Tomás Saraceno

Cloud Cities

Exhibition „Cloud Cities“, Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin 2011 © Jens Ziehe Exhibition „Cloud Cities“,  Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin 2011 © Jens ZieheSeeming contradictions merge into unexpected syntheses in Tomás Saraceno’s spherical installations. Forms mix playfully with each other and at the same challenge the laws of gravity.

In his installation for the exhibition Rethink: Contemporary Art and Climate Change, which was held in 2009 in the National Gallery of Denmark (Statens Museum for Kunst) in Copenhagen on the occasion of the UN climate summit, transparent, soap-bubble shaped forms were kept suspended by net-like cord webs (Biosphere 01). In his solo exhibition Cloud Cities 20 transparent spheres filled with diverse materials turned the hall of the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin into a gigantic experiential laboratory (2011/12). Via ladders, visitors could climb into two of the forms and romp about almost weightlessly on a gently resilient foil stretched half-way up. Saraceno accessed the skies above New York’s Metropolitan Museum through enterable, mutually communiative modules that suggest a mixture of molecular structures and space stations (Cloud Cities, 2012).  

Exhibition „Cloud Cities“,  Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin 2011 © Jens Ziehe

Biosphere, Cloud Cities, Flying Garden/Air-Port-City, Space Elevator, Matrix – the titles of Tomás Saraceno’s installations sound like a mix of leading-edge natural science and science fiction. This multi-media artist, who was born in Tucumán, Argentina and has lived in Frankfurt am Main for years now, continually crosses the boundaries between art and his original academic field of architecture. At the same time, he builds bridges to the natural sciences and environmental and space exploration. Not without reason is Saraceno in productive exchange with both the European and American space agencies as well as with a series of natural scientists, for instance from the field of arachnology (the science of spiders and related animals).

The installations with which Saraceno has created both furor and fascination in a number of major European and North American cities are a poetic and simultaneously concrete, material plea for mutually potentiating interactions among nature, art and technology. They are biomorphic and futuristic at the same time, filigree and durable, architecturally down-to-earth and dream-like.

Exhibition „Cloud Cities“,  Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin 2011 © Studio Tomás Saraceno

In view of global environmental destruction and climate change, some find the idea of a new existence in artificially created biospheres somewhat seductive. Saraceno’s installations are sometimes interpreted along these lines as well, especially the enterable platforms of Cloud Cities. But Saraceno himself dismisses such escapism. He stated in a video interview on the occasion of his exhibition in the Kemper Art Museum (USA, 2011/12): “Thinking that the world’s environmental problems can be solved by building a spaceship to go somewhere else corresponds to a linear mode of thinking.” Quite the contrary, he wishes to “question the political, social, cultural and military restrictions that are accepted today”: “We human beings have not really understood how nature and the ecosystem function. We too are part of the system of nature.”

Saraceno advocates abandoning habitual patterns of thought, and understanding that we are learners. Of particular importance here is the joy in experimentation, free of the fear of making mistakes: “Changes are often the result of mistakes. We develop and evolve through making mistakes, too. Art sometimes helps us think in less linear ways. Sometimes you notice that something is pretty useful, while you’re doing something else at that moment.” Learning from nature and at the same time contributing to its preservation using state-of-the art technology. Artificial membranes and communicative spatial clusters, thinking in cycles that at the same time point beyond themselves – those who open themselves to the philosophy behind Tomás Saraceno’s art works feel this creative energy. A “walk through the clouds” in his Cloud Cities beguiles us into abandoning prescribed paths, invites us to shift our perspectives and sets free unexpected – perhaps even liberating – flashes of insight.
Bettina Bremme
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V.
February 2013


    Tomás Saraceno © Studio Saraceno
    Tomás Saraceno was born in Argentina in 1973. After spending his early childhood in Italy, he returned to Argentina, where he studied architecture and art. In 2001 he enrolled at the Städelschule in Frankfurt and then in 2003 at the IUAV in Venice. Currently he lives and works in Berlin. His recent international exhibitions include: “Roof Garden Installation”, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2012); “On space time foam”, HangarBicocca, Milan (2012-2013); „Cloud Cities“, Hamburger Bahnhof - Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin (2011-2012). Selected group exhibitions with the artist’s participation: "20 Jahre Gegenwart", MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt (2011); Installation at the Italian Pavilion at the 53rd Venice Biennial, Venice (2009). His solo show „In Orbit” opens in June 2013 at K21 Ständehaus, Düsseldorf.