When I was a child I used to listen to the ants. In the kindergarten, when we were let outside, I would not play with the other kids, but rather lay on the ground listening to the fascinating and mysterious sounds coming from it. Still today, despite the fact that many people said it was impossible, I am convinced that I heard the noise of the ants. This memory of my childhood came to my mind today during the visit to the exhibition Aria by Tomás Saraceno inaugurated by the Palazzo Strozzi on 22 February.
Aria by Tomás Saraceno
This show was a great surprise for me and I am really happy that I decided to visit it during this crazy period of panic related to the coronavirus. Thanks to this exhibition I managed to reconnect with myself, my imagination, fantasy and creativity, leaving fear and the sense of instability aside. Aria is not really an exhibition. It rather is an immersive experience investigating the structure of the natural world and asking questions about our place in the universe.
Tomás Saraceno is an Argentinian artist born in 1973. In 1976, when he was only three years old, his family, originating from Milan, moved back to Italy escaping the Argentinian dictatorship. Eleven years later they returned to Argentina and in 1990s Tomás started his studies in Art and Architecture at the National Univeristy of Buenos Aires. During his artistic career Saraceno participated many times to the Venice Bienalle and in 2015 his installation Aerocene was displayed at the Grand Palais in Paris during the climate summit COP21.
The courtyard: Thermodynamic Constellation
Aria by Tomás Saraceno is a fascinating journey through the universe of natural forms, from the microcosm of a spider, till the macrocosm of planets, stars and air. The first work of art we see on the show is the Thermodynamic Constellation in the Palazzo Strozzi courtyard. Floating spheres invite us to conceive alternative ways of communication, a world in which we navigate freely through the atmospheric flows without borders and polluting emissions. These aerosolar sculptures helps us to imagine our world after the age of fossil fuels. A Utopia? It seems so today, but our technology would never develop without the dreamers able to imagine the future.
Rooms 1 and 2
The first room of the exhibition displays the Connectome, an installation of geometrical and specular forms floating in the air. Everything starts here. Every form has its origins in the sun and the air. Images, reflections create a universe where we move, touch and experience. This rooms introduces us to the second one, where we experience Sounding the air. We pass from light to dark, from a visual to a auditive experience. Sounding the air is a “wind” instrument. The wind passing between the five strings produces frequencies and sonic models. The movement of the air depends on various factors: heat, movement of the bodies in the room and breathing. Thus, thanks to this instrument we can “hear” our movement, we can “hear” our real impact on the environment we live in, we can perceive our existence on a new and surprising level.
Room 3: Webs of At-tent(s)ion
The third room of the show was my favourite. There, in the total darkness, like in a workshop of an alchemist, we can admire the Webs of At-tent(s)ion, the glass cases containing the sculptures made of spiderwebs. We enter into the microcosm of a spider. The concept of macrocosm and microcosm and of their reciprocal analogies represented the basis idea for the early Renaissance science. It inspired many studies conducted by Leonardo da Vinci, who tried to synthetize, for example, the analogy between the system of rivers and the blood system in human body. Saraceno, just like Leonardo, moves from micro to macro to prove a substantial unity of our universe, in which a micro structure can be reflected in a macro system. The spiderwebs are, in fact, an example of a micro organism that can be referred to the macro structure of human communication and interactions. The spiders use the webs not only as their habitat but also as their ears and eyes. Thanks to the webs the spiders communicate and built their interactions with the external world. Aren’t these webs similar to the complex webs of social, intellectual and emotional structures that we built around us?
Coming to Florence?
Download my free guide to Florence “Art and the City. Two Squares in Five Masterpieces”!
Rooms 4 and 5
In the next room the microcosm of the spiderweb is projected onto the macrocosm of the universe. Some scientist observed that the three-dimensional spiderwebs resembles the computerization of the cosmic net. In the video How to Entangle the Universe in a Spider/Web? Saraceno shows a 3D scanning of spiderwebs using the laser. Laser signals visualise surprising dimensions similar to the visualisations of the cosmic movements.
In the room five Saraceno projects the Passages of time, an overlapping of two videos. One of them is a movie that lasts 163 000 years and represents the travel of the light from the Large Magellanic Cloud to the Earth. I do not think that any of us will see the final scene!
Room 6: A Thermodynamic Imaginary
The next room houses an installation entitled A Thermodynamic Imaginary. We enter into a room with spheres and geometrical structures floating in the air. Everything moves and we can admire the beautiful spectacle of shades projected on the walls of the room. We feel part of this constant movement and dance of the forms. With this installation Saraceno wanted us to visually experience the moment of an eclipse, when Sun, Earth and Moon are aligned and when we can understand our own dimension in relationship to the size of the other elements of this complex puzzle. For a moment we can imagine that we travel to the space and we dance with the stars.
Room 7: Flying Gardens
The seventh room hosts the Flying Gardens. The plants float in the air supported by the glass spheres. Saraceno reminds us that the vegetal world is an important element of our universe. Moreover, the plants have a unique ability to survive and sprout again despite the destruction of its parts. The plants teach us, humans, the ability to be reborn and to adapt to changing conditions.
Room 8: Aerographies
The last room is dedicated to the air, the element that gave title to the entire exhibition. The installation Aerographies invite us to notice the air, the most “invisible” and therefore the most neglected of the elements. In the middle of the room you can see the floating balloons with the pens attached to the cords hanging below them. The ink of these pens is made with the particulates polluting the air in Mumbai. With the flow of the air the pens move and draw abstract compositions on the paper sheets put underneath. The air draws its movement with the pollution. With this unique work, Saraceno gave the air a voice, he allowed the air to speak and to communicate with us. What these drawings say?
With this poetic exhibition Tomás Saraceno touched some of the most vital questions regarding our place in the universe, our relationship with the natural world, our responsibility for its health. Just like Leonardo da Vinci, the artist underlined the unity of the world and visualized an unbreakable bond between the life of the smallest living being, like a spider, and the movement of the massive bodies, like the planets and the stars. Like Leonardo, as well, he tried to propose some visionary solutions for the future. If you want to re-establish your bond with the universe we live in, I highly recommend you this exhibition. Now, more than ever, I am convinced that when I was a child I could hear the noise of the ants.
Aria Tomás Saraceno
22 February – 1 November 2020
Opening hours from 1 June 2020:
Looking for a private tour in Florence? Contact me!