Aero Solar” is not a singular object; it can be created as a DIT project wherever people accept the possibility of carbon-free flying.
The most important part of “Tomas Saraceno: Particular Matter(s)” is devoted to the aerial life of spiders and their webs – Arachnophilia, the source of Saraceno’s artistic inspiration and scientific research. It is a gripping and in-depth investigation that has emerged from more than a decade of research and observation of spiders and their sophisticated ecosystem that provides shelter, food and communication.
Set in The Shed’s level 2 gallery, it begins in dark rooms that contain glass display cases with an iridescent spider web hanging inside. The only lights in the room are those shining through these delicate gauze formations. All of them, made in collaboration with spiders from The Shed and other places, are built by different species of spiders. Seen so close, in all the glory of their intricate tangles, cobwebs are things of otherworldly beauty. They evoke networks of totally different cosmic proportions: wormholes, spiral galaxies or space-time diagrams.
The exhibition’s main exhibit, ‘Special Matter(s)’, is also reminiscent of a visit to the planetarium: In a darkened room, a beam of light shines on a thick clump of drifting dust particles. in its shining cone. But the brightly contoured border is an illusion – text on the wall reveals that these particles, an amalgam of cosmic and man-made dust, which includes black carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels, are everywhere – they make up the air we let’s breathe.
The investigation continues in rooms dedicated to Saraceno’s research into the unequal distribution of pollution along geopolitical and racial lines. “We don’t all breathe the same air”, a new commission strongly influenced by the artist’s speech with Harriet A. Washington, specialist in public health and medical ethics and author of “Medical Apartheid”. It includes works that visualize pollution in hourly iterations as a clustered arrangement of dots of varying color. When air pollution increases for one hour, the corresponding dot darkens on the paper strip. Similarly, “Printed Matters” are the cards printed with pm 2.5 carbon black pollution, which was distilled from the air in Mumbai on 8 gram handmade paper. Called “plug and play created by the atmosphere itself,” they manifest the sinister relationship between fossil fuels and location; the seeming carelessness of their minimalist displays only underscores the darkness of their meaning.
The final three spaces bring exhausted but thrilled visitors back to the questions of the cobweb. “Sounding the Air” is a mesmerizing display that consists of five long, thick cobwebs/webs waving in the light. Even more captivating is “How to entangle the universe of a spider/web?” where a laser scans an extended expanse of a spider/web, intermittently filling it with a striking dark red color. The final space, “A Thermodynamic Imagination,” is a large room filled with heavy Mylar spheres suspended from web-like threads – possible evocations of planetary motion. A video showing test flights of aerosol sculptures gliding over Argentina’s Salinas Grandes saved the day for this otherwise unusual display for tame Saraceno. The takeoff and movement of these three-dimensional black sculptures that look like floating stingrays was a delight to watch.
The show’s tour de force is, of course, “Free the Air: How to Hear the Universe in a Spider’s Web,” a multi-sensory experience in a 95-foot-diameter sphere suspended in McCourt’s soaring TheShed. space out. It features a pair of transparent web-like nets, stretched end to end over two levels and floating in 450,000 cubic feet of air at 12 and 40 feet above the ground (upper and lower levels, tickets must be purchased separately). There is an airlock between the stairs and the sphere, and after a few suspenseful moments, we entered a space filled with a nebulous substance. Everyone was invited to walk and make themselves comfortable on the wire mesh. Lights faded, nebulae turned into complete darkness. The nets began to vibrate with recorded sounds produced by the spiders as they build and interact with the webs – their vibrations are generally imperceptible to humans. Without giving too much away, I can say that the experience was momentarily weightless. It was as weird as one could imagine experiencing a spider/web while being circumscribed by very limited human senses.