Palazzo Strozzi is pleased to present Tomás Saraceno. Aria, a major exhibition curated by Arturo Galansino devoted to one of the world’s most original and visionary contemporary artists whose multi‐disciplinary practice encompasses art, social and life sciences.
Saraceno creates immersive works and participatory experiences that suggest a new way of living in our world by making connections to non‐human phenomena such as dust particles and plants. This major exhibition is his largest project to date in Italy, responding to the specific context of Palazzo Strozzi, and its relationship to the cultural and scientific history of Florence.
“The art of Tomás Saraceno prompts us to reflect on the emblematic and increasingly urgent problems and challenges or our age, the Anthropocene era, such as pollution, climate change, sustainability and overcoming geographical and social barriers”, said Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi Director General Arturo Galansino, the exhibition curator, adding: “In Palazzo Strozzi, the artistic research of Tomás, who unveils utopian and yet very real worlds with his open and interconnected vision, is further exalted in terms both of its significance and of its unique aesthetic power by being juxtaposed with the setting of our palazzo, a symbol of Humanism.
The exhibition title, Air, does not simply refer to themes and elements that are typical features of theartist’s work, it also sets out to sound the alarm bell for our planet and its atmosphere, now in a critical condition, and toherald the transition to a new geological era, the Aerocene, which centres precisely on this extremely precious and valuable element”.
The exhibition opens with Thermodynamic Constellation a major site‐specific installation for the courtyard of Palazzo Strozzi. This work, comprised of large, reflective spheres, introduces Saraceno’s interest in challenging our approach to environmental issues by envisioning a future free from borders and fossil fuels; ideals moved forward by the interdiciplinary artistic community initiated by
Saraceno called Aerocene.
The sculpture builds on Saraceno’s research into solar balloons that are capable of floating using only the heat of the sun, encouraging us to rethink the way we inhabit our planet in a poetic and collective manner. The installation is made possible by the support of the Fondazione CR Firenze within a large project, that touches various themes of the exhibition, consisting of numerous activities aimed in particular at schools and young people.
The exhibition is organized around Saraceno’s Arachnomancy Cards, a set of thirty‐three cards that celebrate the radical interconnectedness of all things, both living and non-living. At Palazzo Strozzi, nine of the exhibition spaces are associated with a card that act as herald composing new threads that connect seemingly disparate elements. Another room is dedicatedto the complete set of thirty‐three cards. Just as a spider sends out vibrational signals along its silky web, Saraceno’s works act as indicators of worlds beyond the bounds of human perception. By amplifying the unheard voices of those beings that are hidden in plain sight, Saraceno transforms Palazzo Strozzi into an arena where experimentation and participation provide the pathway to imaginative experiences, helping visitors to rethink the ways in which we inhabit the planet now and in the future, prioritizing practices of multispecies care and partnership over anthropocentric ideologies.
The exhibition continues from the courtyard installation onto the Piano Nobile amid large installations that allow visitors to immerse themselves in evocative settings that suggest alternative futures: Connectome, a set of suspended sculptures suggestive of the Weaire‐Phelan geometries of soap bubbles, which borrows its name from the map of neural connections in the brain ‐ the collection of pathways and synapses, the tangible record of thoughts and feelings; Sounding the Air and Webs of At‐tent(s)ion, works containing the sensorial worlds of spider/webs and the affective and elemental atmospheres they compose; How to Entangle the Universe in a Spider Web?, a study into the relationship between dimensions, as communicated by a spider/web; Particular Matter(s) Jam Session and Aerographies, installations investigating the connections between cosmic dust and the dust that litters our planet and lungs ‐ black carbon, toxic pollution, and PM 2.5 ‐ and their movements through the air; A Thermodynamic Imaginary, an absorbing experience of the universe’s desire to defy scale; and Flying Garden, a sculptural provocation which displaces our conventional notions of boundaries and territories.
The oracle of our present, past, and future, the spider and its web may be interpreted as a comprehensive metaphor for the exhibition. An extension of its cognitive system, the spider’s web allows for communication with and orientation in the greater world through vibration, its consciousness mapped along threads like the neural map of our own brain. Saraceno’s collaborations with spiders offers us a way of connecting with their world ‐ a moment of transcendence past the traditional hierarchical relationship through which we organize it.
Through private Arachnomancy readings and Saraceno’s Arachnomancy App, visitors are invited to cultivate new arts of noticing and consulting the “spider/web oracles,” one of the many ways participants might reconsider what they have to learn from those with whom we share this planet. With the app, visitors may consult the spider/web oracles they find in their daily life, and participate in the collective exercise of Mapping Against Extinction by recording spider/webs that might otherwise go unnoticed.
The exhibition will also be accompanied by a full programme of events and activities that includes bringing projects realized with the collaboration of Aerocene Foundation, such as Aerocene Flights to be held at Manifattura Tabacchi together with a section of videos and materials dedicated to Aerocene, and Museo Aero Solar realized with the participation/collaboration of IED (Istituto Europeo di Design ‐ educational partner) and Publiacqua, performances of ongoing collaborative artworks that Saraceno has developed to explore new modes of transport powered by air and sunlight rather than fossil fuels.
The Palazzo Strozzi exhibition offers visitors an opportunity to discover the work of Tomás Saraceno and experience his vision of the world and its possibilities. He leaves space for phenomena or non‐human entities such as dust, air, spiders or plants that become real active agents in the creation of his installations, responding to the historic Palazzo Strozzi by creating a dialogue between the Renaissance and the contemporary world ‐ a shift from the hierarchical idea of ‘man at the centre of the world’ to the conception of ‘man as part of a universe’ in which to seek a new accord.
The exhibition is promoted and organised by Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi and Studio Tomás Saraceno, with the support of the Comune di Firenze, the Regione Toscana and the Camera di Commercio di Firenze, with the contribution of Terna, with the collaboration of Manifattura Tabacchi, and with the participation of IED (Istituto Europeo di Design).