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|Born||1973 (age 46–47)|
San Miguel de Tucumán, Argentina
|Known for||Installation Art, Sculpture|
Tomás Saraceno (San Miguel de Tucumán, 1973) is an Argentinian contemporary artist. His practice is informed by the concepts linking art, life science and the social sciences. Enmeshed at the junction of these worlds, his floating sculptures, community projects and interactive installations propose and explore new, sustainable ways of inhabiting and sensing the environment. In 2007 Saraceno activated projects aimed towards an ethical collaboration with the atmosphere, including Museo Aero Solar. These projects grew into the international, interdisciplinary artistic community Aerocene, who with Saraceno in 2020 launched the certified, untethered flight Fly with Aerocene Pacha, achieving six world records for altitude, distance, duration (both in the general and female category) using only the warmth of the sun and the air. Saraceno’s interest in spiders and their webs led to the formation of Arachnophilia.net and the Arachnomancy App. Through these platforms Saraceno invites people from around the globe to weave the web of interspecies understanding and take part in the challenge of Mapping Against Extinction.
Education and artistic career
Tomás Saraceno studied architecture at Universidad Nacional de Buenos Aires in Argentina between 1992 and 1999, after which he studied art and architecture in a postgraduate program at Escuela Superior de Bellas Artes de la Nación Ernesto de la Cárcova, also in Buenos Aires. Saraceno then moved to Europe to complete his post graduate studies at Städelschule. There, he was directed by Daniel Birnbaum (curator of the 53rd Venice Biennale) and studied under professors Thomas Bayrle and Ben van Berkel. In 2003-2004 Saraceno participated in the course "Progettazione e Produzione delle Arti Visive" (Design and Production of Visual Arts), held by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Olafur Eliasson at Instituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia (IUAV).
In 2009, he attended the International Space Studies Program at NASA Center Ames (Silicon Valley, California).That same year, Saraceno exhibited again in Venice, this time at the 53rd Arte Venice Biennale "Fare Mondi/Making Worlds", curated by Daniel Birnbaum, and won the Calder Prize.
Saraceno’s work has been widely exhibited internationally in solo and group exhibitions. Most notably, these include:
- "Aria", at Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, Italy, curated by Arturo Galansino (2020).
- "Aero(s)cene: When breath becomes air, when atmospheres become the movement for a post fossil fuel era against carbon-capitalist clouds" and "Spider/Web Pavilion 7", at "May you live in interesting times", Venice Biennale, curated by Ralph Rugoff (2019).
- "ON AIR", Carte blanche to Tomás Saraceno at Palais de Tokyo, curated by Rebecca Lamarche-Vadel (2018-2019);
- "In orbit", at Kunstsammlung Nordrhein- Westfalen K21, Düsseldorf (2013-2016, 2017- ongoing);
- "Aerocene", at Solutions COP21, Grand Palais, Paris (2015);
- "Arachnid Orchestra. Jam Sessions", at NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore (2015);
- "Cloud Cities", at Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin (2011–12);
- "On the Roof: Cloud City", at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2012);
- 2019, The Golden Madonnina, The Design Prize - In the artistic realm;
- 2010, 1822 Kunstpreis;
- 2009, Alexander Calder Prize;
Selected works and projects
Saraceno's long-term artistic research project (2002–present) draws inspiration from Buckminster Fuller and other radical architects. The aim of the project is to create a modular, transnational city in the clouds, the realization of which would be a new model for liberating and sustainable building practices.
The exhibition Cloud Cities, presented at Hamburger Bahnhof - Museum für Gegenwart in Berlin (2011–12), consisted of a collection of geometric, inflated shapes that challenge the notions of place, space, future and gravity. Through the exhibition, Saraceno sought to explain how human beings live in combination with their environment. As curator and art historian Moritz Wesseler notes, "an aspect that is of great importance to Saraceno in this context is that the city's shape and size can be changed continually, subjecting conventional ideas about boundaries and territories to critical scrutiny. (...) The works he creates as part of this exploration can be considered components of sorts for the future cloud-city that can be assembled to create the desired complex in its entirety. But the components also exist in isolation, as independent sculptures or installations, evincing forces and qualities of their own that render them highly fascinating constructs."
Related to Cloud Cities, Saraceno launched an exhibition 'Observatory/Air-Port-City' at the Hayward Gallery London (2008). The exhibition was composed of a collection of spheres, each housing autonomous residential units. The network of habitable cells float in the air, combining and recombining like clouds, constructing a flying airport. This is Saraceno's utopic vision: to create a new airborne nomadism.
