235 YEARS AGO, THE GROUNDS OF VERSAILLES WITNESSED THE FIRST EVER HUMAN BALLOON FLIGHT. A HOT-AIR BALLOON BUILT BY THE BROTHERS JOSEPH-MICHEL AND JACQUES-ÉTIENNE MONTGOLFIER TOOK THE FIRST HUMANS ON AIR AND ENTERED THE HISTORY OF BALLOONING.
As a new flânerie but with a clear purpose, Aerocene imagines air nomadism, a paradigm rethought to suit, and to function with humans and non-humans, floras and seas, moving around in symbiosis with planetary forces. It’s crucial to introduce a re-articulation of how we sense the world and its species, and to start thinking about how an equally distributed right to mobility might look. By looking at the world through these lenses, we can try to learn to not only respond to challenges posed by climate change but also actively prevent it from extending its reach.
Acting in liminal places, beyond borders and excluding surfaces, envisioning a future free from fossil fuels, lifted only by the heat of the sun and traveling around the world following wind currents and atmospheric forces, the aerosolar flight performance was set in Vallée du Loing in Moret-Loing-et-Orvanne in France, 2 hours outside of Paris.
We moved away from the French capital in the early morning, away from fluxes of life and subjective ambiances. Every so often, we catch urban societies and crowded cities, expressing and reflecting their portraying image to themselves. Mirroring the mise en scene of individual looks can echo a commonality but is frequently trapped in self-reflection, using the same image frame over and over again. “Paris is the city of mirror. The city is reflected in a thousand eyes, a thousand lenses…. the immaterial element of the city, her emblem…” (Walter Benjamin)
Embraced by a gentle fog, submerging everything that is visible to the human eye, we arrived to the departure spot around 7:30am. Surrounded by an impalpable vaporous aura, it took everyone long to see anything palpable at all. Finally, focus increased, enabling sights to land, distinguishing three motionless shadows in the mist. The amorphous entities stood still in the field, like prehistoric animals resting in a white cloud, waiting for the sun to appear.
The break of day showed no distinction between what is air, what is ground and what is not.. all floating in a misty landscape, margins and borders staying blurry and undefined.
Tiny figures, like soaring particles in the atmosphere, started moving around in small clusters, following an harmonious choreography playing with the fluctuating tempo of the Earth.
The energy spread in the air, perceivable through a breezy fingertips tickling, leading hands to move together with the rest of the community reunited on the field.
On the ground
How can we cool down the planet? How can we foster a new sensitivity towards the earth, the atmosphere and each other? How can we explore without exploiting? How to subvert the fossil fuel regime with regime of the Sun?
Preparing the field with a circular multilayered reflective launchpad created a space for atmospheric collaboration and thermodynamic imagination, where the mirrored surface harnesses thus reflecting the Sun’s energy.
Using a silver-coloured reflective surface, a kind of mirror image shining back at itself, in a country known to have rearticulated the luminous, the use of light in representations of the real and the unknown, as part of an art historical narrative, Aerocene - perhaps undeliberately - detaches itself from established domains of power, becoming, appearing in super(art-i)ficial illumination.
Collaborative action. We all joined the Earth’s albedo, bending light together. Recasting the Sun’s energy back to the cosmic, a dual energy conversion appeared but happened slowly. Through atmospheric forces themselves, the internal air of the D-O AEC was heated, enabling the sculpture to finally be On Air while at the same time pushing forward a cooling, a de-heatation of the Earth’s and its boundary layer.
An on-and-off hacking of the terrestrial sphere, leaving no footprint of its passage, the Aerocene community prepared the hemispherical aerosolar port ray by ray, action by action, preparing to take off the first fully solar human flight in France.
It takes time to inflate an aerosolar sculpture, filling it with emissions-free gases. It takes time for the sun to fully embrace it, furnishing its inside with heat. It takes time to start feeling the energy concentrating in and around the envelope. Time is all and cohabitation is everything.
Humans, sun, winds and soil are key ingredients in Aerocene flights. The cooperation grows and extends as they await the right moment to take off. A new aerosolar intuition marks every lift as community members flourish with each and every flight.
Energy collides, refracts and reflects, becoming all around the place, giving life to a kind of shamanic significance. It re-links us to the smallest and to the biggest elements of the universe. It initiates a rhythmic walk around the path of the reflective shape. Its focus point is all energies surrounding it, waiting to be collected, mixed and merged with the one of the Sun. It creates an uplifting vortex that, believe it or not, made the sculpture buoyant, defying gravity once again.
Floating in Aerocene, different ecologies of practice emerge, changing our modes of interaction and reflecting. In defiance, the current realities of the Anthropocene promotes climate instability and inherent proliferation of inequalities.
It's like jumping on the moon, but going towards the sun. You are bouncing up, you are bounce back down. The sculpture eagerly striving to be on air. It is a dance: on air, on the ground, on air, on the ground, and everytime you jump, you are lifting time. It becomes longer and longer, until you go up, and it stays still: lifted only by the sun and nothing else. You don't feel the wind. You are the wind.
6 people, 6 aerosolar pilots. Floating time of 1h 19 min. On air, with air, because of air.
Through the presence of an unbiased witness, Aerocene achieved a new, fully certified record for a completely solar human flight on 27 of October 2018.
On the same grounds as the first fuel-powered balloon flight 235 years earlier, we took off. This time, it wasn’t at the court of Versailles, in front of the king and queen of a monarchy soon to be ended by a revolutionary approach, dismantling the Ancien Régime. This time, it was because of a different régime, lead by the true Sun king, our life-giving star. A new time is born, enabling a new approach to sovereignty and power to grow.
With aerosolar flights, Aerocene community measures depths, looking at the possibilities of the atmosphere through the atmosphere itself. In conjunction with the DIT (do it together) spirit we thrive through collective action. We are constantly asking ourselves and the world around us more questions: how would breathing feel in a post fossil fuel economy, and what is our response-ability? How do we challenge geopolitical borders in an age of climate inequality? How can we start looking at things from another’s point of view, following a new, different rhythm of the planet?
Today Aerocene community took the field and dove into the ocean of air, embodying the aerosolar, re-thought and reflected deeper into the opportunities of a new reign. Bottom-up uprising will guide us, and hopefully lead us, the humanity and all life forms to re-connect to the elemental energy of the Sun.
Without the enthusiasm, support and contribution from the community, all this would never have been made possible. Thanks to all for coming.