a match made in heaven

October 24, 2011

some strange cosmic serendipity has brought two phenomenal artists into my life, the first being tomas saraceno and his mind-blowing balloon structures and cities; the second, italo calvino and his two collections of outrageous short stories about the origins of the universe and imaginary cities, cosmicomics and invisible cities.

the use of space, air, lightness and being, plus the ideas of cities (new and old!) and the future tie these somewhat disparate artists together quite nicely. to be perfectly honest with you, i cried at how stunning these works were in conjunction with one another. nerd! let’s take a look!

tomas saraceno is an argentine artist working in germany, whose work expands and questions our view of our place in the universe. taking cues from various natural elements- air, light, water, weight, bubbles, clouds, spiderwebs- saraceno creates enormous installations of inhabitable nets, balloons, biospheres and domes. he ignites our imaginations with the possibilities of flying, floating, and utopian dreams but along with these possibilities we are confronted with the questions of how and why we live our lives, what role we have in the future of our planet, the extent of our environmental accountability.

poetic cosmos of the breath was a piece that he created in 2007 in essex. several people were invited to a field at dawn to watch and help an enormous dome inflate with the increasing warmth of the sun. how gorgeous, the photos of the iridescent waves and the final, inflated dome glowing in the sun! the work reminds me so much of one of the stories from calvino’s cosmicomics

italo calvino was an italian author who wrote poetic and playful novels and short stories navigating the the intersections of science, history, and mathematics. creating an experience similar to that of saraceno’s, calvino’s stories in cosmicomics travel through the evolution of the universe and its inhabitants. in invisible cities, we are transported to foreign lands that may or may not exist, to cities that are constantly emerging, crumbling, and changing.

together, saraceno and calvino leave my imagination exploding, dreaming about the origins of the universe and the distant future to which we are drifting. it’s always nice to find harmonies in art, and in this case, it was a match made in some kind of dome-like heaven.

from “the distance of the moon” in cosmicomics:

…In reality, from the top of the ladder, standing erect on the last rung, you could just touch the Moon if you held your arms up. We had taken the measurements carefully (we didn’t yet suspect that she was moving away from us); the only thing you had to be very careful about was where you put your hands. I always chose a scale that seemed fast (we climbed up in groups of five or six at a time), then I would cling first with one hand, then with both, and immediately I would feel the ladder and boat drifting away from below me, and the motion of the Moon would tear me from the Earth’s attraction. Yes, the Moon was so strong that she pulled you up; you realized this the moment you passed from one to the other: you had to swing up abruptly, with a kind of somersault, grabbing the scales, throwing your legs over your head, until your feet were on the Moon’s surface. Seen from the Earth, you looked as if you were hanging there with your head down, but for you, it was the normal position, and the only odd thing was that when you raised your eyes you saw the sea above you, glistening, with the boat and the others upside down, hanging like a bunch of grapes from the vine.

from invisible cities:

Thin Cities 5

If you choose to believe me, good.   Now I will tell how Octavia, the spider-web city, is made.   There is a precipice between two steep mountains: the city is over the void, bound to the two crests with ropes and chains and catwalks.   You walk on the little wooden ties, careful not to set your foot in the open spaces, or you cling to the hempen strands.   Below there is nothing for hundreds and hundreds of feet: a few clouds glide past; farther down you can glimpse the chasm’s bed.

This is the foundation of the city: a net which serves as passage and as support.   All the rest, instead of rising up, is hung below: rope ladders, hammocks, houses made like sacks, clothes hangers, terraces like gondolas, skins of water, gas jets, spits, baskets on strings, dumb-waiters, showers, trapezes and rings for children’s games, cable cars, chandeliers, pots with trailing plants.

Suspended over the abyss, the life of Octavia’s inhabitants is less uncertain than in other cities.   They know the net will last only so long.

all you lucky berliners MUST visit the hamburger bahnhof to spend some time with tomas’ massive solo show of beautiful structures! if you can’t make it, here’s a nice interview and tour of the installation. check out calvino’s cosmicomics and invisible cities from your local library or read “the distance of the moon” from cosmicomics and a few from invisible cities online. for more from calvino about lightness, read this (pretty long) essay about how the concept has shaped his literary career. ENJOY!

images via the arts catalystarchitizer, hamburger bahnhof, look in artkleine wundertüte, the last bite and tomas saraceno.

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