Picture of Canary bird

Air surrounds and permeates our bodies, buildings, and cities. Because of its invisibility, and because we are always already immersed in it, the materiality of air is, however, evasive and easily neglected. Therefore, noticing air is intrinsically a question of perceptibility and of asking how things come to ‘exist’. It requires attention and care, and is dependent on historical circumstances and distinct practices of truth telling, that incorporate specific instruments, technologies, and methods of calculating. As a result, ‘knowing the atmosphere’ is contingent on techno-scientific apparatus, epistemologies, and infrastructures of the ‘military-industrial-business complex’ that cannot be thought of as separate from the histories and politics of capitalism and scientific thought. Further, situated in the nexus of media, science and technological mediation, air and the planetary atmosphere of the 21st century are entangled with existing patterns of social, class and gender inequalities, and hidden layers of power relations. In view of this, we hold that the speculative reimagining of air as a naturalcultural and technoecological phenomenon requires critical engagement with perception, representation and materiality, but also a reassessment of the disciplines that constitute our understanding of air. However, 'interdisciplinarity' is not something natural or automatic and requires experimentation between different practices, languages, and ways of knowing, including material forms of inquiry.

We will start the seminar with a lecture-performance by Hanna Husberg that will introduce one of our situated case studies. At the intersection of philosophy, politics, science and lived experience, ‘This new air, the one we talk about a lot’ uses audiovisual elements, sound recordings and excerpts of interviews to highlight some of the cultural and political aspects of Beijing’s urban air. Researcher Agata Marzecova will then present an excerpt from our research paper ‘And then came this number PM2.5’, in which the Beijing narratives are repurposed as a kind of situated evidence informative of changing environmental imaginaries and sensibilities. Highlighting how the sensing technologies and automated air data have become fundamental for surviving in the dense urban atmosphere, the Beijing accounts bear witness to the forming of new technoecologies of air, in which urban subjects are conceived as environmentally and behaviourally governable sensing nodes. Finally, asking what meaningful alliances can surface between art, science and technologies of air, we will together reflect upon some of the inherent troubles, but also the potentials of engaging with naturecultural concerns through interdisciplinary approaches.

Biography:

Through artistic-scientific investigation of situated case studies, our long-term collaboration between visual artist Hanna Husberg and researcher in ecology, photography & new media Agata Marzecova inquires into the role science, technology and infrastructure play in the construction of environmental and atmospheric imaginaries. This far, we have developed a series of interrelated, transdisciplinary outcomes, such as art installations, exhibitions, lecture-performances, essays and analytical papers.