The present publication explores how a planetary “becoming-intertwined” in the air and atmosphere might become a vibrant leitmotif for the conception of “other stories” of a more-than-human future. For our future aerial regime, we must discover a spherological approach to thought and action, based on entanglement in the atmospheric realm beyond the philosophies of modernity, which have quite simply forgotten the medium and the agencies of air.(1) Clearly, the construction of Western metaphysics rests on the c o n s i s t e n t n e g l e c t of the breathing sphere. This non-thinking of air’s ephemeral sphere not only leads to an imaginary of distanced emptiness between bodies and things, but it also overlooks the materiality and affective agency of the i n t e r t w i n i n g a l i v e n e s s of the planetary air space – with far-reaching consequences.
The suggestion outlined here for imagining human life in its atmospheric entanglement attempts nothing less than an atmospheric re-worlding of our existence. Here, the reintroduction of the atmosphere into our societal strivings takes absolute priority.(2) For in the atmospheric, our being-in-the-world derestricts itself radically from its preferred territorial and ideological insular existence, and thus de facto proves to be a “being- in-the-breathable.”(3) Here, Michel Serres’ observation that our existence is located quite essentially in the atmosphere(4) gains relevance far beyond a purely discursive examination, enabling a new perspective on planetary life. Thus “Natures, Cultures, Subjects and Objects” do not exist prior to and independently of their atmospherically “entangled worlding.”(5) Instead, the air and the atmosphere become e x p l i c i t, revealing effective powers long concealed by other currents such as modernity.(6) These subjects are examined in the first group of essays in this volume – T h e D i s a p p e a r a n c e o f t h e O u t s i d e – B r e a t h i n g I n t o t h e P l a n e t a r y. Approaching the atmosphere through breathing means immersing oneself in a reality that flows through humans as well as the air and the atmosphere of the planet. Our being-in-the-air shows that aliveness cannot be separated at any moment from this most intimate, yet at once planetary form of atmospheric interaction, and is by no means contextual, but rather c o n s t i t u t i v e of all life. To answer how we could overlook the entangled forces of the air and the atmosphere for so long, we must also engage closely with the dualism of modernity, both in its Romantic and its Enlightenment characteristics. Only then, the proclaimed “environmental” or “climate” crisis can be recognised as a crisis of externalising procedures.
Through sustained climatic and pandemic turbulences, the effective agencies of the atmosphere have meanwhile worked their way into central societal debates. As they receive increasing attention at the societal level, the air and the atmosphere are provoking increasing unease about our inter wovenness with the atmospheric. Identifying the derestricting or “unifying” powers of the air and the atmosphere plays a major role in expanding “atmospheric consciousness.”(7) In the second section of this volume – A n A t m o s p h e r i c C o n s c i o u s n e s s : I m m e r s i n g i n t o A t m o s p h e r e s – our attention is shifted towards these active forces of atmosphere and climate within societal processes. In the atmospheric discovery of our actions’ planetary basis, we take part in an e l e m e n t a r y t u r n in societal self-consciousness – the turn away from a situation “out there” towards a reality i n which we live. In this process, our planetary atmosphere becomes the model for “a global interior”(8) that can serve as a new imaginary for the conception of our planetary existence.
In this great interior which, through the becoming-visible of modern civilisational practices, makes us recognise our atmosphere, we increasingly operate in the field of consciousness of an atmospheric “world interior”(9) in which the human and the more-than-human on this planet Earth can move closer to each other once more. To effectively articulate and convey constellations of aliveness and porous forms of atmospheric reciprocity in this world interior, we must modify our largely e a r t h b o u n d notions of the aerial sphere.(10) Moreover, we need to abandon a language that, as Peter Sloterdijk has observed, was developed for a world of heaviness and solid bodies and is not capable of expressing the experiences of a world of “lightness and relations.”(11) From this perspective, tracing and cultivating our oneness in the planetary meteorological i n v i r o n m e n t also means turning towards the production of languages and societal formations in the atmosphere and in breathing.
Therefore, it is worthwhile to discover this second m e t e o r o l o g i c a l t u r n,(12) with its enormous and fundamental societal changes, also as a task of design. In c r e a t i v e l y d r a w i n g t o g e t h e r the manifold effective agencies of the air and the atmosphere, this publication proposes a profoundly performative aspect. In the third group of essays – E n t a n g l i n g w i t h t h e W o r l d – O u r B i o m e t e o r o l o g i c a l D a s e i n – the authors make the case for a societal perspective that defines its progress not merely as a modernist separation of externalised “environments”(13) but, on the contrary, recognises evolutionary advance in the societal conception of systemic intertwinements in sympoietic processes and dense, living assemblages.
For meteorologists, epidemiologists, and microbiologists like Lynn Margulis, air is the essentially formative agency, that constitutes planetary dynamism and aliveness through all particles that live, interact and merge within it. It is with this atmospherically infused evolutionary reality in view that we must now formulate a desirable future. Counterintuitively to our anthropocentric biases, such a design process requires a careful making-kin with(14) – the exploration of the mystery that lies in the inter wovenness “of all in the same world.”(15) As soon as we reconnect the bare human being with its atmospheric life-preserving systems, our individual existence, our b e i n g - i n - t h e - b r e a t h a b l e, can be discovered as an enabling scope of creativity.(16)
We can then conclude boldly, as Henk Oosterling does, that our “Dasein is design,”(17) in the sense that design has never been a separate activity from our existence. Design, therefore, seems predestined, even in times of changing climate and aerial regimes, to advance societal agency. Designers, activist groups, and institutions that are beginning to imagine the s o c i e t a l d i m e n s i o n of atmospheric being are called upon to answer the question of w h a t k i n d o f w o r l d we want to imagine and how we can articulate and negotiate its inherent intertwinements. In this, the vegetal can show us the way with the life-giving entanglement of the lithosphere and the atmosphere. By connecting life i n and a b o v e the earth, it spans vast areas of material and acting milieus. Thinking with and “through” plants in their in worldly and relating systemics can lead us to post-dualistic thought models for unknown co-operations and integrative agency. A b i o m e t e o r o l o g i c a l l y composed design and an atmosphere- related art unfold a design space for more-than-human constellations of collaboration. A d e s i g n i n g c o m p o s i t i o n – that is, the active recognition and formation of essential connectivity and emergence between life forms and things – thus becomes the central cultural technique for corresponding societal conceptions. Informed by meteorological phenomena, biometeorological design and biometeorologically informed art also rediscover and renegotiate compositional principles and the interaction of the actors involved. One point of departure for this is an actualising of Gernot Böhme’s initial call for a n e w a e s t h e t i c s o f t h e a t m o s p h e r e.(18) To carry out the meteorological turn towards a making-kin-with the more-than-human, it is essential to further develop this aesthetics in the expanded field of climate science, design, art, and cultural theory. Only by tracing our oneness with our planet’s meteorological singularity can we cultivate this imaginary and lend it appropriate expression. By societally animating the agential aliveness of the atmospheric, we can speculate openly about how a new aesthetic and design practice of the atmosphere might even become a constitutive framework of societal and political involvement. Not least, the reconception and cultural emergence of our planetary co-breathing also entail the demand to rewrite the modern version of human history and earthbound natural history as an a t m o s t o r y – as a correlating planetary atmospheric narrative.
In this anthology, the explorations of atmostories and aerial imaginaries are photographically accompanied by impressions of augmented landscape performance. A series of images of the b r e a t h e ! Pavilion envelops the chapters and invites the reader to delve into the subtle potential of atmospheric encounters with plant life.