On the Roof: Cloud City
Saraceno exhibited 'On the Roof: Cloud City' in the Iris and B Gerald Cantor Roof Garden at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) New York City (2012). This consisted of a constellation of sixteen large, interconnected modules composed of glass segments and cut in non-identical geometric shapes held in place by steel joints, reinforcements and steel cables. Visitors were able to walk through the installation, which draws its shape from bacteria, clouds, universes, foam and neural communication networks.
In Orbit, installed since June 2013 at K21 Ständehaus, Düsseldorf, spans Saraceno's inquiries into urbanism, natural engineering and communication. Curated by Marion Ackermann, the installation hangs more than 25 meters above the piazza of the K21. Saraceno's installation combines the structure of a spider's web with the vision of Cloud Cities. Over 400,000 visitors to the exhibition have strolled, climbed, laid, on a 2,500 sqm web, dotted with massive inflated PVC spheres. The movement of each participant is felt by others, exhibiting a potential for new modes of human communication.
On Space Time Foam
'On Space Time Foam', an installation by Saraceno and curated by Andrea Lissoni, was inspired by the cubic shape of the exhibition space at HangarBicocca, Milan, appearing there in 2013. The structure was composed of three levels of thin, clear film fixed to the walls and floating at a height of 14 to 20 metres, covering an area of 400 square metres. Visitors were granted access to three levels of the artwork, finding themselves in mid-air, encouraging the loss of spatial coordination. HangarBicocca has a cubic form.
The cube, a geometric form often used by scientists to represent the concepts of space and time, inspired Saraceno to create an installation in which the visitors' movements enact the time variable, thereby introducing the concept of the fourth dimension within the three-dimensional space. The title of the work can be traced to quantum mechanics on the origins of the universe, distinguished by the idea of extremely fast-moving subatomic particles that can trigger changes in spatio-temporal matter. Freely inspired by these theories, Saraceno makes their movements metaphorically visible. The installation is a device that calls perceptual certainties into question; it is an element that modifies the architecture containing it, a structure that makes the interrelationships among people and visible space, an attempt to overcome the laws of gravity. As the artist explained, "the films constituting the living core of HangarBicocca are constantly altered by climate and the simple movement of people. Each step, each breath, modifies the entire space: it is a metaphor for how our interrelations affect the Earth and other universes."
Saraceno has developed a Solar Bell flying sculpture made of lightweight and sustainable materials. Its design is based on the modular tetrahedron, or four-sided pyramid, invented by Alexander Graham Bell during his early investigations into manned flight. Bell made important discoveries in the field of aviation and frame construction, and happened upon the strongest geometrical structure known in the cosmos, the octet truss. This was the same spaceframe that Buckminster Fuller later followed for his Geodesic dome. 'Solar Bell' was the final project in a series of artworks created to accompany the expansion of the Port of Rotterdam with the construction of Maasvlakte 2 in the Netherlands in 2013. Solar Bell Ensemble, Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, USA 2016.
Inspired by Solar Bell, Saraceno developed the idea of entire cities built upon lighter-than-air structures and sustainable energy technologies, lifted by the wind and suspended above the surface of the Earth. This 'flying plaza' represents an inquiry into public space, which according to Saraceno's vision, can be erected in alternative and fossil-free ways. Saraceno imagines spaces of dwellings as new urban skyscapes: flying buildings elevated by wind power alone, which erase the boundaries defined by geopolitics, and start to respond to local specificities.
Aerocene is a project that aims to explore environmental issues scientifically and artistically. It consists of sculptures that are kept in the air by the Sun's heat and by infrared ratiation.
Aerosolar sculptures were officially presented during the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP21, at Grand Palais, Paris, 2015, after that a similar prototype has been tested in November at the White Sands Dunes of New Mexico. On November 8, 2015, it broke world records by achieving the longest and most sustainable certified flight (without fossil-fuel, solar panel, helium or batteries) ever registered: During approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes, seven people were lifted up in White Sands' desert landscape. With a net lift of more than 250 kg, the payload of the "D-O AEC Aerocene" solar sculpture has no precedent in the long history of manned solar balloon flight attempts.
