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Affective spaces. Experiencing atmosphere in the visual arts.

  1. Anja Novak


Atmospheric perception is a vital aspect of how viewers engage with works of visual art. Yet art historical discourse has barely paid attention to atmosphere as a critical concept. To remedy this deficit this essay explores how works of visual art afford atmospheric experiences. Drawing on philosophical work on atmosphere and mood by Heidegger, Schmitz, Böhme and Griffero, it will be argued that atmospheres are at the core of our affective involvement with art. How an artwork solicits this affective involvement depends, among other things, on the media it employs. This will be demonstrated by discussing two examples: a painting and a work of installation art. Both works seem to articulate the same atmospheric character but the perceptual conditions they offer for experiencing this atmosphere are different. As a result, the works emphasize different stages in the process of atmospheric perception. Juxtaposing them helps to better understand – and enjoy – this process.



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