Genoa

Tomás Saraceno

Pinksummer

Something like a gigantic bubble was suspended in the courtyard of the historic Palazzo Ducale. This was the installation that lent its title to Argentina-born, Germany-based artist Tomás Saraceno’s second solo show at the Genoese gallery located inside the fifteenth-century building. Hung from ropes attached to the colonnaded structure, Biosphere MW32, Air-Port-City, 2007, was made of thirty-two PVC pillows, inflated by a compressor and forming an enormous transparent sphere that could be inhabited. With its hollow interior, which one could enter during the opening reception only, it is a self-sufficient structure that recalls the American engineer Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes or certain projects by the German architect Frei Otto.

Saraceno turns theory into real objects. His bubbles are usable units that can move through the air, crossing geopolitical boundaries, as illustrated by the large laser-printed wall drawing, Air-Port-City, 2007, that occupied one entire wall of the gallery. The work depicts the skyline of a city, inspired by those created in recent years in the United Arab Emirates; in the foreground, clusters of inhabited bubbles merge with the clouds. A series of arrows indicate the air currents, warm and cool, that contribute to the shifting of both the clouds and the artificial spheres, which seem to live in symbiosis with nature.

Saraceno represents an ecological dream, a construction that takes advantage of technological progress in order to create the city of the future: a metropolis that, rather than being rooted to the earth and pushing upward, is instead a habitable agglomerate in motion, extremely light and ecocompatible. The ties between nature and urban form are among this artist’s greatest concerns. One only need think of the series of five images entitled Hoy—52° 31' 38.69" N 13° 24' 15.99° E, 2005. Each print is divided into two parts that set up a comparison between the extremely subtle ramifications of spiderwebs and the urban structure of cities seen from satellites. And Untitled (World Stand), 2007, is the stand for a globe, minus the sphere itself.

The gallery contained another example of this realizable dream in 12 SW, Air-Port-City, 2007, a small inflatable sphere made up of twelve pillows and covered in filaments of tillandsia, a plant that takes its nourishment from the air. A smaller version of the work that was exhibited in the courtyard, it is held in place by a series of radiating ropes that constitute its natural extension. Also within the gallery was a corner table, on which stood a glass of water and a sheet of paper—this was Mars on Water, 2005, a work that exploits an intriguing property of aerogels, substances made by extracting the water from a gel and replacing it with a gas. Pouring the contents of the glass onto the paper, which is coated with one of these substances, we witness an almost magical process: The water breaks down into small bubbles that bring to mind, on a micro scale, Saraceno’s flying cities.

Filippo Romeo

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.