Museo Aero Solar, already presented in more than 20 locations worldwide since its start in spring 2007, is a global collective.  One of its initiators, Tomás Saraceno, defines it as “a solar balloon completely made up of reused plastic bags, with new sections being added each time it travels the world.”[1]

By making a speculative reversion of our impact on the earth, which is also denominated as a turn from Holocene to Anthropocene, Museo Aero Solar claims to “reduce and remove the imprint that humans leave.”[2]

[Neither] a brand, [nor] a copy-righted artwork […] neither a flying sculpture, nor a symbol or an aestheticization of some good, politically correct , eco-sustainable practice,Museo Aero Solar is firstly a community. What kind of future promise does it bear? Even if it does have an ecological claim, the general practice attaining more and more presence nowadays, it all stems from a contra-cultural and revolutionary movement: ggested change.e first of all ..ial, political and economical values, and... and thought like one of the famous “Stecca degli artigiani” squats in Milan (active 2001-2007)[3], which positioned itself against “eco-gentrification”[4] of urban space. The journey of the sculpture marks the clear political inclination, and a sensibility of the project: it has been assembled from Medellin to the Fustat district in Cairo, passing by Ein Hawd, the first Arab village recognized by The State of Israel, to the Biennial of Havana.

Utopia or reality?

Distinct in its optimism, the vision of the society that Saraceno has is as diverse, and colourful, as Museo Aero Solar’s sculptures. Becoming aerosolar, lifting our dwelling to the cloud level, would allow us to pacify cultural conflicts, to abolish national borders, and to solve geopolitical issues. In return it would bring socially distributed equality, thus freeing this aerosolar society from its common contingencies, and leave its further shape and structure for atmospheric elements. The common ‘ground’ in this case would be just an artistic experiment, floating us all together in the air. The principles that Saraceno relies on and articulates in his visions, such as participative actions, co-creation, and do-it-together practices, make this future society less apparent as a complex body of entangled social, political, and economic values, and more similar to a cyber-network, driven by an artistic aerosolar artifice.

Besides momentary workshops, and without the actual experience of living above the clouds, this community of aerosolar becoming virtually exists as an online social network. Saraceno says that his aim is “to build a city in the air, just as we’re building Linux or Wikipedia today.”[5] Thus, Museo Aero Solar is not only a sculpture, a museum made of reused plastic bags, but also a blog, a website, YouTube channel, Facebook community, Twitter hashtags, Instagram galleries, open Dropbox folders, wiki–tutorials, etc. To participate in Museo Aero Solar in one way or another is also to float in the blogosphere, a space that is extremely fluid and open. These features of communication channels reciprocate with the internal logic of the project. 

Tomás Saraceno sees the clear link between the three realities, or three types of networks: the ecosystem of digital media, the atmosphere of the globe with its co-dependant climate fluxes and flows, and the aerosolar society that inhabits it. The project of “Aerocene” seems to part from the roots, found in underground, counter–activism of the whole aerosolar initiative. Nevertheless, it goes forth with a de-policing of the world, and draws on a global and de-territorialised community living in the borderless sky. A social model as such proposes a new vision for humanity, where hierarchies, pre-defined identities, and organisational models are discarded in favour of horizontal, equal and immediate interactions between individuals within the aerosolar time–space.

Scarcity or abundance?

The intelligibility of Museo Aero Solar, Becoming Aerosolar, and Aerocene lies in the peculiar lightness of the way they translate, articulate (and highjack) the gravest problems of our times. The contemporary atmospheric condition is distinguished by violent meteorological phenomena, of the rising concentration of toxic gases and particles that constitute the most invisible pollution. Saraceno chooses to highjack global warming, and to treat its causality–the greenhouse effect–diametrically. He does not call for an immediate and definitive measure. Rather on the contrary, his vision employs the physical, thermodynamic process of warming, and makes it the main energy source–free and unlimited. This research, supported by collaborations with the scientific teams of NASA and CNES, thus materializes in the ultrathin membrane, a tiny wall between interior and exterior that enables the sculpture to harness the energies of the sun and the earth to go aloft.[6]

