“Vent ininterrompu. Que peut-on
souhaiter de plus? Le vent, c’est de
la poésie immédiate.” (Cioran)
Aesthetic theory looks for
concepts that are able to grasp (Latin: concipere – to conceive, but also to
grasp, seize, capture) a specific experience that is renowned for its ineffable character. Such attempts to elaborate conceptually what is known without concepts (Kant) may
inspire a skeptical attitude since a completely satisfactory conceptualization
of the aesthetic experience is eventually as impossible as catching the wind. At the same time, it is precisely the poetical
potential of the wind that may exemplify diverse aspects of aesthetic
engagement. In its own way art succeeds
in grasping the wind by representing, reflecting and engaging with the
wind. Thus, just as a “soft side of
stone” can be found in art, so can art
manifest a “graspable side” of the wind. 
That the wind exemplifies aspects of aesthetic engagement is essential for the
present approach. Engagement “offers not
argumentation but exemplification” because
it is based on experience and requires an “empirical demonstration.” In particular, the wind poses a challenge for
the analysis because it has neither sides, parts, nor dimensions, no form and
almost no matter. Because of its
shapelessness and invisibility it hardly can be considered an object. I [D1] It is still a
force that is experienced as a dynamic presence. But before going into the typology of
aesthetic engagement, let us start with an example in which several forms of
engagement are inextricably linked to each other.
1. Attunement and engagement
The protoaesthetic situation of feeling a gentle breeze seems to confirm
the Kantian requirement of disinterested contemplation. At
first sight, also Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem The Eolian Harp endorses this assumption. The poet and the “pensive Sara” are sunk in
contemplation, watching the clouds and the sunset, smelling exquisite flowery
scents, listening to “the stilly murmur of the distant Sea” that “tells us of
silence,” and to “that simplest Lute”
How by the desultory breeze caress'd,
Like some coy maid half yielding to her lover,
It pours such sweet upbraiding, as must needs
Tempt to repeat the wrong! And now, its strings
Boldlier swept, the long sequacious notes
Over delicious surges sink and rise,
Such a soft floating witchery of sound
As twilight Elfins make, when they at eve
Voyage on gentle gales from Fairy-Land […]!
As a matter of fact, the mood of tranquility evoked by the poem stems
from the continuity and communication between the author and his multisensory
environment; the gentle light and fragrances, “the soft floating witchery of
sound,” and the caress of the breeze all pass on the lovers’ mood and fill them with cosmic harmony. Instead of focusing on the distinction
between the subject and the object, such an experience is based upon a deep,
almost mystical feeling of union between humans and the world, which is
described as love for “all things in a world so filled.” The breeze that “warbles” in the “mute still
air,” producing music, is but one of the symbols of “the one Life within us and
abroad / Which meets all motion and becomes its soul.” Once this higher unity
is attained, the differences between the senses are converted to a synaesthetic
experience (“A light in sound, a sound-like power in light”), without
generating confusion but evoking the well-known motif of the music of the
spheres: “Rhythm in all thought, and
joyance every where.”
In such a tranquil atmosphere one is entitled to ask where traces of the
subject’s activity can be found? First
of all, contemplation is by no means a passive attitude but an extremely
intensive one that requires concentration. It is possible to listen to the melodies only
if one constitutes the melody in a polythetic structure (in several steps) and
the unity of the melody as a process.
The identification of its acoustic patterns and rhythms requires perceptual syntheses. Also the relaxation unleashes “full many a
thought uncall’d and undetain’d, / And many idle flitting phantasies” that “traverse [the poet’s] indolent and passive
brain, / As wild and various as the random gales / That swell and flutter on
this subject Lute.” Listening leads to the synchronization or attunement
(German: Einstimmung) between one’s
own feelings, rhythms, and thoughts and
the music the eolian harp randomly produces. This state of mind suggests to the poet a stunning analogy and makes him reflect on the nature of the
universe. Immersion and cognition become
… what if all of animated nature
Be but organic Harps diversely framed,
That tremble into thought, as o'er them sweeps
Plastic and vast, one intellectual breeze,
At once the Soul of each, and God of all?
The metaphor of God as “one intellectual breeze” that animates nature is consonant with the
symbolism of the wind in several religions, including Christianity, where it is
closely related to the epiphany of the Holy Spirit.
