Walker Art Center

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Collecting Energy
Museo aero solar meets the Twin Cities

In the view of artist Tomás Saraceno, there’s nowhere for society to go but up. His floating sculptures employ principles from engineering, aeronautics, and architecture that rethink the way we experience space and relate to forms and to one another. Indebted to the ideas championed by visionaries such as architect Buckminster Fuller and artist Gyula Kosice, he makes objects and installations that strive for a harmonic balance between mediated and natural worlds. Pushing the conventions of sculpture, he has been using a wide range of industrial materials such as metal foils, elastic nets, and inflatable plastic spheres to construct futuristic constellations and walk-in floating environments that wed materials and space.

As an artist-in-residence at the Walker in October, Saraceno will collaborate with dozens of Twin Cities residents to continue the construction of Museo aero solar, a solar-powered balloon made from hundreds of reused plastic bags. The inspiration behind this project, which exists independently from Saraceno’s studio practice, originated during a visit to Isola Art Center in Milan, Italy, in 2007. The initial proposition to build “the first flying museum” emerged from a series of conversations with a network of artists, curators, and philosophers about issues such as cheap technology, national borders, and air control. New sections have been added to what he calls “a solar flying canvas” at each country it has traveled to so far: Milan, Italy; Sharjah, United Arab Emirates; Medellín, Colombia; Lyon, France; Rapperswil, Switzerland; and most recently, Tirana, Albania.

Saraceno’s residency kicks off with the Walker’s Free First Saturday family event on Saturday, October 4. Families are invited to bring plastic bags so they can build fragments to help expand the balloon and improve its flying capability. Referring to the collaborative aspect of this effort, associate curator Yasmil Raymond, who worked with the artist during the Walker’s 2007 group exhibition Brave New Worlds, says, “Museo aero solar embodies ideas of process and transformation, stating its autonomy through dialogue and spontaneity. There is an element of risk-taking in this mass-scale collaboration that is also implicit in the act of flying. The core of the Museo resides in the involvement of the participants, in their creativity and their trust in the power of invention.”

Saraceno’s time at the Walker also includes a series of hands-on workshops and conversations with professors and students from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) and the University of Minnesota Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics (AEM). “Inviting thinkers from different fields who share mutual interests brings a renewed level of excitement and energy to the Walker’s residency program,” says Raymond. “It also attests to the shared optimism across specialized fields for the potential of dialogue and experimentation as a vehicle for sharing knowledge and testing ideas.” The inflation of Museo aero solar will take place at the Walker, weather permitting, in late October. Saraceno’s residency precedes an April 2009 solo exhibition of his work.

Launch of Museo aero solar in Tirana, Albania, 2008

Photo courtesy the artist