 The similar logic overruns the position taken towards the Anthropocene. The term comes from the new geological strata, the one mostly formed by the human activities of over–production and accumulation of artificial, synthetic, or composite materials, which are produced by transforming natural resources in an irreversible manner. Keeping this in consideration, aerosolar undertakings challenge traditional ecological positions by building its material base on plastic. Museo Aero Solar workshops bear the capacity to stitch more than 20.000 plastic bags together, and thus refuse becomes a resource. While downgrading, downsizing, and austerity have been eagerly adopted by the dominant discourse nowadays, Saraceno reveals, exploits (and denounces) this form of abundance that flows from an erroneous patterns and habits of production and consumption. Ambiguous, dynamic, less subversive than transgressive, his aerosolar can be seen as sublime parasites, or radical enterprises of diverting our inherited world.

Resistance or escapology?

Saraceno’s aerosolar undertakings, and namely, Aerocene, imply unrestricted movement across borders of art, architecture, and science. The ‘chimerical,’ highly prolific results of Saraceno’s research impair disciplinary boundaries by keeping political commitments and unbounded creative spirit. The highly advanced scientific knowledge that enters the project is met with the philosophy of low–tech, the methods of bricolage, decreased velocity, and collaborative work. Celebrated in the well-established scene of contemporary art, Saraceno’s works permanently urge to transgress and to escape the immune sphere that, according to Sloterdijk, symbolizes our over–developed world. Besides the playfulness of interactivity, his architectural artistic interventions bring sensations ranging from weightless levitation to vertigo, from disorientation to unique sensitivity to another being. Precisely these “anomalous” settings and feelings empower the aerosolar future projections and its ambitious initial realisations. 

In the current ecological discourse, science and technology are summoned together to curb climate change. As in “sustainable” architecture, the blind solutions go to the matter of isolation that is treated as a theoretical aim and a practical claim. Contrary to the repressive inclinations of the two, Saraceno does not resist the climate, the atmosphere, or the weather. He chooses to engage with its prodigious dynamics, and to rely on its thermodynamic fortune. “When Cloud Cities are in use, we will have learned to live on Spaceship Earth. To have the know–how to build a cloud city, you'll need to know the wind, weather, and temperature,”[7]  he says. The first lesson to learn here, under Aerocene, is to hinder the accumulation of protective layers in which we tend to enclose ourselves: instead of producing artificial climates, we should learn to inhabit the one that (still) exists and surrounds us.

 — Pierre Chabard

A longer version of this essay has been published in French in Criticat, biannual architecture review, n°16, fall 2015, cf.

 

Notes:

[1] “Museo Aero Solar,” last modified July 27, 2015, https://museoaerosolar.wordpress.com .

[2] “Museo Aero Solar,” http://museoaerosolar.weebly.com.

[3] Félix Mulle, “Un ‘conflit créatif’ autour d‘un espace délaissé à Milan,” Criticat 2 (2008): 112-123.

[4] Mara Ferreri, Alberto Pesavento, Bert Theis, “ Isola: Arte e comunità contro l'Eco-gentrification a Milano,” European Institute for Progressive Cultural Policies, June 2009 (www.eipcp.net/ n/1244798405/).

[5] Inés Kazenstein,  “Tomás Saraceno : A View from Buenos Aires,” ed. Meredith Malone and Igor Marjanovic, in Tomás Saraceno : Cloud-Specific, (St. Louis: Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, 2014) 43.

[6] Tomás Saraceno and Bronislaw Szerszynski,  “Devenons solaires” , Anthropocène Monument symposium, 11th October 2014, Musée des Abattoirs, Toulouse, France.

[7] Kisa Lala, “Walking on air: Getting Cloud-Specific with Tomás Saraceno,” The Huffington Post, May 2012. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kisa-lala/walking-on-air_b_1556868.html)