2. Perceptive constitution of the object
Strictly speaking, the wind does not exist as such, but has to be verbally identified as wind. The same goes for the wind as an object of the natural
sciences and an object of arts. However,
the aesthetic dimension of the wind is inseparable from the experience of the wind, which is
subjective, yet not strictly individual, since we usually agree whether the
wind blows or not. Only the sensation is
strictly individual and unverifiable, not the perception, which has a public,
intersubjective dimension. According to
the reinterpretation of aesthetics as aisthetics
or theory of perception (Berleant, G. Böhme, Welsch), the wind has already an aesthetic dimension as a
perceivable phenomenon. Moreover, even
on this level the subject is not merely receptive but has to perform perceptual
(and, following Merleau-Ponty, not intellectual) syntheses in order for a
certain flow of sensations to qualify as wind.
In other words, having the
experience of wind requires the subject to engage with the environment, and
become aware of certain aspects, that is, pay attention to them, to activate a
selection of traits, to observe them,
and to constitute (not produce!) the object phenomenologically.
Further, the phenomenon
identified as wind receives a specific aesthetic dimension when it produces
pleasant effects, given that pleasantness may be regarded – against the Kantian
dichotomy between pleasure, Lust, and
aesthetic satisfaction, Wohlgefallen
– as a protoaesthetic value. The
pleasant effects of the air currents are mostly tactile and thermal, but they
can be also indirectly auditory (for example, when, in cold winter weather, one
sits in front of the fireplace and listens to the wind blowing outside), or
olfactory and even gustatory (when one fells the salted water brought by the
wind coming from the sea). The famous image of Marilyn Monroe’s with her
windblown dress records the tactile and thermal pleasure of feeling a
refreshing wind on a hot day presented
as a narcissistic, autoerotic experience or as the erotic engagement
with a non-human partner.
Also the multisensory dimension of the wind requires one to amend the
subject-object-dichotomy of modern philosophy and aesthetics since the wind is
not perceived as an object placed in front of the subject, as in visual
experience. The perceiving subject is
the body itself, which is immersed within an environment and engages with the
natural surroundings. Nevertheless, such
an environmental perception proves to be pleasant only within certain
limits. To follow the Kantian theory of
the dynamic sublime, a strong and dangerous storm is hardly to be appreciated
aesthetically by one who is not in a
In addition to this, the effects of the wind and weather in general are
both physical and psychological: weather
changes are felt with the entire body.
Meteo-dependent people know from their own experience to what extent
weather may affect their mood, state of spirit, sensibility and Gemüt, power of concentration, blood
pressure, etc., and invalidate once more the Cartesian abstract cleavage
between body and soul. It is interesting
that Leonardo da Vinci deliberately chose the wind as a metaphor for the soul
that can never achieve good effects in a weak or sick body, just as the wind
can never produce good music on an organ when one of its pipes is broken. The soul is dependent of the body as much as
the perception of the wind is dependent of an instrument to “capture” its
movement and translate it into music.
Frequently the perception of the wind is culturally embedded: a current of air is identified as Föhn or Bora on the basis of an entire collective historical
experience. Further, the wind is also a
cultural phenomenon, whose natural perception is influenced by the history of a
community and its corpus of knowledge, literary, or mythological sources. According to Herder and to Tetsuro Watsuji,
the cultures are even determined by the climate, including the wind. For Watsuji
the “climate” (Japanese fudo, “wind
and earth”) belongs to the structure of the human Dasein, in the Heideggerian meaning, and cannot be reduced to its
scientifically objectified dimensions. Watsuji
even classifies the cultures according to their climates into three types: 1. The peoples from the Far East (India and South-East
Asia), who are influenced by the extremely humid “monsoon climate,” are prone
to passivity and resignation, and to a contemplative and emotional
attitude. 2. The unfriendly “desert
climate” in the Arabian and African cultures forces humans to conceive life as
a struggle with nature, to praise the power of will, and to adopt a practical
orientation. 3. The “meadow climate” in
Europe, in particular around the Mediterranean Sea, induces an anthropocentric,
tranquil, introspective, and intellectual life.
Watsuji’s theory, which has often been rejected as poetic speculation,
is indeed subject to various objections; one of them concerns the one-directional relationship
between culture and weather. According
to Watsuji, the natural environment is a determinant of the culture, while
people – in spite of the ambitious projects of geoengineering – exert no
influence on weather. Nevertheless,
apart from this interpretation of the weather from the perspective of
philosophy (Watsuji) or of the history of culture
(Behringer 2010), the possibility of an aesthetic experience of the wind
attests that we are dealing with a culturally molded phenomenon.
