Hello, I am sitting above you on a cloud. I am out in the forest, on the phone with Tomás Saraceno. Birds are singing, mushrooms are growing, and hips are swinging. Overhead, like Greek idols in a baroque ceiling painting by Tiepolo, we see Tomás Saraceno and his friends drinking coffee, sitting, chatting, killing time, comfortably stretching their limbs in the air. It’s cool and perfect in design. The only complex element, far behind the figures, is the suggestion of a stucco ornament, which seems like a strange symbol that might open the door to eternity. You experience a cold rush when first confronted by such a well-proportioned environment. How is it that these things are hanging unsupported in the sky? What keeps their sturdy forms so realistically etched in the air like human stencils? Or is this a play on Kundera’s pronouncement about the “lightness of being”? Saraceno is a master of fishing information from almost any pond. Like a school of fish, his senses swim round and round in circles, constantly scanning his territory: the Internet, magazines, discussions in bathrooms, phone calls, and all sorts of sources. Whether by day or by night, he’s always bright, fixing a plastic model here, twisting a cardboard house there.
On the one hand, Saraceno practices the intensity of the late nineteenth century. On the other hand, his fantastic attitude toward appropriation rocks and rolls. As a result of this “drilling everywhere” approach—particularly into the knowledge NASA’s research has accumulated—he discovered the mysterious substance aerogel, a lighter-than-air material used in space suits. The gel appealed to him as a product for its almost ethereal, esoteric qualities, and his fascination recalls the way Matthew Barney must have felt after connecting with the voluptuousness of petroleum jelly for the first time.
Clever, like any salesman should be, the artist-architect Saraceno redesigned this “raw product” into his “personal aerogel,” using it to invent and patent a new skin, a structure for solar power-driven floating objects based on a pioneering use of this new material. His dream of floating in the sky recalls visionary figures such as Jules Verne, Buckminster Fuller, and Panamarenko. To ride amorphous hazes of gas like masses of clouds is, at first glance, poetic and romantic. To use those wonderful archetypes directly as transportation, or even as landscapes and organic living machines, directly touches back on NASA’s space program. And that’s what artistic meditation can do: transcend the status of airplanes (which are everywhere) using egg-shaped molecule baby booms. And right there appears Manzoni with his 1959 cotton painting. He wouldn’t have come back for no reason—the work is done! The clouds run, says Panamarenko, who stands on the ground, just having gotten rid of one of those annoying guys who asked the same question for thirty years: “Does it really fly?”
It takes artists like Saraceno to blow the lid off the pot, to fulfill one of mankind’s dreams, which means a new technology, religion, proclamation, and blasting heaven into the sky.
No New Age please—what I mean is simple baroque gold-leafing …
Thomas Bayrle, 2014 November, published in Cloud Cities