The project has evolved from Tomás Saraceno's residency at L'Observatoire de l'Espace, CNES. Led by Saraceno, the project's team is composed of leading scientists and engineers, including collaboration with Massachusetts Institute of Technology - Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS), Braunschweig University of Technology - Institute of Architecture-related Art (IAK), TBA21 Academy, Red Cross Red Crescent, and numerous universities, research centers, cultural and art institutions, and museums around the world.
The Aerocene Explorer is a flight kit. Participants can hack the devices pack, create their own lightweight sensors, and lift them up. Data collected with the Aerocene Explorer can be uploaded and shared with Aerocene's open-source online community, via an interactive website that encourages participants all over the world to share their experiments, photos and videos, comments, and innovations.
Museo Aero Solar Community
The "Museo Aero Solar" group is an open-source international community, initiated in 2008 by Tomás Saraceno in conversation with Alberto Pesavento. The community organizes events around the world to turn plastic bags into lighter-than-air sculptures, creating airborne flying museums. Sending a message for sustainability, Museo Aero Solar retakes and transforms a pollutant. The resulting collection includes more than 20,000 plastic bags culled from countries including Colombia, Cuba, France, Germany, Italy, Austria, Palestine, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates and the United States, amongst others.
Stillness in Motion - Cloud Cities
Stillness in Motion — Cloud Cities, was launched by Saraceno and curated by Joseph Becker at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA), San Francisco in 2016. Organized by the SFMOMA Architecture and Design department, the exhibition comprises an immersive, site-specific cloudscape installation of suspended tension structures and floating sculptures, as well as explorations of the intricate constructions of spider webs.
Arachnid Research Lab
Since 2008, Saraceno has conducted research in his studio into the woven habitats of spiders. This research was born out of Saraceno's interest in the origins of the cosmos and the structure of spacetime. The Earth, being set within a web-like structural dimension was the inspiration that propelled the research into comparisons between this, and natural phenomena within our planet; namely, spider webs.
In developing this line of inquiry, Saraceno pioneered the invention of the first machine of its kind capable of scanning, digitising, and measuring a three dimensional spider web. The first scan in history was made on a Black Widow spider's web and was first presented in 2010 at the exhibition '14 Billions (Working Title)' at the Bonniers Konsthall in Sweden. Developed over two years in collaboration with arachnologists, astrophysicists, architects and engineers, the installation depicted the black widow spider's web on a 1.17 scale and was composed of 8000 black strings connected with over 23,000 individually tied knots, spanning 400 cubic meters. This installation provided the visitor with the opportunity to observe themselves in the act of becoming a community by being immersed in this interconnected woven habitat.
Today, the Arachnid Research Lab develops many other projects including the archive of Arachnophiliac encouters.
On the occasion of the 2019 Venice Biennale and in the context of the sixth mass extinction, Saraceno launched the Arachnomancy App with the help of the Arachnophilia community. Through this app, users are encouraged to notice, document and map spider webs they encounter in both wild and urban spaces.
The secondary output of the research conducted in the Arachnid Research Lab are the 'Hybrid Webs' - the collective term for a series of sculptures devised by Saraceno. Each sculpture, made entirely of spider silk is designed to appear as a unique, geometric galaxy floating in infinite space. Creating the sculptures means incorporating webs woven by spiders who are social, asocial or between the two. During the building period, the sculptures are turned onto each side, allowing gravity to aid the interweaving of silk from different sorts of spider. The works' titles reveal the technical specifications of each sculptural element; the genus and species of spiders employed and the time taken by each spider to complete its web. The final sculpture is thereby an emblem of an encounter which might not otherwise have succeeded, and so prompts a reflection on human coexistence with ourselves and the natural world.