Last, but not least, the perception of wind raises interesting questions
concerning its representability. Otherwise
stated, how can wind be represented in the visual arts or, generally speaking,
how can it be represented by a medium, given that its very medial nature enables perception only by remaining in
itself unperceivable? A first possible
answer to this question regards the personification of the wind as in antiquity
and on premodern maps when winds were named, received anthropomorphic
representations, and became characters of narratives. A second option says that the
phenomenalization of a medium is possible indirectly, by means of its
effects. Lighted and shadowed sides of
objects make light visible, just as “windblown hair, billowing drapery,
suggest the animation produced by the wind.
The aforementioned details are specific motifs for the “classical
Victories, Horae and, most particularly, Maenads.”
Warburg called them “bewegtes Beiwerk.”
These motifs “ubiquitously present in classical monuments, lovingly described
in classical literature, explicitly recommended to painters by Leone Battista
Alberti” around 1435 “become a real vogue” in the Italian Cinquecento, think of
Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus. Several other sculptors and painters, such as
Claude Monet, resorted to the same strategy to visualize the wind through its
effects. In Monet’s Rue
Montorgueil, the flags flapping on the occasion of a celebration in Paris
on the 30th of June 1878 evoke a vigorous wind that the spectator almost feels in her face. They
suggest an animated atmosphere and create a sonorous image. Modern natural sciences still use the Beaufort
Scale of wind speed, whose quantifiable parameters, measured in knots, are
accompanied by photographs showing the effects of the wind on water and by
verbal descriptions of these effects.
3. Kinaesthetic performance and poetical
participation: imagination, empathy
Perception is never mere receptivity, Husserl’s Affizierbarkeit
, but has to be bodily performed.
Tactile perceptions require the subject’s kinaesthetic engagement
and the same goes for sight, the sense of taste, and even smell. The correlation between sensation and
movement in general is central to Erwin
Straus’s phenomenology of perception
while Gilles Clément regards activity as an essential attribute of every life
being. These movements can be performed either
consciously, deliberately, and knowingly or in a habitual way if they belong to
the latent memory of the body; or they
can occur unwillingly and even reluctantly.
In the direct and aesthetic experience of the wind, a
physical engagement appears to be mostly absent; quite the contrary, the
exposure to a strong wind throws someone out of an aesthetic attitude. The aesthetic situation seems to imply a
clear division of roles between the active “object” and the passive subject. The situation is completely different when
the wind is represented; the subject feels secure and thus free to take an
aesthetic stance. In such cases, the
spectator is engaged in the movement indirectly in an empathic and imaginative
manner, for example,by watching how man and horse struggle to make their way
against a gale in the opening scene of the film The Turin Horse The onlooker’s involuntary identification
with the character(s) is enhanced by the length of the scene: when man and horse finally reach their
shelter, the spectator feels exhausted, too.
However, psychological empathy is not necessary in order to perform the
observed movement inwardly, as kinetic art well knows and shows. The installations exhibited by the Lithuanian
artist Žilvinas Kempinas (Fountain, Flux etc.) are directly linked to air
vibrations and air currents). The
agitation of the featherlight tapes of a magnetophon that are put into motion
by ventilators in gallery spaces is
transmitted also to their perceivers who feel light and restless, exposed to
outer forces and like dancing with magnetic tapes.
Imagination is universally regarded as having a higher degree of
activity than perception, just as
productive imagination or fantasy is more intensive than the reproductive
imagination in everyday life. This
common distinction between two types of imagination becomes blurred when Gaston
Bachelard considers that every act of imagination not only forms images but
changes them, its object being less the image than the imaginary (imaginaire). In particular, the element of air involves
the “psychology of the imagination of the movement” and is linked to a strong
mobility of images . For example, the wind Bachelard discusses in
a separate chapter
is able to unleash the power to invent narratives and to produce and combine images. Most dynamic are the images of the “violent
air,” the storm, the furious wind and the elemental energy
when the air is “all movement and nothing but movement,” and its effect on the
imagination consists in a “participation essentially dynamic that is nothing
else than engagement and empathic reenactment”.
