Atmosphere in wet-lands
Paolo Gruppuso (University of Aberdeen)
Paper short abstract:
Aggregates of different substances, evanescent landscapes, not surfaces neither mediums, wet-lands seem interfaces between the Earth and the sky: àthmos(ἄθμος-vapour)in the sphàira(σφαίρα-sphere).This paper will explore atmosphere in wetlands through ethnographic,scientific and artistic materials.
Paper long abstract:
Amongst the larger marshlands in Europe, the Pontine Marshes (Italy) were reclaimed during the 1930's by the fascist regime. Today the wetlands in Agro Pontino represent the last fragments of the old marshes. In these wetlands you can still feel a particular 'atmosphere' which is related to their particular ecological features as well as to their history. Celebrated by poets and artists, as well as by scientists and explorers, the 'atmosphere' has been understood like the quintessence of the Pontine Marshes: exotic and nostalgic from an artistic point of view; malarial and disordered from the scientific perspective. Alongside artists and scientists who visited the marshes, there were local people who used to live there. Far from being exotic or disordered, for the inhabitants the marshes' athmosphere was familiar and protective. This seems to be quite a common pattern in marshlands almost everywhere: different atmospheres contribute to constitute a particular idea of wet-land as home and provisional refuge, hospitable and repulsive, vital and deadly. This paper will discuss ethnographic materials, as well as paintings, poems and scientific reports with the aim to explore the presence of atmospheres in wet-lands, overcrossing the boundaries between Science and Aesthetics, Malariology and Poetry, Climatology and Painting. I will present an idea of atmosphere as a changeable concretion of air and soil, fire and water, past and present. Furthermore I will argue that atmosphere emerges as a relational process between humans and non-humans, both as an act of perception as well as a proper artefact in becoming.
Exploring 'atmospheres': an anthropological approach?