Tomás Saraceno

Tomás Saraceno's artistic practice is characterized by a multidisciplinary approach that combines art, science, and architecture to explore themes related to ecology, sustainability, and alternative modes of existence. From the Web(s) of LIfe show, it is evident at first glance that Saraceno is an architect by training, an artist by profession, and a dreamer by passion: the presented sculptures, spider webs, and films are an ode to the wonderful complexity of co-habitat and existence in our communities and ecosystems. The artist’s visionary and utopian approach to his practice underlines the incredible potential for discovery of new ways to function as a society, species and people; he draws our attention to the most pertinent issues of our time such as sustainable energy, lithium extraction, pollution, and ecological balance.

Approaching the Serpentine Gallery, which Saraceno transformed from the inside and on the outside, we can immediately see the sculptures from the Cloud Cities series, assembled from hexagonal house-like hollow components that form delightful compositions and patterns with their ‘doors’. Saraceno intended these constructions to be representative of cohabitation between species, accentuating that all birds, dogs, insects (spiders above all) were welcome in the Cloud Cities. The series encapsulates the essential elements of Saraceno’s artistic practice: it is an architectural exploration of ways to integrate different levels of the ecosystem into one harmonious form. In fact, in his opening speech, Saraceno expressed his satisfaction with the outcome of his designs: ‘I was very happy yesterday because when you build something, the dogs don’t come, the squirrels don’t come, then finally some birds have shit on the sculpture! The first success!’

Artscapy is proud to offer our members an opportunity to become part of the conversation initiated by Saraceno, and expand their collection by acquiring a piece featured in the Web(s) of Life show - Cloud Cities: Species of spaces and other pieces. "Species of Spaces'' refers to the diverse and adaptable environments that can be created within these floating structures, spaces that can be inhabited by both humans and other species, fostering coexistence and biodiversity. The artwork holds an immense cultural value as it raises questions about our relationship with the environment, the potential for sustainable living, and the interconnectedness of all species.

CLOUD/TIME, on the other hand, is an inkjet print depicting a lone human figure standing in the middle of an endless skyline, where vibrantly blue sky merges with water seamlessly. Having long explored the utopia of airborne existence, Saraceno is making a reference to the vastness of possibilities for humankind to migrate and rearrange communities in a different locus. Having engaged with utopian theories of thinkers such as R. Buckminster Fuller and Yona Friedman, the artist aims to conceptualize his vision for an innovative sustainable way of living. CLOUD/TIME is an image that may not present an example of such existence, unlike the more practically applied Cloud Cities series, yet it transmits the utopian sensation at the core of the artist’s vision. The inspiration and driven curiosity that this work evokes is the reason we believe it is a valuable addition to the sustainability and environmentally conscious collection, capable of breathing a vibrant air of motivation into its surroundings and inspiring onlookers.   

Upon entering the gallery space, we are asked to surrender our phones, and open our minds to experience the show without the ubiquitous presence of our devices. This is only fitting as we are then confronted with extensive literature on lithium extraction, an environmental issue that affects communities through land pollution and diminishing their water resources, in efforts to meet the demand for batteries, which among other things are used to power our phones. Saraceno aims to spiritually connect viewers in London with the indigenous communities of the Salinas Grandes and Laguna de Guayatayoc based in Jujuy, Argentina (his native country), which are affected by the rapidly increasing demand for lithium. Without a device in our hand, we are able to connect with the human experience of these communities, while our perception is not clouded by the close vicinity of technology that gets in the way of the order of our priorities. 

Another part of Saraceno's exhibition showcases incredibly intricate architectural spider webs, a common theme of Saraceno, enclosed in glass boxes, illuminated by spotlights, resembling celestial formations made of silk. To create these installations, the artist ‘collaborated’ with multiple spider species in his Berlin based studio-laboratory. These artworks aim to challenge arachnophobia (fear of spiders) and foster arachnophilia (love of spiders), inviting viewers to embrace a different perspective on these creatures. In fact, spiders have long been Saraceno’s source of inspiration due to their mythical presence, creative fascination and ecological usefulness. In one of his films, the focus is on the spider diviners of Somié, Cameroon, who engage in a traditional practice called ŋgam dùin. This practice involves posing binary questions to ground-dwelling spiders and interpreting their responses by rearranging a set of cards placed at the entrance of their burrows. As part of an exhibition, local diviner Bollo Pierre 'Tadios' invites visitors to ask the spider a question through a web portal called This way, Saraceno gives voice to a member of a local community that we would mot have heard otherwise, giving his audience an opportunity for a more open understanding of different human experiences across the globe.

The drawings created by Saraceno using spider silk are not merely visually intriguing constructions but also question the relationship between drawing and sculpture, as well as the co-production between humans and non-human entities. Saraceno's artwork titled Hybrid Dark solitary semi-social Cluster FK5 768 built by: a solo Latrodectus geometricus - three weeks, a quintet of Cyrtophora citricola - five weeks, rotated, 2021 is a fascinating exploration of the complex dynamics between humans and the natural world, collaboration, and the architectural prowess of different spider species, which create its complex structure over the course of five weeks, each adding their unique touch to the overall composition. The artwork is a testament to the architectural abilities of different spider species, and highlights the significance of collective efforts and the interplay between individual contributions and communal endeavours.

Solitary mapping of FK5 720 by a solo Parasteatoda tepidariorum - six weeks, 2021 is another captivating artwork that explores spiders and their influence on the environment: it is a drawing based on a collaborative web woven by two different spider species, combining distinct weaving techniques to create an aesthetically and architecturally remarkable composition. Saraceno's spider webs are not only artistically significant but also hold scientific value. In 2009, the artist collaborated with biologists and engineers to depict and reconstruct three-dimensional spider webs, marking a groundbreaking achievement. This collaboration led to the establishment of the "Spider Lab" in Saraceno's studio, which houses the world's largest collection of three-dimensional spider webs. The presence of this lab facilitates joint research projects between behavioral biologists, material scientists, and the artist himself.

Saraceno's artworks are not merely static objects; they are interactive and immersive experiences that encourage audience participation. For instance, Aeolus 777 is a sculpture crafted in 2019 from hand-blown mirrored glass. It is a mesmerizing piece which takes its name from Aeolus, the Greek god of the winds, symbolizing the theme of air and movement that is central to Saraceno's work. Aeolus 777 invites viewers to engage with their surroundings, as they engage with the artwork through the reflective surface that allows the sculpture to integrate and interact with its environment.  Viewers can observe their own reflections or see the surrounding space transformed and distorted within the mirrored surfaces of the sculpture. The hand-blown glass technique adds a sense of delicacy and craftsmanship to the artwork, showcasing the artist's attention to detail and mastery of the medium. This is a work of immense emotional value to any collector as it invites us to reconsider our relationship with the environment and envision alternative ways of living and coexisting within it.

All in all, the Web(s) of Life show is without a doubt a valuable addition to the London art scene, introducing yet another innovative concept of sustainable exhibitions, as well as an important participant in the larger dialogue on environmental consciousness. Saraceno invites viewers to engage with his installations, blurring the boundaries between the observer and the observed, and inspires a sense of wonder, provokes dialogue, and stimulates collective action towards a more sustainable future.



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