However, Bachelard’s exemplifications
are exclusively literary; the fury and the cry of the wind are most impressive
when they are imagined or heard, but not when they are visually represented: “The wind menaces and howls, but it takes a
form only if it meets the dust: once it
becomes visible, it is a poor misery.” Being devoid of figure and form, the wind
seems per se to be incompatible with the visual arts; its
visible image would lend its rage and wrath a rather derisory aspect. In the end the wind is the “imagination
without figure” and the revery of the storm is guided not by the eye, but by
the “surprised ear,” since “hearing
is more dramatic than sight.” Even when it is experienced without the
intercession of art, such as when one watches the infernal hunt of the clouds,
the violent and energetic manifestation of the storm is still conceived in
literary terms: “we participate directly
to the drama of the violent air.” The storm symbolizes the pure energy that
successively creates and destroys worlds; to paraphrase Bachelard, the
phenomenology of the storm anticipates a phenomenology of the cry that is
projected on a cosmological scale.
Bachelard’s selective imagination of the wind may well be set forth by
mentioning different musical works (which he does not), starting with Debussy’s
Le vent dans la plaine from Préludes. On the whole
the imagination of the wind is a multisensory experience.
Bachelard’s conviction that the visualization of the wind is less able
to produce aesthetic effects may be regarded as a challenge for the fine
arts. Already the personification of
winds had enabled their anthropomorphic representation in pre-modern
Europe like the representation of astral
bodies and unlike rain and thunder.
Later on, Góngora’s images of the wind that combs the hair inspired
Eduardo Chillida’s sculpture The comb of
the wind, precisely by reversing the poet’s initial metaphor. The three pieces of metal placed on the
coast of the Atlantic comb the wind itself, which is then imagined as being analogous to the hair
or to a Maenad’s braids that are like snakes. Moreover, their form and material remind one
of tongs or pliers that present the unpresentable
attempt to grasp the wind. This
artwork is interesting not only because it is integrated in the environment,
but also because it is no more conceived as end in itself, but as a means for
arranging, taming, and eventually humanizing a “wild” element. Moreover, El
peine del viento shifts the perception from form to the process of forming,
from the passive matter to the active masses of air. The artist casts the metal in a mould and the
metal itself shapes the natural elements by filtering them as in a chain of
reactions. To understand the sculpture
is to perform mentally the gesture of using these pieces to comb the air. The same idea may even be reenacted bodily: by spreading our fingers, our hands,
themselves, become combs for the wind. If
Ulysses once chained the winds and had
the hybris to try to subjugate
nature, Chillida’s gesture complies with a natural force and engages with it.
Also the expressivity of Chillida’s Comb
of the wind is much indebted to the atmosphere, for the wind has a strong
poetical value precisely as an element
that creates atmospheres. The theory of the atmosphere includes the
wind among the so-called "half-things" (Halbdinge), along with the gaze, the voice, the darkness, the
night, and the coolness. Moreover, the theory distinguishes atmospheres (Atmosphäre) from atmospheric elements (Atmosphärisches): the wind
belongs to the atmospheric elements, which are less vague than atmospheres yet
less physical than things, while
atmospheres are moods and qualities, half-things that have attributes (e.g. ‘balmy wind’).  Besides, experience says that different
winds, such as Scirocco, Bora, Föhn or the Crivăț – to confine
myself to the Mediterranean and Central European space – produce various atmospheres and represented a
valuable source of literary inspiration.
From another perspective, storms offer the
most appropriate natural background for dramatic scenes, either romantic
turmoil as, for example, in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering
Heights or sudden and profound historical changes, insurrections and
revolutions, etc. The wind is frequently
understood as the sign of an imminent change when incontrollable energies
produce social disorders, just as strong
winds are feared for causing natural disorders . Also, while thunder symbolizes Jahweh’s or
Jupiter’s voice, the voice of the wind is the people’s voice, whose shout and
violent insurgence terrifies and snowballs.
This analogy is widely used in literature and film and touches the
reader or spectator emotionally, inspiring fear and aggressiveness, insecurity,
or even a feeling of liberation.
4. Semantic interpretation
Winds have always enjoyed a rich symbolism, being associated with
vanity, instability, inconsistency, and fickleness. Various pneumatological interpretations in
Hinduism and Christianity equate the spirit with the breath, whereas Chinese
philosophy integrates the winds in complex correspondences with seasons,
tempers, and elements. Some traditions
assign the wind a cosmological role in organizing the primordial chaos (Bible)
and regulating cosmic and moral balance (Avesta). The winds can animate, punish, counsel, and
bring messages, as the angels do (Bible,
Koran), and they even become deities in polytheistic traditions (Ancient
Greece). In the first place, the wind symbolizes the
power of empty space: a stream of air
usually looks like a void, but its power is stronger than earth, water, and
fire, stronger than matter, more like a purely spiritual energy.
