“Sehnsüchtig gleiten Ballone rund um die Welt”

Green Light Pavilion

Blame it on Google Earth: The view from above is becoming a dominant perspective in aesthetics. As linear perspective spread with the Renaissance, the satellite view rose with our Global Village; this godlike yet profane vision, ushered in with the televised space launches of the ’60s, has intensified alongside globalization. Some artists are attempting to take political questions to the open skies in a way reminiscent of the generation that found its problems and answers in the media landscape. We may soon look at all issues—environmental protection, urban planning, poverty, and even race—with the eye of the weatherman.

Sehnsüchtig gleiten Ballone rund um die Welt” (Longing Balloons Are Floating Around the World) exemplifies the satellite Weltanschauung. This group exhibition in progress, which began last September and will end in June 2006, evolves like the seasons; every two to three months, one artist creates a large installation, to which other artists respond with smaller interconnected works. The temporary exhibition space—Riccardo Previdi’s Green Light Pavilion, 2005—is located on a vacant lot destined for condos. Previdi’s design hints at this fate: He fenced in two white office trailers of the kind often erected at construction sites and a mini-courtyard with vertical wooden planks, which are lit at the base with green spotlights when an event is taking place. The green lights—while giving a dead urban space the go-ahead for a collective aesthetic existence—conflate traffic lights for cars and runway lighting for planes. Lit from below, Green Light Pavilion is an urban intervention visible from above, like a landing strip.

The first artist to land was Tomas Saraceno, the brains behind Air Port City, 2002–, an impressive yet politically naive plan to demilitarize and decommercialize the troposphere by building cities like floating clouds. Here, Saraceno attached a live camera to a helium balloon; as the balloon rose above the pavilion, the camera transmitted an ever-broadening view of Berlin-Mitte—and its growing number of luxury rooftops—to a monitor inside the exhibition space. To the outer space at near earth escape velocity, 2005, also included a smaller transparent helium balloon with a living spider on it. Perhaps a prototype for the Air Port Citizen, the spider effortlessly crawled all over the balloon, as Google Earth covers the globe. Later, Derek Rowleiei added imaginary flora in watercolors, which were displayed not on the wall but on a table under glass, like botanical specimens or pressed keepsakes. Knut Henrik Henriksen—a wizard at creating minimal effects with maximal transformations of walls—folded out one part of the container wall as if it were origami paper. The protruding geodesic form recalled the Fuller Projection World Map, Buckminster Fuller’s corrective to the distortions created by flat maps that make the first world larger than the third.

By December, all of these works were replaced with Lara Schnitger’s fabric installation. Ignoring the walls, Schnitger covered the floor of the container with patches that looked like gloomy farmland seen from a plane, and put two waterproof banners on top of the structure: rainbow satisfaction, 2005, with its message WENN ES IRGENDETWAS GUTES AN MIR GIBT, BIN ICH DIE EINZIGE DIE ES WEISS (If there is something or other good about me, I am the only one who knows it), and Nein, 2005, a resounding No in German. While the messages in “Longing Balloons” are very different and sometimes incommensurable, the artists share one directive: to take politics from the streets to the rooftops.

Jennifer Allen