Hanna Husberg

Atmospheric alienation

My research is founded on exploring issues which have come up in my art practice intuitively, notably a sensibility towards the intangible environment in which we are immersed. My practice consists of framing or creating landscapes in a large sense. These can be produced through an intervention or installation or using images (often moving) and sound. Landscapes mark the stages in our conception of nature and culture. After the abstraction and a movement towards the purification of the visual field during the modernism, landscape is today an allegory for the social. In an installation as in any other spatial relation we are confronted with the spaces in between, these spaces are not void, but filled with air, the part of the atmosphere we are most commonly in contact with. Atmosphere, as the common usage of the word, can be understood at different levels. The oxygenized air of our planet is a basic condition for life, and recently artificial environments that permit our survival in the air, space, under water or deep in the earth, have become more common. Air is also a carrier  and can be designed to affect our bodies. Our understanding of this immediate environment has evolved gradually and is today challenged as we seem to be pushing the boundaries of our living environment.

The atmosphere, or the sky, is a sign of the invisible taking place. It is a space of interrogation on the hidden, the partially knowable and is charged by dematerialized conditions of power relations. The concept of Atmospheric Alienation was proposed by Anita Givran in 2010 and is constructed on notions of Hannah Arendt’s Earth Alienation. The Human Condition (1958) begins with a reflection on the launch of the first satellite in 1957 and how this was not met by pride or awe for its achievement but as a “step toward escape from men’s imprisonment on earth.” The desires to escape from the confines of Earth-given existence, through scientific enterprises as satellite launches, nuclear technology or artificial extension of man’s life span is for Arendt a “rebellion against human existence as it has been given” and a symptom of what she calls Earth Alienation. Givran argues that the advent of climate change has brought humanity back within planetary horizons by re-inscribing the atmospheric layers as a condition for planetary life.

Atmospheric alienation is proposed by Givran as a reflexive way of thinking through frames of action, consisting of four elements; the troubled atmosphere, a shared sense of crisis, unevenness of responsibility for causes and a strong military preoccupation with climate change as well as a lack of consensus on global levels. I came upon the concept through my project Human Meteorology which looked at the human will to control and create devices and systems to master his environment, and at how this is related to a certain alienation we might experience due to transformations and changes in the environment we live in. Another approach of atmospheric alienation can be found in the arts, as can be read in the Dimensionist manifesto (1936) “Rigid matter is abolished and replaced by gazefied matter. Instead of looking at objects of art, the person becomes the centre and the subject of creation; creation consists of sensorial effects taking place in a closed cosmic space.” Duchamp, Klein and Barry are examples of artists refusing art’s reduction to the object it has traditionally been referred to as being.

Contemporary crises bring up new questions on our relation to the surrounding. The notion of the Anthropocene, a man made geological era, puts us in the self-contradictory situation of becoming the environment. The material atmosphere has become troubled, and compositionally unfamiliar in a time span we can perceive. It was long considered that “man’s environment did change but changed so slowly as to make the history of man’s relation to his environment almost timeless”, as expressed by Stalin in Dialectical and Historical Materialism, a state doctrine of the Soviet Union. Climate change has challenged this showing that human technology destabilize the conditions that work like boundary parameters of human existence. Humans are today in the position of changing the environment, but we are also being changed by the environment. Knowledge is questioned as we are put in relation with the indeterminate and as we are confronted with the paradox of not being able to do nothing and having to do something with unpredictable outcome.

Born in Finland, Hanna Husberg lives and works between Paris / London / Vienna. She graduated from ENSB-A, Paris in 2007. She is also studying at the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths College. Her work, which evolves between a regular practice of video, occasional interventions in situ, and several installation projects challenging different aspects of our physical and visual perception, has been shown in Paris and abroad and she frequently participates in residencies and workshops.