Accepted paper:

"A sea of movements": weather and atmosphere in "Leviathan" and the "Artificial Nature Project"


Gerko Egert (Freie Universit├Ąt Berlin)

Paper short abstract:

The paper explores the concept of atmosphere not as a background feeling or as secondary to a given (human) action but as a specific setting of movements. By looking at two visual ethnographic projects the talk describes their very specific ways of unfolding as atmospheric events.

Paper long abstract:

Atmosphere is often used to describe a specific "background feeling" of an event or situation usually consisting of one or several human actors. In this paper I want to propose a concept of atmosphere that is not secondary to a given situation. Atmosphere is not "of something" but is the very specific unfolding of an event. Instead of enclosing given objects, atmosphere creates a scenario of differential processes. By looking at two artistic research projects I want to discuss atmosphere especially in terms of weather and movement. Weather is nothing added to or performed by given actors (like the wind, the sun or the sea), but the very atmospheric event itself composed of manifold movements without foregrounding any single (human) action. In her Artificial Nature Project, choreographer Mette Ingvartsen explores different weather scenarios and their specific movements. By radically decentering the human dancers, Ingvartsen choreographs "weather worlds" (Ingold) and produces catastrophic scenarios made of manifold movements. The ethnographic film Leviathan by Lucian Castaing-Taylor and Verena Pavarell (2012) enfolds the world of and around a fishing ship in front of the coast of California. Like in Ingvartsen's work Leviathan radically decenters the human perspective and creates an atmosphere build by the movements of the sea, the ship, the fish, the birds and others. Atmosphere cannot be observed from a distanced and neutral position but becomes a mode of research itself. How can these artistic research projects help to develop a notion of atmosphere in ethnographic and anthropological research that is not based on representation but on its manifold movements?

panel P03
Exploring 'atmospheres': an anthropological approach?