'Hybrid Webs' have been exhibited worldwide:
- "May you live in interesting times", Venice Biennale, curated by Ralph Rugoff (2019);
- "ON AIR", Carte blanche to Tomás Saraceno at Palais de Tokyo, curated by Rebecca Lamarche-Vadel (2018-2019);
- Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York and at Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2018);
- Pinksummer Contemporary Art, Rome (2016);
- Istanbul Design Biennial, Istanbul (2016);
- 11th Shanghai Biennial, Shanghai (2016);
- Senckenberg Museum, Frankfurt (2016);
- UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, USA (2016);
- MARCO, Museum for Contemporary Art, Monterrey, Mexico (2016);
- Cultural Center; Espace Muraille, Geneva (2015);
- Chicago Architectural Biennial, Chicago (2015);
- Louvre Museum, Paris (2015);
- Georg Kolbe Museum, Berlin (2014);
- Museo di Villa Croce, Genoa, Italy (2014);
- Esther Schipper, Berlin (2012);
Arachnid Orchestra Jam Session
Saraceno has also developed a line of inquiry into the sound properties of spider webs. In collaboration with arachnologists, musicians and sound engineers based in Singapore and elsewhere, Saraceno has harnessed the structural properties of spider silk, transforming the web into a musical instrument. Since spiders do not possess an auditory system, they perceive the world around them with pressure and vibrations that come from their own movement, for example web-plucking. A cobweb is therefore a sensory object, an extension of a spider's body and the vibrations communicated via this practice are used for attraction, hunting and other social interactions. Saraceno has succeeded in amplifying these inaudible vibrations and web-pluckings into acoustic rhythms. This was presented by Saraceno at the 'Arachnid Orchestra Jam Session', curated by Ute Meta Bauer at the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore (2015). The focus of this exhibition, which included a run of live performances, was to push the boundaries of interspecies communication. This insight into non-human modes of communication helped formulate a more complex understanding of interspecies cohabitation – an idea at the fore of Saraceno's vision.
This research has also been presented in the major solo exhibition 'Cosmic Jive' at Villa Croce Museum of Contemporary Art (2014) and Saraceno's first solo exhibition in his native Argentina titled 'How to Entangle the Universe in a Spider Web' at the Museo de Arte Moderno, Buenos Aires (2017).
2019, Sundial for Spatial Echoes, Bauhaus-Museum Weimar, Germany.
2017, Gravitational Waves, Z33, Genk, Belgium.
2017, Stillness in Motion - 3 Airborne Self-Assemblies, Mapletree, Singapore.
2017, Cloud Cities – Nebulous Thresholds, Rollins College, Florida, USA.
2017, On Cosmic Clouds, NYU Abu Dhabi Library, UAE.
2016, Cloud Cities: HAT-P-12, Taipei, Taiwan.
2016, Caelum Dust, University of South Florida, Tampa, USA.
2015, Cloud Cities / Air-Port-City, Domaine du Muy, Parc de sculptures contemporaines, France.
2015, Sundial for Spatial Echoes, Aker Brygge, Oslo, Norway.
2008, On clouds (Air-Port-City), Towada Arts Center, Towada, Japan.
2007, Flying Garden, EPO Munich, Germany.
Saraceno's work is represented in public and private collections including:
Miami Art Museum, Miami, FL, USA.
Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, Germany.
Klassik Stiftung Weimar, Weimar, Germany.
Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA, USA.
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN, USA.
Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany.
Bonniers Konsthall, Stockholm, Sweden.
The National Gallery of Denmark, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Esbjerg Kunstmusem, Esbjerg, Denmark.
Istanbul Modern Art Museum, Istanbul, Turkey.
Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin, Germany.
Boros Collection, Berlin, Germany.
The Collection of Juan Vergez, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
BSI Art Collection, Switzerland.
Mudam Musée d‘Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, Luxembourg.
Collezione La Gaia, Busca, Italy.
Fondazione Pierluigi e Natalina Remotti, Camogli, Italy.
Fondazione Morra Greco, Naples, Italy.
Fondazione Edoardo Garrone, Genoa, Italy.
Luma Foundation, Zurich, Switzerland.
Reykjavik Art Museum, Reykjavik, Iceland.
Saraceno, Tomás. 2020. Aria. Ed. Marsilio Editori.
Saraceno, Tomás. 2018. Wallpaper Magazine, Guest Editor.
Saraceno, Tomás with Etienne Turpin and Christine Shaw. 2018. The work of the wind: (Volume I) Land. (Light Breeze – Stillness in Motion) K. Verlag. Berlin.
Saraceno, Tomás. 2018. Aerographies. Ed. Fosun Foundation.
Saraceno, Tomás. 2018. Palais 28 ON AIR. Ed. Palais de Tokyo.
Saraceno, Tomás. 2017. Our Interplanetary Bodies. Ed. Asia Cultural Center.
Saraceno, Tomás. 2017. How to Entangle the Universe in a Spiderweb. Ed. Pamphlet, Moderno.
Saraceno, Tomás. 2017. Flying Plaza. Ed. Spector Books, Berlin.
Saraceno, Tomás. 2017. Aerocene. Ed. SKIRA, Milan.
