Inspired by the work of Dominic Michaelis, an English architect and inventor who came up with the technology for a solar-powered hot air balloon, Poetic Cosmos of the Breath is a time-based, experimental, solar dome that takes flight only under certain climatic conditions. It uses deceptively simple materials: a paper-thin foil accompanied by a few sandbags, and a handful of participants to produce a startlingly ethereal, shimmering effect. Staged at dawn, as temperature conditions naturally shift, air inside the balloon is heated by a greenhouse effect and the lightweight material slowly lifts off the ground completely unaided by machines or electrical power. At the same time, sunlight cast through the material creates a vibrant rainbow-tinged iridescent glow.
Firstly commissioned by The Arts Catalyst in 2007 as a performative action at Gunpowder Park in Essex, the installation was later presented in 2013 at “Mobile M+: Inflation!”, Hong Kong as a temporary event occurring periodically during the show.
A report on the morning appeared on Michaela Crimmin’s RSA’s Art & Ecology blog: “On a recent Saturday morning I experienced one of the great rewards for working with artists. I got up before dawn to go to Gunpowder Park to see the latest work by Argentinian artist Tomas Saraceno. … Saraceno’s work poses the idea of floating cities. At the invitation of Arts Catalyst he brought a giant inflatable to the early morning autumn mists of Essex. It lay there, a huge circle of sheeting on the ground, held down by sandbags. A small group of lucky, lucky people were there in the dew. Slowly we helped the giant fill with air and grow as the sun came up and saw it brought to life, the colours of the foil which forms part of the material spectacularly colourful as the sun reflected off it. This is why I work with artists – this is a serious, magical, unique, positive experience. This is invigoration for the Green movement, for the Climate Change lobby, for the scientists pouring over statistics and charts. Thanks to Saraceno and to Arts Catalyst we who were there will remember this morning for the rest of our lives.”