Notes from Palais de Tokyo

Notes from Palais de Tokyo: Looking Skywards with our Next Generation of Creators

Reflections on the value of running Aerocene workshops with children.

By Grace Pappas

So much inspiration. So much excitement. So much was felt amongst our youngest of Aeronauts.

Children. Give them some materials, some space in and they will create their own worlds to completely immerse themselves within in no time. They take what you give them and use it as material to weave brilliant worlds of imagination. We speak a lot of the value of childhood imagination in the creative field, but how does this abstract value translate in graspable real-life terms?

In the context of the Aerocene workshops in Palais de Tokyo, I gave newborn Aerocene enthusiasts spheres, lenses, sticks and tape; they created floating cities, silver dragon parachutes, hand-held solar concentrators, all taken out of our most innocent and colourful dreams. It is easy to accept how lovely such exercises are but can we dig deeper into talking of the value of it?

The point of departure for this conversation is that imagination doesn’t stay confined only within the realms of the intangible and inexistent. Imagination is a form of future creation.  Growing up, we get exposed to information, ideas and possibilities. Later in our lives this early information we get exposed to turns into usable knowledge answering to our everyday problems; imagination reconfigured into real-world answers. Nourishing this collection of information early can give rise to new possibilities in the future. What we dream of today lays the grounds for how we problem solve in the future. These are the building blocks for the world of the future. Being aware of this can be one of the most seminal points in conversing about the environment and finding creative ways to sustain it. With this in mind, I look positively into a future when our young Aeronauts become engineers, architects, and thinkers.

Children. They take what you give them and use it as material to weave brilliant worlds of imagination. This imagination is a form of future creation

When I was maybe 10 years old, my father gifted me an origami book he found during his travels in Japan. I got immersed in it, trying out all the different creations I had the time and patience exploring. Among them was a model for a paper bird that opened and closed its beak as a geometrical response to the opening and closing of its wings.

11 years later I met Daniel and the Aerocene team during an Aerocene Hack in London. They presented me an interesting fact and a thought provoking challenge. Fact: Balloons expand as they go upwards. Challenge: Create a trap that tests for life at 10 km height. All came together; the origami got on the balloon and it became a trap to test life in the air. Simple. Uncomplicated. Elemental. Of course not all experiences are as  linear as this but the value remains the same; the information we learn while growing to become adults reconfigure into answers to problems we are faced with later in our lives. If the information we find valuable to collect is mechanically inclined, it is only natural that the answers we come up with are going to mirror that.





What materials do we pass on to our next generation? And perhaps more importantly, how can these materials define the world of tomorrow? How different is tomorrow going to look like if we pointed the kids to look at the sun as a source of energy instead of fossil fuels? What if we gave children an aerosolar sculpture instead of a toy car or plane? What if we raised them with stories of floating with the wind instead of stories of violent conquering? At a critical time for our planet like this, we can imagine very easily how teachings we pass on to the next generation can become a make-it-or-break-it-deal for the future of our planet. The responsibility is huge but so is the potential.


Think about this. Parents! What if you borrowed an Aerosolar Sculpture from Aerocene Foundation and head outdoors? Reattune yourselves and your children to the environment. Teach each other. Show your kids how bodies can be lifted so simply; all it takes is some air and heat coming from the sun. Sow your children’s thinking toolboxes with seeds of mechanical, fossil-fuels-free principles and let us see together how these seeds can sprout into the future.

Aerocene Albedo


The Aeroreflector invites a collective turn towards the most important energy source for earthly life, the Sun. In positioning our tools-for-change towards it, we enter into an active multi-directional relationship with our brightest shining star, forming an act of hope-filled togetherness and solidarity with the Earth’s natural surface reflectivity, known as albedo. Based on a truncated pyramid concept developed long before the Anthropocene, the parabolic structure of the Aeroreflector reveals generational connections across various cultures, materialising methodical parabolic techniques, essentially formulating a solar thermal collector for heating. The concept of concentrating light using curved mirrors has historically helped civilisations to use collective efforts to heat, cook, and to share meals from renewable energy sources, collaborating with simple forms of abundant elemental energies instead of the extraction of commodity fuels for combustion-based process of heat generation, at the expense of all natural phenomena, ourselves included. In becoming more familiar with direct solar energy, discovering the warmth from this life-providing star and the ocean of air through which it transmits, we can rearticulate the way energy and heating power has been (ab)used since the dawn of a human-influenced geologic age. Turning our attention to new circular modes of nourishing each other and the planet simultaneously, we enter into a renewed reflective practice; one in which we re-attune to the Earth, adhering not only to ourselves but interplanetary rhythms, other species and nature itself too. Through this multidisciplinary exchange, we collectively attempt to understand how the sun made us, and what the sun could make of us, if we begin to sense it differently.



If the sun doesn’t shine, we adjust, collectively embodying a practice of planetary attunement.


​Be careful: smooth and slow moves.


​Following the form of emissions-free parabolic solar cookers, attach the four-peg support structure to the base positioned at the central focal point of the parabola.​



This central focal point is where maximised solar energy is captured. Place your pot into the warming embrace of the four-peg structure.


Attach the spoon/fork supplied to the unhinged handle, making it an handy-long tool to protect your hands from the heat emanated by the Aeroreflector.



A transparent heat trap around the pot allows sunlight to enter whilst also enclosing the heat. The reflecting surface around capture extra sunlight from an area about three times as big as the pot.


Set the entire structure on a dry, level surface in direct sunshine, away from potential shadows. Put ingredients in the pot. Turn every 15 min to the rhythm of the Sun’s movement. If the weather is optimal, you can even boil or barbecue your food.


Never leave the umbrella unattended; do not place your hand directly in the focal point.

Subverting the individualised functionality of the umbrella as a tool for self-protection from the rain or rays of Sun, the Aeroreflector’s inversion transforms the umbrella into a speculative tool for communal activity and aerial attunement. The Aeroreflector joins the Earth’s surface albedo in redirecting the energy of the sun away from the surface, oceans and atmosphere of our Planet, solidarising ourselves with this natural process that maintains the thermodynamic balance of the Earthly system, which is increasingly.


In the age of the Anthropocene, reframing the use of the umbrella invites us to enter not only a reflective practice in communication with the sun, but to also further reflect on the extractive relations of our fossil fuel milieu, whose inherent inequalities proliferate into the air, creating a human-driven thermodynamic shift that has redefined the life-giving energy of the Sun as a threat, experienced by the consequences of Earthly warming.

Aerocene Albedo, 2018
Installation views and Aerocene performances on the occasion of ‘Audemars Piguet presents Tomas Saraceno for Aerocene’ at Art Basel Miami, 2018.

Courtesy Aerocene Foundation.

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