On view this month at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery in New York, artist Tomás Saraceno presents a body of new works that invite participants to attune to the intricacies of our entanglement with human, nonhuman and elemental forces. Across a spectrum of perceived realities and through works that connect differently with other beings and phenomena, Saraceno highlights how a considered co-existence encourages new ways of living together, while giving space to existing equitable collaborations with the atmosphere and wider environment.
On the ground floor of the gallery, visitors are confronted with An Open Letter for Invertebrate Rights, a work emblematic of the artist’s longstanding collaboration with spiders and their webs of life. The work, an intricate web of strands that connect and spread throughout the gallery, draws on notions of non-verbal communications in spiders, and how vibrational perception is used as a tool for adaptation and manipulation of the environment around them. Through the act of playing, visitors shape a constantly evolving collaborative musical composition through touching the strings of the web, producing vibrations that echo spiderly modes of communication.
In the back room of the gallery, WEBSDR and The Politics Of Solar Rhythms: Cosmic Levitation, both projected video works, explore vibrational phenomena occurring at scales both cosmic and microscopic. WEBSDR is a live haptic painting created from the radio frequencies generated by meteoroids impacting the upper layer of the atmosphere. Here, antennae become the instrument through which a hidden score is written – where space meets Earth, revealing the invisible web of radio waves that envelopes the planet as air molecules are set in motion and rearranged in a new compositional form. The Politics Of Solar Rhythms: Cosmic Levitation, developed as part of an experiment proposed by the artist and conducted with the Jaeger Lab at the University of Chicago, is a collaboration between the controlled sound waves oscillating at a key frequency, where particles of cosmic dust begin to levitate, questioning which worlds might be created at certain rhythms.
The exhibition continues on the second floor with a series of artworks that confront the Capitalocentric perception of nature as an immutable force, as air, water or soil marked by pollution performs as a medium for transformation as well as a narrator of history. Silent Spring features poppy flowers cut from the contaminated soil surrounding the artist’s studio in Berlin-Rummelsburg, a site polluted by the building’s former resident, photographic film and dye manufacturer Actien-Gesellschaft für Anilin-Fabrication (Agfa). Finding lineage from Rachel Carson’s 1962 book of the same time, these delicate compositions trace a history of chemical colonization: in Agfa’s attempts to reproduce color pigments of nature, residual chemicals were deposited into the factory’s grounds, contaminating adjacent soils, rendering all fruits of the soil inedible and forever altering the color of its landscape. Framed behind shutters, visitors are invited to observe and re-observe the artwork, hastening the slow fade of the prints with each viewing and exposure in an urgent reminder that, in our attempts to “capture” the color of nature, we change it irrevocably. Now, if humans of the Capitalocene do not shift their methods of “reproducing” nature, that very nature will change—or worse, cease to exist.
Moving into the adjacent gallery, a series of sculptures connect the consciousness of breath and its physical presence. Here, Saraceno considers both the inequalities of breath in the world but also the myriad languages and traditions in which breath and life are inextricably intertwined. The blown glass works Pneuma, Aeolus, Aeroscale, Aerosolar Serpens encapsulate the spirit of breath, drawing on this powerful life force to reanimate a collective ability to pause and consider essential energies.
Throughout, Saraceno uses language and felt vibrations as a way to frame both immediate problems and questions of deep time: climate destruction and the slow healing processes of the earth, always considering our close entanglement with nature, and how we might consider disruptive practices in pursuit of halting a slow destruction of the earth, or in hastening its repair.
The show closes March 26th.
– D. Creahan
Tomás Saraceno: Silent Autumn [Tanya Bonakdar]