Home Featured Sculpture Solar-Powered Air Balloon by Tomás Saraceno Shatters Records, While Protesting Lithium Mining

Solar-Powered Air Balloon by Tomás Saraceno Shatters Records, While Protesting Lithium Mining

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Art
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#environment
#flight
#hot air balloons
#solar power

February 18, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Tomás Saraceno

In late January in Salinas Grandes, Jujuy, Argentina, artist Tomás Saraceno (previously) launched a black air balloon powered only by the sun and air, forgoing lithium, helium, or fossil fuels. By absorbing ultraviolet rays to heat the air and allow it to raise, the balloon can hold 250 kilograms, or about two people. The project, titled “Fly with Aerocene Pacha,” became the world’s first sun-powered flight with a pilot and was exhibited as part of Connect, BTS, an arts initiative organized by the South Korean boy band. The global project has connected five cities with 22 artists who have helped fulfill the mission of redefining “the relationships between art and music, the material and immaterial, artists and their audiences, artists and artists, theory and practice.”

Breaking six records with the World Air Sports Federation,  Aerocene Pacha eclipsed previous markers in altitude, distance, and duration for both men and women, thanks to pilot Leticia Marques. During its flight, it reached an altitude of 272.1 meters above ground and crossed 2.56 kilometers. The longest flight lasted an hour and 21 minutes.

In a statement, Saraceno added context to the project that falls at the intersection of art, culture, and environment, speaking to the abundance of lithium in the area that’s being mined for use in batteries. “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,” he writes. The ballon prominently displays the phrase, “El agua y la vida valen más que el litio,” or “Water and life are worth more than lithium.” Activists from indigenous organizations attended the launch of the balloon, protesting the extraction process.

The Kirchner Cultural Center in Argentina is hosting a special exhibition, which includes video of the historic flights, devoted to Saraceno’s work through March 22. To see more of the artist’s ethically minded projects, check out his Instagram. (via Hyperallergic)

 

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