Thematic Session 5: Atmospheric Experience

Desiree Foerster. Aesthetic Experience of Atmosphere

The talk is based on the paper in which I explore the possibility of a shift in aesthetics that accounts for the bio-chemical dimension of subjective experience. I argue that this shift allows to become more sensitive to how we experience, instead of focusing on just what we feel. I focus on media environments that manipulate temperature, air flow, or oxygen levels in the air, in order to affect human subjects in a bodily as well as emotionally-affective manner. I argue that media environments that intensify climatic processes so that they can be sensed, potentially change what we consider to be important in our environment and what we include in our consideration of future actions. For this purpose I will present aesthetic projects I co-created to explore ways of engaging with the materiality of atmospheres – understood as the invisible layer of gases that surrounds us – and how they relate to our imaginative capacity. In exploring and explaining the compositional elements of our atmospheric surroundings and making them explicit and open for engagement for a perceiver, I aim to create a greater understanding for processes in our surroundings that are outside of the human scale and hard to represent.

Desiree Foerster is a Post-Doc at the Department for Cinema and Media Studies, University of Chicago. She graduated from the Institute for Arts and Media, University of Potsdam with her PhD-thesis “Aesthetic Experience of Metabolic Processes”. Taking on the perspective of process philosophy and media-aesthetics, she investigates the impacts of pre-reflective  experiences on human subjectivity.


Felipe Castelblanco. The Cloud, The Tree and the Clouds

Today’s associations with the Cloud relate, more than anything, to the infrastructural apparatus that enable connectivity at a planetary scale. However, unlike the vaporous clouds, the network carries immense weight and conceals a complex history of neo-colonial expansion, surveillance and extraction through remote sensing technologies, climate modelling and politics of forecasting. By fulfilling its promise of omnipresence, today’s Cloud also manifests in remote regions like the Colombian Andean-Amazon region through extractive modes of land-use or even reinforcing a dangerous imaginary of the untouched, ever-green forests. While both trends threaten delicate eco-systemic relations, undermine indigenous knowledge or negate more attuned aesthetic relations with the forest, they also legitimize a type of violent vertical gaze that often surveys the earth from the sky. However, countering this trajectory, or looking up and examining the Andean-Amazon skies from within the forests, is imperative in order to sustain inter-epistemic, embodied and reciprocal ways of knowing the forest and ultimately support ongoing and localized efforts of biocultural peace-building and resistance. This talk builds around a series of ‘cinematic cartographies’ produced in the Colombian Pan-Amazon region, which explore a number of sub-visible relations across vertical layers of occupation and struggle, from the soils to the skies.

Felipe Castelblanco is a multidisciplinary artist working at the intersection of socially engaged and Media art. His work explores new frontiers of public space that enable coexistent encounters between unlikely audiences. Felipe is a PhD Candidate at the Basel Art Academy HGK -FHNW (Switzerland), holds an MFA from Carnegie Mellon University (U.S) and a BA from Javeriana University (Colombia). He has exhibited at museums and galleries in Europe, the U.S and South America. He is the recipient of several awards including the Starr Fellowship at the Royal Academy Schools in London (UK) and has served as a Cultural Emissary for the U.S State Department to the Philippines (2015).


Karolina Sobecka. Clouds And Machines: The Atmospheres Of Control

Drawing on an artistic re-enactment of a geo-engineering experiment as an example, this talk reflects on the contemporary preoccupation with staging, stabilising and production of atmospheres and aesthetics, and on the political potential of such machinations.

Karolina Sobecka is an artist and researcher whose work is focused on the relationship between environmental concerns and science and technology development. Her current projects explore the histories of ecology and their legacies in the contemporary formulations of carbon governance. One of the questions driving Karolina’s research is how artistic methods can be used outside of the art context towards socially-just and emancipatory ends. Through her projects, Karolina participates in and often instigates interdisciplinary collaborations in the settings of science and policy. Karolina’s artwork has been shown internationally, and has received numerous awards, including from Creative Capital, New York Foundation for the Arts, Princess Grace Foundation, Eyebeam, Rhizome, and Vida Art and Artificial Life Awards. Karolina has taught internationally and is currently part of a team of the research project “Cycles of Circulation” based at Critical Media Lab Basel.