Transmission in Motion


“Our Fascination with Atmosphere” – Mavi Irmak Karademirler

The concept of atmosphere carries a wide range of possibilities within itself despite being difficult to define or analyse in a text. It is a house for the material and the immaterial, visible and the invisible, finite and infinite. Atmosphere circulates, moves, changes surrounds us with despite efforts to capture it. It exposes our obsession with sovereignty and freedom as much as it reveals our fragility against it. Derek McCormack’s seminar centered around his book “Atmospheric Things: On the Allure of Elemental Envelopment”. The book suggests a novel approach to the much-written concept of atmosphere. Viewing the balloon as a device for doing atmospheric things the book encourages us to appreciate and explain a vague yet an enchanting concept, bringing different ways to think about it. Hence the seminar lead me to the following question. Why are we captivated by the atmosphere, how can we explain our fascination with it?

For one reason, it always seems magical to the humans to be able to wander with the movement provided by the atmosphere, to be able to float on air. The desire to capture its lightness and its immensity in comparison to the impossibility of doing so posed a challenge. Since the old times, we see the examples of experiments and affordances to build structures that would complement the movement provided by the atmosphere. Our efforts to experiment and develop structures that would allow us to carry us through or beyond the atmosphere is one way to explain our fascination with it. One instance, which we also discussed at the seminar is ballooning. As a technical object, hydrogen balloon, both by engineering and experiencing the atmospheric volume enable us to move and travel.[1]

Leonardo da Vinci being an excellent observer, was also fascinated by the concept of atmosphere. In many of his works, da Vinci observed and experimented with atmospheric qualities.  His dream of flying appears to us on several of his sketches where he drew models and structures of flying machines. His designs of the flying machines which resemble helicopters and animal wings emerge from his interpretations of the environment and his experimentations. Additionally, inspired from his observations of the atmosphere, da Vinci introduced the concept of aerial perspective or atmospheric perspective, the method of creating an illusion of depth or recession in a painting by colour. [2]

The atmosphere is ephemeral yet constitutive[3]. It leads us to question the spaces we inhibit by our bodies as well as with our constructions. We build towers, tall buildings, skyscrapers that compete to reach higher dimensions within the atmosphere, not only to prove the capability, but also for symbolic reasons such as acquiring a superiority over others, or to rise above our competitors.[4] The atmosphere holds a possibility of acquiring a power for those who attempt to capture it, yet with its infiniteness and ephemerality it holds greater power over humans, leaving us captivated and curious with its existence.

[1] Atmospheric Things on the Allure of Elemental Envelopment


[3] Moved: On Atmospheres and Affects



  • “‘Mine Is Bigger!” – Why Humans Build Towers.” TEDxAmsterdam, 31 Dec. 2014,
  • Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Aerial Perspective.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 6 June 2016,
  • “Moved: On Atmospheres and Affects.” Https://
  • McCormack, Derek P. Atmospheric Things on the Allure of Elemental Envelopment. Duke University Press, 2018.