The Berlin-based, Argentinian-born artist Tomás Saraceno is known for his spectacular, light, airy and interactive installations. He has just launched his most ambitious project to date with a new proactive initiative at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris during the COP21 climate conference. But is it only castles in the air? asks Sophie Lovell.
Can activist gestures – even beautiful poetic ones – make any real difference? Can they really have an effect on policies and actions beyond the sharing of striking images by the liberal chattering masses of social media? We were promised a global sense of belonging in the digital age of the maturing Anthropocene, but it looks sometimes like what we have ended up with is a splintered society just as aggressively tribal and bigoted as it was before the Roman Empire. With the class of certain presidential candidates these days, one despairs of us ever living up to the brave and optimistic name of Homo sapiens. Perhaps Homo ferox or Homo avarus are a great deal more appropriate.
But there are those who still really believe we can be better and are prepared to fight for that with their poetic gestures. The artist Tomás Saraceno is one of them. Launched on December 6, during the gathering of the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference COP21 in Paris – from which we are still awaiting (with not much hope it has to be said) any significant agreement on emission control and climate change – Saraceno’s latest art project at the Grand Palais with an accompanying symposium at the Palais de Tokyo. Aerocene, as the artwork is called, will be a series of giant ball-shaped spherical sculptures (or maybe just one – it is a little unclear) “inflated by the air, lifted by the sun and carried by the wind” that will be launched from January 2016 and circumnavigate around the globe by hitching a ride on the jet streams “without the burning of fossil fuels, without using solar panels, batteries; helium, hydrogen or other rare gases”.
For Saraceno the catchily-named Aerocene project is about “reactivating the collective imagination” and with it he is adding his voice to those calling for investment in new ideas to fuel our transition out of the fossil fuel age – before we manage to extinguish most of the life on our planet. For beyond his own sculptures he is generating an open collective call to action for groups of individuals all over the world for “multiple and concrete solutions for our common environment, now and here on Earth”.
It is ambitious, idealistic, attractive and impractical – how does global air traffic feel about having giant silver balloons floating about on their motorways in the sky for example? – it is also quite naïve and a little bit silly. Which is exactly why we should probably support the hell out of it.
Read about another of Tomás Saraceno’s recent projects Hybrid Solitary… Semi-Social Quintet… On Cosmic Webs… in the uncube blog here.