The work of Tomás Saraceno is widely thought to draw its inspiration from the speculative traditions of fantasy and science fiction, but it is in fact more truly related to problems of contemporary knowledge.
Saraceno was born in 1973, the year that saw the publication of Thomas Pynchon’s landmark novel, Gravity’s Rainbow, a work whose famous first line—“A screaming comes across the sky…”—can be said to have signaled a notable shift in aesthetic attention to the geometrical, geopolitical, and technological placement of figures into the atmosphere over our heads. (The “screaming” referred to the parabolic curve along which sailed the Nazi V-2 rockets that rained down on wartime London.) The novel that followed was a veritable essay on the social uses and misuses of scientific knowledge, from nonlinear geometries and probability theory to that of social networks, behavioral psychology, and chemical engineering. In exactly this way, the overriding social imperative is primary in the work of Tomás Saraceno.
The work undeniably draws on the tradition of visionary architects from the hot-air globes aérostatiques of the Montgolfier brothers that floated over the French Ardèche in the 1780s to the self-supporting domes of Buckminster Fuller that were centrally conceived as ships or vacuoles within the “air ocean” just beyond the earth’s crust. But like these examples, its larger intention is to serve as harbinger of new psychic and political spaces to come.
Additionally, Saraceno’s work reflects an abiding interest in the hybrid geometries that link across the biological continuum: from the lightweight structures of spiderweb geometry to the deeply imbricated loops of information and energy that cybernetically bind the chemical processes of the biosphere to the life forms and social systems they sustain. Ultimately, Saraceno is interested in a biotechnological “psychogeography” that taps into the ancient capacity of living systems to adapt ever again to entirely new habitats, just as they once emerged, either of necessity or simple opportunism, from the sea to inhabit land. This time, however, in Saraceno’s universe, the feat will be accomplished within a hybrid of psychic, technological, and biological innovation, initially as delirious image, soon to be followed in concrete political reality.
In the project presented here on the terrace of the renowned Le Corbusier–designed Carpenter Center, Saraceno will erect and dock an air-filled, 7-meter-tall, 14-sided, irregular, transparent structure loaded with solar cells, sensors, recorders, and transmitters intended not only to record the environment but to incorporate and be integrated into it as well.* In collaboration with various space agencies and local amateur operators, the apparatus, or a confederacy of others like it, has the potential to be launched into free space to interact with the urban ocean above. —SK
*Inflation of object is dependent on weather conditions.