Between Heaven and Ground: Exploring new atmospheres

deadline for submissions: 
January 30, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
Chantelle Mitchell/Jaxon Waterhouse

Between Heaven and Ground: exploring new atmospheres

 

The atmosphere is an ever-present component of the Earth, and although airy and diffuse, gives rise to an endless multiplicity of realisations, affects and presences. The epistemological and ontological vagueness of the atmosphere belies the criticality of the atmosphere as central to conditions of being (both human and more-than-human), and as a material site for attention and attunement. As Lyall Watson writes in Heaven’s Breath, ‘the more we learn about our atmosphere, the more substantial it becomes… close to being a living tissue in its own right’ (1985: 146). 

 

Far from being simply the space between heaven and ground, we apprehend the atmosphere now as a key site within the contemporary. The ecological significance of the atmosphere becomes clear as the sky grows thick through rising pollution levels and climate crisis. Central to contemporary political landscapes, the air and the atmosphere is a tool of control, wielded, mobilised, weaponised, owned and politicised. We think here of smoke filled skies, tear gas, drone warfare, police violence and virulence, with transit through atmospheres and the air increasingly regulated and complicated in our current period. But we consider too the connective capacities of the atmosphere, in light of satellites and communication technology, the sky filled with transmissions between devices and those who wield them. This extends into the biological, as the atmosphere becomes internalised through the mechanics of respiration.

 

Just as the atmosphere shapes our physical experience of the world, it also forms a fundamental aspect of the human experience. As Bille posits, atmosphere is an important part of the identities and conceptualisations of landscapes, architecture and homes’, circumscribing or filling the spaces we inhabit (2015: 32). Despite their ubiquity, however, the notion of an atmosphere resists definition, encountered in everyday language as ‘ambience’, ‘sense of place’, or the ‘feel’ of a room, and more philosophically in terms such as Stimmung, ‘mood’ or ‘attunement’ (Heidegger, 1962: 134), as ‘tempered space’ (Bollnow, 1963: 230), as ‘tinctured’ or ‘tuned’ spaces (e.g. Bohme, 1993: 121), or as that which ‘corporeally moves the perceiving person’ (Schmitz et al., 2011: 257). Atmospheres, Bohme offers, are ‘spheres of the presence of something, their reality in space’ (Bohme, 1993: 121-122).

 

This publication emerges from new developments in the growing field of the atmospheric humanities and seeks understandings of the political and socio-cultural dimensions of atmospheric experience, knowledge and practice. We call for abstracts which address critical and necessary considerations of atmospheres across the arts, with reference to climatological realities and practices across time seeking to present, alter, or capture atmospheres in all their multiplicities.  In particular we seek engagements with atmospheric frames through material practice, across the visual arts in which the perceived immateriality of the atmosphere is made manifest through performance, object and installation. We seek critical considerations of artistic engagements with atmospheres across time, as registered in painterly practice through landscape tradition. We welcome contributions from scholars whose work spans disciplines, including, but not limited to, literary and media studies, history of science, environmental history, aesthetics, visual arts, architecture, phenomenology, and social sciences.

 

*inclement weather, clouds fog and storms

*pollution

*atmospheres as affect, tied through climate crisis to anxiety, mourning and solastalgia

*visualisations of the atmosphere within arts contexts

*material cultures of the atmosphere

*human understandings of the atmosphere and related concepts such as weather and climate

*representations of atmospheres in art and popular culture

*interfaces and interactions between scientific understanding(s) of the atmosphere and other ways of knowing or experiencing the atmosphere (e.g. political, indigenous, religious, philosophical, aesthetic).

*heaven and faith through presence and spirituality 

We seek proposed abstracts for chapters and essays to form part of an edited volume which will be pitched to contemporary arts publishers, looking toward publication in early 2023. We are open to responses outside of traditional academic proposals, with visual and material engagements with contemporary practice welcome. 300 word abstracts and short biographical statements can be sent to Chantelle Mitchell and Jaxon Waterhouse, ecologicalgyretheory@gmail.com by January 30, 2022.