“I think it’s time to reinvent what a human is. You have to make the effort to change your own perspective and try to construct something which is beyond your own form of knowledge..”
- Tomás Saraceno
Through interactive installations and an artistic process that focuses on collaboration—in this case with spiders and their webs—the artist Tomás Saraceno proposes a conversation between human and nonhuman lifeforms. Nonhumans have typically been disregarded by humans in the Capitalocene era, as environmental scientists have dubbed our current epoch, characterized as it is by the destructive effects of capitalism on the environment. In a call for environmental justice, Saraceno also collaborates with human communities that have been impacted by these negative effects, particularly as part of his community projects, Aerocene and Arachnophilia. "Particular Matter(s)," the artist’s largest exhibition in the US to date, celebrated the complexity of our collective existence while searching for ways to live together in a different and more equitable fashion. Organized by Emma Enderby, Curator-at-Large, with assistant curators Alessandra Gómez and Adeze Wilford, the exhibition featured new and existing works in the galleries of The Shed as well as a newly commissioned sensory experience, "Free the Air: How to hear the universe in a spider/web," a 95-foot-diameter installation consisting of two levels of wire mesh netting upon which participants’ bodies could vibrate with the rhythms of spiders and other creatures—a concert of terrestrial and cosmic vibrations experienced as inaudible frequencies. "Matter(s) for Conversation and Action" In partnership with Columbia University’s Climate School and Studio Tomás Saraceno, The Shed presented a series of six conversations to explore key issues around climate change and environmental justice while identifying connections with artworks in the exhibition: "An Outlook on Particular Matter(s)," with Saraceno, exhibition curator Emma Enderby and The Shed’s Senior Program Advisor, Hans Ulrich Obrist; "Environmental Justice and Covid-19," a discussion featuring Harriet A. Washington, a leader in environmental racism discourse, and moderated by Courtney Cogburn, Associate Professor of Social Work at Columbia; "Capitalocene, Aerocene," an investigation of the role of capitalism in the climate crisis, moderated by Andrew Revkin, Director of Initiative on Communication Innovation and Impact at Columbia Climate School; "From Arachnophobia to Arachnophilia," an exploration of interspecies interconnectedness and interdependence; "Invention, Experimentation, and Radical Imagination," a survey of artistic and scientific frameworks to unlock potential paths forward, and "Where Do We Go from Here? Rights of nature: Policy, Activism and Change," in search of diverse, international approaches to the rights of the air and of water.