Tomas Saraceno

Extraordinary Art Forum

11 May 2006 - 16 July 2006
The Curve

Daily 11am - 8pm

Tomas Saraceno in Conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist and Stefano Boeri

Do you have a problem with gravity?
Whoa, no idea. I think Cedric Price was once asked a similar question. Fortunately, we don’t have problems, only opportunities. I like the idea that a problem can become an opportunity, a problem as the driving force behind developing something new. In your question there is half of the answer: gravity is a physical psycho-social relationship.

Tell us about your Air-Port-City project.
My idea for an Air-Port-City is to create platforms or habitable cells made up of cities that float in the air. These change form and join together like clouds. This freedom of movement is borrowed from the orderly structure of airports, and it allows for the creation of the first international city. Airports are divided by ‘air-side’ and ‘land-side’; on the ‘air-side’ you are under the jurisdiction of international law. Your every action is judged according to international norms. Air-Port-City is like a flying airport; you will be able to legally travel across the world while taking advantage of airport regulations. This structure seeks to challenge today’s political, social, cultural and military restrictions in an attempt to re-establish new concepts of synergy.

Up in the sky there will be this cloud, a habitable platform that floats in the air, changing form and merging with other platforms just as clouds do. It will fly through the atmosphere pushed by the winds, both local and global, in an attempt to equalise the (social) temperature and differences in pressure. It will be a sustainable and mobile migration. These aerial cities will be in a permanent state of transformation, similar to nomadic cities. After all, gypsies never go back to the same place simply because the place is constantly changing.

Is it a flying utopia?
Air-Port-City is like a huge kinetic structure that works towards a real economic transformation. Moving from a personal ‘belief’ to a collective one is the first step in the realisation of this idea. After the unification of Europe, a ‘europeanafroamericanasianoceaniasfydsdf’ will be created. Like continental drift at the beginning of the world, the new cities will search for their positions in the air in order to find their place in the universe. From cirrocumulus to cirrocumuluscity! It provides feedback so as to enable a faster process of communication, capable of imagining more elastic and dynamic border rules (political, geographical, etc.) for a new space/cyberspace.

And what about your flying gardens?
Flying gardens are part of the Air-Port-City family. These spatial and temporal characteristics are needed for a sustainable occupation, a necessary invasion made up of plants, humans and animals. The geographic range of most plant and animal species is limited by climatic factors and any shift will have an impact on the organisms living there. Climate changes faster than plants can disperse to new, more suitable areas. A flying garden (think of it as multiple Amazons in transcontinental flight) with 62 different cities joined in the air will generate a spherical shape; the interior of the sphere will enclose enough air to lift the city and its flight will depend on solar energy. There will be ‘airplants’ from the genus Tillandsia. Native to South America and Africa, these are true air plants: they derive all their nutrition from the air, imbibing rain and dew and whatever nutrients the air brings to them through their leaf tissues. There are no roots for water and nutrient uptake so they are quite air-sufficient.

Who are your heroes?
Today it is difficult to identify just one hero. Maybe it is better to have many. Unfortunately, some cultures still need to identify with individual heroes. Here is my pick: ‘Tensegrity’, sculptural structures invented by the artist Snelson that were later taken by Buckminster Fuller, who went on to develop his own theory.

Your work deals with natural processes, as well as with dreams of transgravitation and elevation. What is your link to science? Do you have dialogues with scientists?
I will try to answer this by talking about aerogel. A year ago, with the help of engineers and lawyers, I took advantage of an application of a material called aerogel, which has been used in spacecraft. These vehicles use a gas that is lighter than air to rise up: a mix of helium and hydrogen and other gases. Aerogel gives these vehicles the possibility of flying solely on solar energy. These vehicles are the more efficient alternatives for mobility in the future and for a possible ‘colonisation’ of the sky. There will no longer be a need for airports and air pollution will cease; they will be efficient alternatives for new satellites and will create new possibilities for communication. This will allow for greater energy saving and give people not only data but also an incredible mobility, thus permitting a constant redefining of boundaries and of national, cultural and racial identities.

Courtesy Editoriale Domus S.p.A. Rozzano, Milano .


why not try