Visiting Artist Considers the Flying City

by Amy Marcott on November 8, 2012

in Arts, Design, Events

Cloud City on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo: Studio Tomás Saraceno.

Cloud City on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo: Studio Tomás Saraceno. View video of the installation below.

Argentinian Tomás Saraceno, a visiting artist at MIT’s new Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST), explores the entangled relationships people have with the Earth and with one another. Originally trained as an architect, he combines engineering, physics, chemistry, aeronautics, and materials science to create, as the CAST website notes, “inflatable and airborne biospheres with the morphology of soap bubbles, spider webs, neural networks, or cloud formations” that invite onlookers to consider different ways of coexisting.

His Cloud City, a series of interconnected habitat-like modules, was installed on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York from May 15 through Nov. 4. While at MIT, he’ll focus on new work supporting this ongoing Cloud Cities series.

His piece On Space Time Foam is currently on exhibit at the HangarBicocca in Milan, Italy, until Feb. 3, 2013. It consists of three levels of clear film—what Saraceno describes as lasagna—suspended some 65 feet above the floor.

Saraceno's On Space Time Foam at the HangarBicocca in Milan, Italy. Photo: Studio Tomás Saraceno.

Saraceno’s On Space Time Foam at the HangarBicocca in Milan, Italy. Photo: Studio Tomás Saraceno.

Each level has a different climate and air pressure, and visitors (though not those with a fear of heights, vertigo, and/or claustrophobia) can enter one of the layers and discover how their weight and the weight of others shapes the surrounding space. The installation can also be viewed from the floor.

When you go in, the weight of your body forms space by stretching and opening the material as you transit,” he said in an interview published in Domus. “It is difficult to picture a more co-related and co-dependent space than that one! Up there, any of my movements will condition yours and those of everybody else.”

Tomás Saraceno. Watch video of him describing his work and inspiration on the HangarBicocca website.

Tomás Saraceno. Watch video of him describing his work and inspiration on the HangarBicocca website.

In a video interview on the HangarBicocca website, Saraceno says he’s inspired in part by the idea of multiple universes and membrane theory. Watch the video of him describing his work and inspiration. On Space Time Foam will eventually become a floating biosphere above the Maldives Islands that is made habitable with solar panels and desalinated water.

Saraceno’s On-Campus Talk

On Nov. 15 at 6:30 p.m., Saraceno will discuss the speculative context and experimental materials of his Cloud Cities with School of Architecture and Planning faculty Nader Tehrani and Antón García-Abril. The on-campus event, titled Moving Beyond Materiality, is free and open to the public, but you need to reserve a seat. Check out the details.

Video: The Installation of Tomás Saraceno on the Roof: Cloud City

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