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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German photographer Tom Hegen, who specializes in aerial photography, recently traveled to the Netherlands to document the country’s LED greenhouses. The greenhouses were developed as a response to the small country’s growing need for food both within its own borders and to the international market. Dutch exporters are second only to the U.S. industry for global food exports as measured by value. Although the greenhouses offer incredible efficiency in their design, cultivating food year-round through high temperatures and humidity levels, their round-the-clock use also gives off a great deal of light pollution. Hegen flew in a helicopter at night to capture the yellow and purple glow that the greenhouses give off, their geometric planes of illumination standing out from the dark atmosphere.
The photographer tells Colossal that his work centers around the topic of the Anthropocene (the era of human influence on Earth’s biological, geological, and atmospheric processes). “In my photography, I explore the origin and scale of that idea in an effort to understand the dimensions of man’s intervention in natural spaces and to direct attention toward how humans can take responsibility.” Hegen explains that aerial photography in particular helps convey the Anthropocene because it shows the dimensions and scale of human impact more effectively.
“I am also fascinated by the abstraction that comes with the change of perspective; seeing something familiar from a new vantage point that you are not used to,” Hegen tells Colossal. “I use abstraction and aestheticization as a language to inspire people and also to offer the viewer a connection to the subject as they need to decode what they are looking at.”
In 2018 Hegen published his first aerial photo book, HABITAT, and next year he will start working on a follow-up, the artist shares with Colossal. Keep up with Hegen’s travels and latest projects on Instagram and Behance.
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REWILD: A Short Film by Splash and Burn and ESCIF Chronicles Rainforest Restoration Efforts in Sumatra
To draw attention to the ecological devastation wrought by palm oil farming in Southeast Asia, the Splash and Burn project (previously) creates and documents large and small-scale art activations. The initiative’s most recent endeavor, titled REWILD and executed with Spanish artist ESCIF, involved carving a rewind symbol into a palm oil plantation in Sumatra, Indonesia, and creating a short film documenting the effort. ESCIF explains, “the idea of going back, of rewinding, is an invitation to reconnect with ourselves; to recover awareness and respect for the earth, which is the ecosystem of which we are a part.”
The land art intervention took place on an acquired plantation within a new forest restoration site made possible by the Sumatran Orangutan Society. After clearing the palms, diverse vegetation has been re-planted. In a release about the project, Splash and Burn explains that the restoration site is located on the borders of the Leuser Ecosystem, one of the most biodiverse places on earth. Sumatra’s forests—and the wildlife populations within—have shrunk by 40% in the past two decades, replaced by palm oil, paper pulp, and rubber plantations. Though not commonly known in the U.S. as a cooking oil, palm oil is the most widely consumed oil on the planet, found in everything from chocolate and instant noodles to lipstick and laundry detergent.
You can watch the trailer of REWILD below. It features an abstract soundscape by Indonesian composer Nursalim Yadi Anugerah. If you are interested in contributing, head to moretrees.info, and follow Splash and Burn (comprised of Ernest Zacharevic and Charlotte Pyatt) on Instagram.
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Mi Zhou, a student in the Central Saint Martins Material Futures master’s degree program, re-imagined the disposable nature of toiletry containers by turning the vessels themselves into usable products. Instead of the ubiquitous flexible plastic tubs and tubes that are filled with lotion, soap, and shampoo, Zhou’s creations are made of soap. In soft shades of mint green, peach, and yellow, the translucent containers sport sophisticated designs that bring to mind classic shapes of perfume bottles and powder boxes. To complete her concept Zhou consulted with Yanhao Shi, a soap artisan, and Luis Spitz, an expert in the soap industry. Read more about Zhou’s project on the Central Saint Martins Material Futures catalog. (via designboom)
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May 30 is Zero Waste Day in Japan (The name is derived from the numeric pun for 5 (go) 3 (mi) 0 (zero), which can be read as gomi zero, or zero waste). On this day, the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper ran a full-page editorial made to look like a front-page headline titled “Plastics Floating in our Seas” and highlighting the devastating impact that plastic is having on sea life. Everything from the article headline to the images and text were actually carved into sand on a beach in Japan and photographed from above.
The actual editorial that was carved into sand is the work of artist Toshihiko Hosaka (previously), who specializes in sand sculptures. Hosaka worked with local residents and students at Iioka Beach in Chiba prefecture to create the massive sand sculpture. It took 11 days to complete and measures 50 x 35 m (164 x 115 ft). Below is a brief excerpt from the text:
The sea does not speak. So, I will speak in its place. Currently, the lives of many creatures in the sea are being taken. The cause is plastic. Plastic bags, plastic bottles, styrofoam… 8 million tons of plastic used in everyday life are dumped in places like rivers and the ocean every year, and remains floating as garbage. By swallowing or being entangled in plastic garbage, about 700 species of animals including sea turtles, seabirds, seals, and fish are harmed and killed.
The editorial also calls out Japan as for its addiction to plastic:
We Japanese are also largely responsible. Japan produces the second most garbage per person. In order to rectify this, we have to take a good hard look at what is happening in the ocean. We need to think about things we have been ignoring as a result of prioritizing economic growth, everyday convenience, and such.
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Elegant Still Lifes of Luscious Fruits and Perfectly Ripe Vegetables Trapped Inside Plastic Packaging
Spanish studio QUATRE CAPS usually focuses on architectural renderings, but for a recent series, titled Not Longer Life, the group turned their attention to the plastic in our food system. In each of the six images, classic still life paintings by artists including Claude Monet, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, and Juan Sánchez Cotán are given a contemporary update. Recognizable still life elements like strongly directed light and decorative fabrics are maintained. But the perishable fruit that traditionally symbolized the temporary nature of life is now cloaked in plastic preservatives like cling wrap, clamshell containers, and stretchy foam sleeves.
The studio explains to Colossal, “Thousands of products are being commercialized, doubling and tripling a synthetic skin or even worse, taking the place of their natural wrapping skin with a plastic package in order to ‘ease’ their consumption.” If you like this series, also check out the work of Suzanne Jongmans. You can explore more projects by QUATRE CAPS on Instagram. (via Colossal Submissions)
Update: a reader shared an insightful article that highlights the importance of pre-cut produce in increasing accessibility to nutritious food for people with limited dexterity.
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A Field Recording by Phil Torres Documents the Waterfall-like Sound of Millions of Migrating Monarch Butterflies
Entomologist and TV host Phil Torres (previously) dives deep into the natural world to document sights and sounds that many of us will never have a chance to experience firsthand. In his most recent video, Torres showcases the sound created by millions of migrating monarchs. The iconic orange and black butterflies convene every year in Mexico, where they overwinter during the Northern Hemisphere’s cooler months. In Torres’ six minute video, monarchs cluster by the thousands on individual tree branches and swarm the forest air, creating a rushing, waterfall-like sound. We highly recommend listening to the video with a pair of earphones to really pick up the subtleties in the audio. You can see more of Torres’ outdoor explorations on his Youtube channel, The Jungle Diaries, and follow along on Twitter.
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Editor's Picks: Food
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.