Saturday 12 May 2018

Atmospheres welcome in anticipation of 18 May symposium

I just want to say thank you all for coming today to the Atmospheres symposium and welcome to York. This symposium derived from a line of questioning that seeks to probe how we identify, describe and document atmosphere. What are atmospheres, and how do we grasp them? Atmospheres, in this regard, are not necessarily visually perceived, but often rely on the other senses in order to be experienced.

Gernot B√∂hme has written on atmospheres that: ‘We are not sure whether we should attribute them to the objects or environments from which they proceed or to the subjects who experience them. We are also unsure where they are. They seem to fill the space with a certain tone of feeling like a haze’.

In this line of thinking, Marie, Teresa and I have wished to inquire further into the material and phenomenological potential of this haze in a variety of disciplines including art history, architecture, geography and English literature. There could be, through this line of thinking, many words to describe atmosphere or words that might signify the same mode of experience. Some of these include: mood, affect, aura, ambience and environment. In this way, atmosphere touches on rich ways to encounter the spaces, places and surroundings, whether this is on a planetary scale, or at the level of a room, a painting, or something as simple as a single word.

My own interest in exploring atmospheres comes from my doctoral research on photography and abstraction. My queries in this regard have led me to question how one might go about documenting atmosphere and how, as a result, atmosphere gets visually communicated, particularly through the camera lens. This has led me to explore a variety of photographic instances including Alfred Stieglitz’s Equivalents, whereby he photographs clouds, as well as formal qualities of photographs that might include a glow or a blur. With this in mind it is with great excitement that I welcome our speakers to what I feel will be a tremendous day, as we collectively seek to unpack this challenging and slippery term.

We hope very much and believe that by facilitating this interdisciplinary space for discussion on the variety of types of atmospheres felt and created that we will begin to more thoroughly explore this potent concept that finds its way into research belonging to rather different fields of scholarship. I invite you all to ask questions following the presentations and to participate in the dialogues that will take place.

Some housekeeping: We will have two panels today with three speakers in each and there will be a tea and coffee break in between. The day will culminate with a wine reception here in the Berrick Saul Treehouse. Please do feel free to ask Marie, Teresa or myself any questions you may have and we look forward to a great afternoon!

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