Web(s) of Life, the first major exhibition in the UK of artist Tomás Saraceno is taking place this Summer at the Serpentine Gallery.
|When clouds appear like rocks and towers, the Earth’s refreshed with frequent showers.
If you want to live and thrive, let the spiders run alive.
|Web(s) of Life, the first major exhibition in the UK of artist Tomás Saraceno is taking place this Summer at the Serpentine Gallery. Tomas Saraceno collaborates, among others, with the interspecies communities of Salinas Grandes and Laguna de Guayatayoc, Argentina, Somié, Cameroon, Aerocene, Arachnophilia, and the Royal Parks.
Tomás Saraceno is an Argentina-born, Berlin-based artist and researcher whose projects dialogue with forms of life and life-forming, rethinking dominant threads of knowledge in the Capitalocene era and recognising how diverse modes of being reveal a multiplicity of meanings.
Tomás Saraceno has produced a body of work that embraces interconnectedness across ecosystems. His exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery will delve into the many ways in which life forms, extractive technologies and energy regimes are inextricably linked to the climate emergency. The exhibition will prompt visitors to consider different forms of knowledge and non-human perspectives.
In an era of rapid technological advancement, Saraceno points to the practice of looking to bioindicators: organisms that can signal shifts in weather, climate, pollution levels, and ecological well-being. These knowledges are often embedded in popular sayings and proverbs.
In Web(s) of Life, Tomás Saraceno asks: “In the context of the environmental crisis and the need for a just, eco-social, energy transition, can techno-diversity and biodiversity interact differently? Can systems of power move beyond the inequalities of capitalism and the reproduction of neocolonial extractivism of minerals and data? Can the privilege of digital memories over ancestral memories be overcome? Enter the spider’s dream, a space with codes of another ritual… It is high time some of us change our habits and not the climate!”
Bettina Korek, CEO, Serpentine, and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director, Serpentine, say: “We’re honoured to partner with The Royal Parks to extend Tomás Saraceno’s exhibition beyond the walls of the Serpentine South Gallery and into Kensington Gardens. The most ambitious show in the UK to date by the Argentine artist, Saraceno will put his decades of research bridging the natural sciences and visual culture into action as a fully participatory creative intervention that is as alive as the audiences it touches. Saraceno is moved by a desire to raise awareness on the climate emergency through practical solutions, and by activating the natural setting that surrounds us, this partnership promises to deliver on Serpentine’s mission of building new connections between artist and society.”
The infrastructure of the Serpentine’s building will shift to acknowledge and accommodate animals, plants, and humans of all ages. In the basement, equipment used to control the temperature and humidity will be switched off. In the gallery, the colour and the hanging height of the artworks will be adapted to accommodate animal, insect, and arachnid sensitivities. In addition, the size and accessibility of doorways and windows, artworks themselves, will be altered to further encourage the movement of living organisms and air.
Outside in the Royal Parks, visitors will encounter interactive sculptures that engage the park’s rich biodiversity of birds, insects, foxes, ducks and other species.
Saraceno has long called for close observation of spiders as a source of wonder and inspiration. The extraordinary architecture of their webs and their myriad behaviours entangle us in various cultural perceptions, myths, and symbio-poetic relationships, to move from arachnophobia to arachnophilia, towards alternative digital webs.
Within the gallery and outside, spiders are present, building their webbed pavilions. Alongside the immersive experience of web installations, participants will be invited to log on nggamdu.org, a web portal for an ancient ritual of spider divination that local diviner Bollo Pierre Tadios asked Saraceno to build when he visited Somié, Cameroon in 2019. This ongoing project has been developed with Arachnophilia, an interdisciplinary, research-driven community of humans, spiders and their webs, initiated by Saraceno.
Aerocene has floated over 8,000 minutes in the air free from carbon in 110 tethered flights, 15 free flights, and 8 human flights. The 2020 project Fly with Aerocene Pacha, stood in solidarity with the indigenous communities of Salinas Grandes, Jujuy and their protest against harmful lithium extraction practices in northern Argentina. With Aerocene, Pacha set 32 world records, marking the most sustainable flight in human history.
Arachnophilia, an interdisciplinary, research-driven community, also emerged from the artist’s more than 10 years of collaboration with humans, spiders, and their webs. With researchers at the TU Darmstadt, Saraceno developed the Spider/Web Scan, a novel, laser-supported tomographic technique that allowed precise 3-D models of complex spider/webs to be made for the first time, pursuing the unfolding of science through collaborations with world renowned institutions such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Max Planck Institute. Nggàm dù, a web portal by the spider diviners of Somié, Cameroon, meditates on the possibilities of reciprocal, intercultural and inter- and intraspecies relations.
Visitors will also be invited to voluntarily surrender their mobile phones. The exhibition will feature an immersive filmic installation, which marks the continuation of a long-standing relationship between the environmental artivism community Aerocene, also founded by Saraceno, the communities of the Salinas Grandes and Laguna de Guayatayoc basin, in Jujuy, Argentina, and other environmental collectives. The communities are fighting to protect their lands against lithium extraction, as the ‘green rush’ to mine the mineral commonly used in phone batteries is polluting and reducing one of the ecology’s scarcest resources: water.
‘Constantly alive’, the exhibition will activate a public programme and will invite viewers to consider the distant effects of local actions, of digital memories and consumer capitalism, to redistribute attention and economies towards future ensembles.
Saraceno’s work with local communities, scientific researchers, and institutions around the world, aims to seek out a more equal balance of human, techno and biodiversity, with the understanding that knowledge is produced from specific situations. He has held numerous residencies including MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology (2012–), Atelier Calder (2010); published in Nature and PNAS; presented a TED talk; staged artistic interventions with COP20, COP21, and COP26; has lectured at Princeton, Columbia, Centre Pompidou, Davos, Hirshhorn Museum, CCK, among other locations; and received recognitions such as the Konex Platinum Award in Art and Technology (2022).
Saraceno has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions, and permanent installations at museums and institutions internationally, including the Museum of Old and New Art, Tasmania (2022); The Shed, New York (2022); Towada Art Center, Japan (2021); Carte Blanche at Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2018); Museo de Arte Moderno, Buenos Aires (2017); K21 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Ständehaus, Dusseldorf (2013); the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2012); and Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin (2011), and is part of the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Fundació Sorigué Fundación Hortensia Herrero, Arnault Collection, Boros Collection Fontanals-Cisneros, TBA 21 (Thyssen Bornemisza Collection), Espace Muraille Dragonfly Collection, Fundación Helga de Alvear, Foster Collection, Sammlung KiCo, Kupferstichkabinett Museum Berlin, and QAGOMA Brisbane, among others.
Saraceno has participated in numerous festivals and biennales, including the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale (2020) and the 53rd and 58th Venice Biennales (2009, 2019).
Serpentine South, The Royal Parks
1 June – 10 September 2023
Listen Desde la Tundra PODCAST (with subtitles in ENGLISH)