Argentina-born artist Tomás Saraceno — who “lives and works in and beyond the planet Earth” — creates ultracool installations that dazzle the senses and the mind — like his 2012 Met roof installation, Cloud City. But there are multiple dimensions of space and time to his work, as his sixth solo exhibition at Tanya Bonakdar, “Tomás Saraceno: Solar Rhythms,” demonstrates, immersing visitors into his unique view of the future of the universe. Although Saraceno is not a scientist, he has had residencies at the MIT Center for Art, Science and Technology and the French National Space Agency, resulting in his creation of environmentally sensitive pieces generated purely by sun and wind, with no need of fossil fuels, solar panels, or batteries. As he explains, “While enterprises to colonize other planets are put in place, this very same interface between us and the Sun and the atmosphere continues to be compromised: Carbon emissions fill the air, invisible radio waves develop in a hegemonic algorithm of finance, particulate matter floats inside our lungs. How would breathing feel in a post fossil fuel economy, and what is our response-ability?”
The centerpiece of the exhibit is “Aerocene Constellation 3/2,” a pair of large-scale inflatable orbs both reflective and transparent. Saraceno has declared that the current Anthropocene age will be followed by the Aerocene epoch, “one of atmospherical and ecological consciousness, where we together learn how to float and live in the air, and to achieve an ethical collaboration with the environment.” Several hanging sculptures — “Calder Upside Down 35/20/18/12/10/8/6,” “Aerosolar Lyra,” “Solar Eclipse” — surround the two inflatables, with lighting that extends the works through shadows and reflections on the walls, floor, and other pieces. Don’t miss the back room; the doorway is pitch black, so many people don’t realize they can enter and encounter “Sounding the Air,” an immersive sound and light project involving spider silk as a form of travel. (Do not walk in front of the stand with the small purple lights, as repeated sound emissions could damage the work.) Also downstairs are the Aerocene Float Predictor, an app that plots out Aerocene travel through wind and weather patterns, and the Aerocene Explorer, a floating kit for individual use.
The exhibition continues upstairs with a pair of short documentary films, Frederik Jacobi’s Aerocene and Diving into the Ocean of Air, which show some of Saraceno’s projects in action, floating above White Sands, New Mexico, and the Salinas Grandes salt lake in Jujuy, Argentina, respectively. In another room is a collection of fab objects, including hand-blown glass inspired by the Weaire-Phelan structure, filled with human breath and resembling soap bubbles that mimic constellations, and “RAY 1080,” which references the speed of light. Thus, every work in the exhibition incorporates some aspect of sustainability and our relationship with the environment, one that needs help, and fast. And Saraceno here presents some fascinating ways forward.