Saraceno, Tomás. 2017. Arachnid Orchestra. Jam Sessions. Ed. Ute Meta Bauer. Singapore: NTU Centre for Contemporary Art.
Saraceno, Tomás. 2017. Notes on Aerocene. Ed. Studio Tomás Saraceno, Aerocene Foundation.
Saraceno, Tomás. 2017. Aerosolar Journeys. Ed. Schaschl, Sabine, Zechlin, René. Berlin: Walter König.
Saraceno, Tomás. 2016. Tomás Saraceno. 163,000 Light Years. Monterrey: MARCO, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey.
Saraceno, Tomás. 2015. Aerocene. Berlin: Studio Tomás Saraceno.
Saraceno, Tomás, and Mario Codognato. 2015. Tomás Saraceno: Becoming Aerosolar. Vienna: Belvedere.
Saraceno, Tomás, and Joseph Grima. 2014. Cosmic Jive: The Spider Sessions. Genoa: Asinello Press.
Saraceno, Tomás, Meredith Malone, Igor Marjanović, Inés Katzenstein, and D. L Weaire. 2014. Tomás Saraceno: Cloud Specific. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Saraceno, Tomás, and Sara Arrhenius. 2011. Tomás Saraceno: 14 Billions (Working Title). Milan: Skira.
Saraceno, Tomás, Marion Ackermann, Daniel Birnbaum, Udo Kittelmann, and Hans Ulrich Obrist. 2011. Cloud Cities. Berlin: Distanz Verlag.
Saraceno, Tomás, and Juliane von Herz. 2010. Tomás Saraceno: Cloud Cities/Air-Port-City. Bielefeld: Kerber Verlag.
Saraceno lives and works in Berlin.
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- "Tomás Saraceno's balloon working just with renewable energy". domus. 18 Feb 2020.
- "An Invitation to Get Caught in the Spider's Web". Hyperallergic. 2 June 2020.
- Tomás Saraceno : 14 billions (working title). Milan: Skira. 2011. ISBN 978-8857208572.
- "Tomas Saraceno | Artists 4 Climate -". www.artists4climate.com. Retrieved 7 April 2017.
- "Galaxies Forming Along Filaments … - Projects - Tomás Saraceno". tomassaraceno.com.
- "Tomas Saraceno-Aria". Palazzo Strozzi (in eng). 2 February 2020.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)
- "and the winners of THE DESIGN PRIZE 2019 are..." designboom. 15 April 2019.
- "Eine Art Fliegenfänger". FrankfurterRundschau (in German). 2 February 2009.
- "Tomas Saraceno Wins Calder Prize". artforum. 19 May 2009.
- Tomás Saraceno: Cloud Cities. Wuppertal: DISTANZ Verlag. 2011. ISBN 978-3942405379.
- Tomás Saraceno : Cloud Cities, air-port-city. Bielefeld, Germany: Kerber. 2010. ISBN 978-3866784871.
- Tomas Saraceno Cloud-specific. Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum. 2012. ISBN 978-0936316352.
- "In Orbit". www.kunstsammlung.de.
- "Solar Bell Ensemble - Projects - Tomás Saraceno". tomassaraceno.com.
- "At COP21, finding hope for climate in the "Aerocene"". MIT News.
- "AEROCENE : SPACE WITHOUT ROCKETS (EN) - Semaphore". www.ewenchardronnet.com.
- "Aerocene Campus". Aerocene.
- Tomás Saraceno: Becoming Aerosolar. Vienna: 21er Haus, Belvedere. 2015. ISBN 978-3-902805-70-6.
- "Tomás Saraceno". SFMOMA.
- Tomás Saraceno : 14 Billions (working title). Milan: Skira. 2011. ISBN 978-8857208572.
- "Tomás Saraceno, Brainy Spider-Man of the Art World, Talks Arachnids". artnet. 21 November 2021.
- Saraceno, Tomás (2014). Cosmic Jive: The Spider Sessions. Asinello Press. ISBN 978-8890968051.
- "Arachnid Orchestra". www.arachnidorchestra.org.
- World's first fully solar certified manned flight 
- 53rd Venice Biennale 
- UN Climate Change Conference Paris COP21 
- L'Observatoire de l'Espace 
- Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS), 
- Calder Prize 
- TBA21 Academy  
- Museo Aero Solar 
- Becoming Aerosolar 
- Hayward Gallery 
- Hangar Bicocca 
- K21 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen