This weekend Palazzo Strozzi
in Florence welcomed the first visitors to Tomás Saraceno. Aria, a major exhibition curated by Arturo Galansino devoted to one of the world's most original and visionary contemporary artists whose multi-disciplinary practice encompasses art, social and life sciences.
Saraceno creates immersive works and participatory experiences that suggest a new way of living in our world by making connections to non-human phenomena such as insects, dust particles and plants. This major exhibition is his largest project to date in Italy, responding to the specific context of Palazzo Strozzi, and its relationship to the cultural and scientific history of Florence.
The exhibition opens with a major site-specific installation for the courtyard of Palazzo Strozzi. This work, comprised of large, reflective spheres, introduces Saracenos interest in challenging our approach to environmental issues by envisioning a future free from borders and fossil fuels; ideals moved forward by the interdisciplinary artistic community initiated by Saraceno called Aerocene. The sculpture builds on Saracenos research into solar balloons that are capable of floating using only the heat of the sun, encouraging us to rethink the way we inhabit our planet in a poetic and collective manner.
The exhibition is organized around Saracenos Arachnomancy Cards, a set of thirty-three cards that celebrate the interconnectedness of all things, both living and inert. Inviting viewers to consider the spider and her web, the Arachnomancy Cards act as heralds, determining and announcing each room in the exhibition, composing new threads that connect seemingly disparate elements. Just as a spider sends out vibrational signals along its silky web, Saracenos works act as indicators of worlds beyond the bounds of human perception. By amplifying the unheard voices of those beings that are hidden in plain sight, Saraceno transforms Palazzo Strozzi into an arena where experimentation and participation provide the pathway to imaginative experiences, helping visitors to rethink the ways in which we inhabit the planet now and in the future, prioritizing practices of multispecies care and partnership over anthropocentric ideologies.
The exhibition continues from the courtyard installation onto the Piano Nobile amid large installations that allow visitors to immerse themselves in evocative settings that suggest alternative futures: Connectome, a set of suspended sculptures suggestive of the Weaire-Phelan geometries of soap bubbles, which borrows its name from the map of neural connections in the brain - the collection of pathways and synapses, the tangible record of thoughts and feelings; Sounding the Air and Webs of At-tent(s)ion, works containing the sensorial worlds of spider/webs and the affective and elemental atmospheres they compose; How to Entangle the Universe in a Spider Web?, a study into the relationship between dimensions, as communicated by a spiderweb; Particular Matter(s) Jam Session and Aerographies, installations investigating the connections between cosmic dust and the dust that litters our planet and lungs - black carbon, toxic pollution, and PM 2.5 - and their movements through the air; A Thermodynamic Imaginary, an absorbing experience of the universes desire to defy scale; and Flying Garden, a sculptural provocation which displaces our conventional notions of boundaries and territories.
The oracle of our present, past, and future, the spider and its web may be interpreted as a comprehensive metaphor for the exhibition. An extension of its cognitive system, the spiders web allows for communication with and orientation in the greater world through vibration, its consciousness mapped along threads like the neural map of our own brain. Saracenos collaborations with spiders offers us a way of connecting with their world - a moment of transcendence past the traditional hierarchical relationship through which we organize it.
Through public Arachnomancy readings and Saracenos Arachnomancy App, visitors are invited to cultivate new arts of noticing and consulting the spiderweb oracles, one of the many ways participants might reconsider what they have to learn from those with whom we share this planet. With the app, visitors may consult the spiderweb oracles they find in their daily life, and participate in the collective exercise of Mapping Against Extinction by recording spider/webs that might otherwise go unnoticed. The exhibition will also be accompanied by a full programme of events and activities that includes bringing projects such as Museo Aero Solar and Aerocene Flights to Florence and Tuscany performances of ongoing collaborative artworks that Saraceno has developed to explore new modes of transport powered by air and sunlight rather than fossil fuels.
The Palazzo Strozzi exhibition offers visitors an opportunity to discover the work of Tomás Saraceno and experience his vision of the world and its possibilities. He leaves space for phenomena or nonhuman entities such as dust, air, spiders or plants that become real active agents in the creation of his installations, responding to the historic Palazzo Strozzi by creating a dialogue between the Renaissance and the contemporary world - a shift from the hierarchical idea of man at the centre of the world to the conception of man as part of a universe in which to seek a new accord.