Artist Tomás Saraceno launched a solar air balloon above the Salinas Grandes salt flat in Jujuy, Argentina, achieving the world’s first manned sun-powered free flight. In a series of journeys between January 21 and 28, Saraceno’s balloon broke six records with the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) for altitude, distance, and duration in both the general and female categories, since its pilot Leticia Marques is a woman.
Titled “Fly with Aerocene Pacha” after the Incan concept of the cosmos, the project was presented as part of South Korean band BTS’s global public art initiative “CONNECT, BTS” and is tethered to Saraceno’s longstanding interest in the synthesis of art and environmental sustainability. Unlike traditional hot air balloons, which depend on carbon fossil fuel derivatives, Saraceno’s vessel is propelled solely by solar energy and air. The aerial sculpture invites humans to imagine alternative means of mobility that do not require burning fossil fuels, the primary cause of global warming and the climate emergency.
“‘Fly with Aerocene Pacha’ presents an achievable utopia and a challenge to us all to connect together and change our habits, not our climate,” said Saraceno in a press release.
The balloon, which absorbs ultraviolet rays to raise its temperature and ascend into the atmosphere, can lift up to 250 kg (~551 lb) and transport two human passengers. During a test flight on January 25, it broke altitude and duration records, rising to 272.1 meters (~893 feet) and floating for an hour and 21 minutes. On January 28, the balloon’s official launch date, it broke distance records by traversing 2.56 km (~1.59 miles). More than 500 people were present at Salinas Grandes to witness the flight, and around 28,000 tuned in to an online live stream.
“Aerocene Pacha” also aims to raise awareness of the different communities whose livelihoods are variously threatened by climate change. Salinas Grandes is known for its significant reserves of lithium, an ingredient in ostensibly eco-friendly smartphone and electric car batteries whose extraction can have disastrous results, including water contamination. Four groups representing 33 indigenous communities in the provinces of Jujuy and Salta — Tres Pozos, Pozo Colorado, San Miguel del Colorado, and Inti Killa de Tres Morros — attended the ceremony for “Aerocene Pacha” and defended the right to maintain their territories mining-free. Saraceno’s balloon read “El agua y la vida valen más que el litio” (“Water and life are worth more than lithium”).
Argentina belongs to the so-called “lithium triangle,” also comprising Chile and Bolivia, which holds more than half of the Earth’s lithium resources.
“Fifty years ago marked the first moon landing, achieved with the same patriarchal, nationalist and colonial ambitions that have depleted the world,” says a statement on Saraceno’s website. “This extractivist attitude is evidenced in the Salinas Grandes by the recent rush to mine lithium, furthering the man-made violence that incites climate change and mass extinction, the race to colonize space and disturbed balance of interconnected ecosystems.”
Saraceno is producing a series of films of the flight, and public screenings are being held at the Centro Cultural Kirchner (CCK) in Buenos Aires. The first screening took place on January 31; three more will follow on February 15, February 29, and March 14, presenting subsequent chapters of the film. Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis at CCK’s website.
MTV’s The Exhibit Is Back With an Inflatable Dolphin
Episode four, in which artists tackled themes of justice and injustice, was the most lifeless of the reality TV show so far.
Florida Principal Ousted Over “Pornographic” Michelangelo Sculpture
Parents complained that the famous sculpture was shown to their sixth graders.
The Milton Resnick and Pat Passlof Foundation Presents The Feminine in Abstract Painting
Curated by Jennifer Samet and Andrea Belag, this group exhibition in NYC explores the feminine through aesthetics, as opposed to identity or gender.
Tickets to Sold-Out Vermeer Show Are Going for Hundreds
The online resale market for the Rijksmuseum’s smash exhibition is booming, with tickets selling on eBay for over $2K.
NYU Steinhardt Opens 2023 MFA Thesis Exhibitions
Taking place at 80WSE Gallery in New York’s Greenwich Village, Part I is on view from late March through April while Part II opens in May.
Miniature Worlds: Joseph Cornell, Ray Johnson, Yayoi Kusama
Through small-scale works, this exhibition at the Katonah Museum of Art in New York examines Cornell’s prominent role in the lives and careers of Johnson and Kusama.
Three Looted Antiquities at the Met Repatriated to Turkey
Nine other repatriated works were seized from Met Trustee Shelby White, whose collection was subject to a criminal investigation.
This week, the world’s lightest paint, Pakistan’s feminist movement, World Puppy Day, and were some of Vermeer’s paintings created by his daughter?
The Wider World and Scrimshaw
On March 28, join the New Bedford Whaling Museum online and in-person for a symposium on global carving traditions from across the Pacific Rim.
Who Will Decide on the Future of a Miami Native Burial Ground?
Native activists say sacred remains and objects dug up from a Brickell construction site should remain there, but mega-developer Jorge Pérez is pushing back.
How Can a Curator Approach South Asian Futurisms?
How do I acknowledge my shortcomings while reckoning with obscured histories and the exclusion of subaltern narratives in the fine art landscape? A working checklist for curators.
MCA Chicago Presents On Stage: Frictions
Will Rawls, Shamel Pitts | TRIBE, and Barak adé Soleil explore Blackness, queerness, movement, and dance in performances at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.
The Complicated Legacy of Camilo Egas
The Ecuadorian painter, a leading figure of Latin America’s Indigenismo art movement, has been both praised and scorned for his representation of Indigenous peoples.
Tom Jones Zeroes in on Ho-Chunk Visibility
“I think about the young kids, the teenagers, and I think being able to see yourself represented in art is so powerful,” says the artist.
The writer makes blatantly false claims in this article. It is not anywhere near “the first time a human has flown without the use of any fossil fuels, only air and sun.” The aircraft in this article is made of nylon or polyester– which is made from fossil fuels. In no way is this even the first manned solar balloon flight. In 1973 Tracy Barnes flew the “Solar Firefly” in manned flight — 46 years before the flights the author writes about. Then, there was Julian Nott with the ‘Nazca’ balloon in the 1970’s, and his solar balloon crossing of the English Channel in 1981. This says nothing of the smoke balloonists—who also flew without burning a fossil fuel. In terms of manned flight without burning a fossil fuel, soaring aircraft—like gliders– fly on thermals created by the sun shining on the surface of the earth, or ridge lift, etc.. Ridiculous for the author to claim this is the first manned solar balloon, let alone the first manned flight without using burning a fossil fuel; it literally happens every day with soaring aircraft. The poorly written article takes away from a very cool modern solar balloon; respect to the flight project. Shame on the author for mangling the story.
Comments are closed.