INSTALLATION _ A gigantic installation work by Tomás Saraceno, entitled “in orbit,” has been assembled in the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen (Düsseldorf). At a height of more than 20 meters above the piazza of the K21 Ständehaus, Saraceno has suspended a net construction within which visitors can move, apparently weightlessly. This highly contemporary safety net, which covers altogether 2500 m², spreads itself out across three levels below the massive glass cupola of the K21. The levels are held apart from one another by a series of “spheres,” airfilled PVC balls measuring up to 8.5 meters in diameter.
“To describe the work means to describe the people who use it – and their emotions,” explains Tomás Saraceno concerning his largest installation to date, planned over the past three years in collaboration with engineers, architects, and arachnologists – experts on spiders and spider webs.
Saraceno’s net construction, which is accessible on three levels, resembles a cloud landscape: those bold enough to clamber high into the web set beneath the glass cupola perceive the museum visitors far below them from the lofty heights as tiny figures in a model world. Viewed from below or from intermediate levels of the Ständehaus, and against the background of the glass cupola, conversely, the people enmeshed in this net seem to be swimming in the sky.
For the artist, this floating space becomes an oscillating network of relationships, neural pathways, resonances, and synchronous communication – a new digital geography, one that is experienced in physical terms.
The various materials underscore Saraceno’s basic ideas of flow and lightness: “When I look at the multilayered levels of diaphanous lines and spheres, I am reminded of models of the universe that depict the forces of gravity and planetary bodies. For me, the work visualizes the space-time continuum, the three-dimensional web of a spider, the ramifications of tissue in the brain, dark matter, or the structure of the universe. With ‘in orbit,’ proportions enter into new relationships; human bodies become planets, molecules, or social black holes.”
“in orbit” is one of the lightest projects realized by the artist to date: the work summons associations with the fineness and the stability of spider’s webs and soap bubbles – despite the fact that the net structure alone weighs 3000 kg, and the largest of the “spheres” weighs 300 kg. The conjunction of functionality, beauty, and strength that Saraceno has encountered during years of studying the web constructions of various spider species is also in evidence in the details of “in orbit.”
The precise observation of nature and the conceptual development of its phenomena are consistent trademarks of Saraceno’s work, which dissolves the boundaries between art and science. In this installation, space is perceived through vibration – just as it is by spiders. The result is a new, hybrid form of communication.
Says the artist: “Each individual strand not only holds visitors in place, but weaves them into itself, at the same time allowing them to act. It is like an outstretched network with an open character. An open, cosmic, woven structure that becomes densified, ramified, before flowing out into lines again at its edges. The web is singular in its relationship to the existing architecture.”
With his Düsseldorf project, Saraceno – who studied both art and architecture – also zeroes in directly onto the concrete individual, as well as collective human experiences: museum visitors who climb up into the net, high above ground level, confront new dimensions of (self)perception through a personal and defining experience. Unavoidably, this involves social aspects as well: the presence of multiple visitors sets the daring construction into motion, altering its state of tension and external form – users must coordinate their movements in order to move optimally throughout the net configuration.
This artist-architect has frequently compared his creations to living organisms. Changes in the environment trigger thought processes; Saraceno is interested in the way in which “spaces and people generate new ideas.”
Grabbeplatz 5 40213 Dusseldorf