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The dream world of Argentinian artist Tomás Saraceno, unveiled at Espace Muraille in Geneva
Tomás Saraceno, Iridescent planet, 2015, iridescent foil, Inflatable, pump system, LED light. Courtesy: Tomás Saraceno; Pinksummer contemporary art, Genoa; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York; Andersen's Contemporary, Copenhagen, Esther Schipper Gallery, Berlin. © Photography by Studio Tomás Saraceno, 2015.

GENEVA.- Born in Argentina in 1973, Tomás Saraceno originally studied architecture and is now internationally renowned for his installations and sculptures that combine the worlds of art and science. His projects aim to respond to problems of the modern day, whether social or environmental, in a poetic fashion. Caroline and Eric Freymond, passionate art collectors and founders of Espace Muraille, have given the artist free rein for his first solo exhibition in Geneva. Aerocene focuses on the re-appropriation models of space and air that lie in the core of Saraceno’s artistic practice.

Ahead of the Paris climate conference, COP21…
Transparent ‘cloud cities,’ reminiscent of bouncy castles, an experimental city suspended between the earth and sky and floating only by means of solar heat, incredible spiders’ webs sparkling in the darkness… Tomás Saraceno’s visionary installations have been displayed in the world’s most prestigious museums: New York’s Metropolitan Museum, the Biennales of Venice, San Francisco, and the architecture biennial of Chicago, the Statens Museum for Kunst (National Gallery of Denmark) in Copenhagen, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Museum in St Louis, the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin, Stockholm’s Bonniers Konsthall, the Palais de Tokyo and the Louvre Museum in Paris…

The 2015 edition will centre on the utopias of Tomás Saraceno. Having been invited to take part in the United Nations climate conference (COP21) in Paris, from 4 to 11 December, he will unveil a major new work, Aerocene, at Grand Palais in the Champs-Élysées. In advance of this event, Swiss art-lovers will have the privilege of discovering fifteen of the artist’s works, most of them exhibited for the first time, in the space of Espace Muraille.

Aerocene – suspended works
Caroline and Eric Freymond are the passionate collectors behind this new venue dedicated to contemporary art, and have given the artist free rein. For his first exclusive exhibition in Geneva, Tomás Saraceno has chosen to represent the opportunity of the re-appropriation of space and air.

The title of the exhibition, Aerocene, refers to the Anthropocene, the geological period designating the time during which human activity has a significant impact on the Earth’s ecosystem. Aerocene is an exemplary of Saraceno’s creative work; it shows his unique take on space, articulated in his sculptures and suspended spiders’ webs, and represents the artist’s own veiled reference and response to the contemporary condition.

In search of an ‘attainable utopia’
Born in San Miguel de Tucumán, Argentina, in 1973, Tomás Saraceno’s career has followed a distinguishably atypical path, inspired by his own vigorous curiosity. As both, architect and artist, he studied in cities of Buenos Aires, Venice and Frankfurt, attended NASA’s International Space Studies programme in Silicon Valley, and had a period of residency at the French National Space Agency (CNES) in Paris, also sequentially winning the prestigious Calder Prize.

The list of Saraceno’s permanent installations include Oslo’s Sundial for Spatial Echoes, featuring polygons hung above an indoor courtyard, suggesting a myriad of droplets trapped in a giant spider’s web; On Clouds/Air-Port-City, an installation of clouds devised for the Towada Arts Center in Japan, and Munich’s Flying Garden, featuring plastic modules floating in the lobby of a building like colossal soap bubbles.

Central to Saraceno’s oeuvre are the Cloud Cities hovering above the roofs of Berlin, Tokyo, Rome and New York since the 2000s. These ‘cloud cities’ recall the buoyant installations, created using ultra-fine transparent materials in order to shape biospheres that suggest a world without gravity.

Tomás Saraceno continues to pursue his ideal of an ‘attainable utopia’ in collaboration with engineers, physicists, chemists and biologists, aiming at original solutions to contemporary problems such as the ecological crisis, population growth and the social and political consequences of globalization.

Drawing inspiration from the complex geometric structures of clouds, soap bubbles and spiders’ webs, the artist uses his inhabitable modular platforms to suggest alternative and lasting societies and ways of life. Saraceno uses poetry to invite us to rethink the world and our relationship with nature in a more respectful and synergetic way.

Challenging frontiers and gravity
Over the last few years, Tomás Saraceno has been concentrating on the further iterations of his project Air-Port-City, an experimental concept of a floating city powered by solar energy, inspired by the work of visionary architectural theorists such as Richard Buckminster Fuller and the Archigram group. Air-Port-City might be described as a giant airport through which anyone can pass freely in transit to any destination in the world – a lasting and yet aesthetic form of migration without any borders or administrative, political or economic obstacles, unlike the kind of migration currently, and tragically, dominating headlines.

The works chosen for Espace Muraille are all interlinked in their connection to this global project that challenges not only the common notions of territory and borders, but also of urban social models. These interconnected structures exist independently as sculptures and installations in their own right. Over the course of fifteen previously not exhibited works, we can find the artist’s attempt of taking flight in order to reinforce the bond with the Earth, becoming reality.

In Aerocene Tomás Saraceno also explores the mysterious world of spiders. In the basement of Espace Muraille, a visitor is confronted with an extraordinary web that seems to float in the air, while actually being trapped inside transparent glass vitrines. This web was created in the artist’s laboratory set up in the tropical rainforest of Ecuador, where a number of social spider species can be found. To create the work, Tomás Saraceno placed spiders in a box and waited for them to start weaving, before turning the box several times to alter the gravitational field. This process generates webs that cannot be found anywhere in the nature.

The spider’s web as metaphor
The fifteen works presented at Espace Muraille cover several strands of the artist‘s practice. If the spider’s web appears to be ‘a metaphor for our interconnected world, or even an imaginary cosmogony, Saraceno’s dreamlike installations for their part redefine the relationship between man and nature’, says Laurence Dreyfus, curator of the Geneva exhibition.

Caroline Freymond visited Tomás Saraceno’s studio, set up in a vast former factory in Berlin, along with Laurence Dreyfus, and was impressed by the dynamism of his experimental structures and the leitmotiv of participation, both making a singular view of the universe and the world. ‘Tomás Saraceno’s projects defy traditional notions of space, time, consciousness and gravity. The artist is inspired by the desire to change our way of life and our perception of reality. His modules incorporating coloured glass carry us along on a cloud that is full of poetry. It is almost as if we were to land on B612, the asteroid named after Saint-Exupéry’s Little Prince – a fragile dwarf planet, but so symbolic of life… Tomás Saraceno succeeds in making the imaginary world of his works a revelatory experience for everyone who encounters it. “Make your life a dream and your dreams reality” – there is something of Saint-Exupéry in the artist’s positive and captivating philosophy of life.’

In Switzerland and on the planet Earth…
In Switzerland, Saraceno’s works have even found their way to a children’s series co-produced by RTS (Art4Kids 2012, presenting his Cloud Cities). While his project Air-Port-City was shown in Geneva in 2006. Finally, the participative collection action and the installation of Museo Aero Solar – a community that is initiated by Tomás Saraceno among others – covers several countries, including Switzerland. Its aerospatial construction exclusively consisting of reused plastic bags, collected via a call for public action, invites us to rethink how we deal with resources, energy and their distribution and circulation cycles. The collective project, which includes a number of individual appearances across the world, intends to show how a pollutant material can bring a focus on a wider environmental reflection.

Tomás Saraceno lives and works in Berlin but, above all, he lives ‘on and beyond planet Earth’.

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