Given this complex symbolism, artworks and installations that play with air currents allow various
speculations about their signification.
Visualizing air currents is like picturing space, time, speed, and
force. For example, Alexander Calder’s
kinetic sculptures or mobiles delicately respond to the slightest air movement
and suggest the pure lightness of being. Other
experiments have obvious spiritual connotations and invite the viewer to
meditation exercises, such as Anish Kapoor’s site-specific installation Ascension, which was first exhibited in
gallery spaces worldwide (beginning with Galleria Continua in San Gimignano in
2003, and then in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Beijing)
and afterwards in a sacral space (Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice,
The transnational artist Anish Kapoor explains the installation as
follows: “In my work, what is and what seems to be often become
blurred. In Ascension, for example, what
interests me is the idea of the immaterial becoming an object, which is exactly
what happens in Ascension: the smoke
becomes a column. Also present in this
work is the idea of Moses following a column of smoke, a column of light, in
His work challenges the history of sculpture understood as
the history of material: “I am making
works with the history of the non-material, between illusory and real, between
mythology and ordinariness,” declared the artist. And critics see in Kapoor’s works “the
predicament of two contradictory elements of modernism, the materiality of a
work of art and its opposite, the ideal and the transcendental.”
is not merely an installation to be looked at (and one should add, to be
listened to), but to be contemplated in the sense of pondering or reflecting on
the dream of modern art to make the invisible visible and sensible. In front of Ascension, the spectator cannot avoid the vague feeling that the
winding column of air is more than a work of art but is a sign, an epiphany of
transcendence, the materialization of the spirit, a kind of Jungian archetype
that operates on a subconscious level.
The ineffable column is not only hard to grasp physically but also
conceptually: it moves between earth and heaven, material
and immaterial, form and formlessness, and even – to speak with Kant – between
phenomenon and noumenon. If Roman
Ingarden assigned an active role to the reader of literature, who has to fill
the empty places in a text and specify what the author has left indeterminate,
such a column is almost a physically indeterminate place and the place of
indeterminacy. Its perceiver struggles
with the need to grasp it perceptually and reflectively without being able to apprehend it. Anish Kapoor succeeded in Ascension to create a mystery that is at
the same time here and elsewhere, that manifests itself without delivering its
essence, and reveals itself, remaining at the same time inaccessible, a sign
without clear signification.
engagement: making art
Art meets modern technology not only in Kapoor’s installation but also
in several kinetic installations that
use the power of the air as, for example, in the previously mentioned
installations by Žilvinas Kempinas, in
which light materials are moved by the air currents produced by a
ventilator. This poietical engagement
with the element air is quite common in music, where currents of air produce
melodies by touching strings (aeolian harp) or moving through pipes (wind
instruments). In the case of the aeolian
harp, the wind is natural and the music seems to be produced randomly; the subject’s activity consists of making the
instrument from several strings with different thickness and then letting the
wind blow through them. What we hear in
this case is, as a matter of fact, not the tone produced by the friction between
the wind and the strings but the tone produced by the vibrating wire followed
by a sequence of overtones that are always harmonious from a mathematical perspective, but consonant
in the lower register and dissonant in the higher one. Apart from this physical explanation, the aeolian harp remains a fascinating instrument because it makes the air appear
as sound and thus converts a medium into a phenomenon. Moreover, the sounds made by the aeolian harp
pour into the space without any frame or border and illustrate most concretely
Hermann Schmitz’s definition of the atmosphere as something that indefinitely
streams out into space. The aeolian harp
thus produces atmospheric music in several respects.
In the case of wind instruments, it is the musician herself who produces
and modulates intentionally the currents of air or, otherwise put, it is the
subject who makes not only the instrument but also produces the wind. The aesthetic engagement becomes here the
active use of natural elements, building them into the instrument and engaging
physically in making music. To paraphrase Watsuji, the wind makes us rush
into the temple and pray for protection in the typhoon season, but it also
makes boats sail and flutes play..
In poietical engagement, the artist does not confine herself any more to
feeling the wind or watching its effects but, for research or for practical
purposes, makes devices that mediate between the body and the wind. Let us mention a technical and artistic
experiment. Etienne-Jules Marey was
well-known in the second half of the nineteenth century for his
chronophotographs about the movement of men and animals. In 1888 he built a special aquarium in order
to investigate the aquatic locomotion of the eel, and in 1893 he published a
study of the velocity of fluids. From
the water streams he then turned his camera to air currents. He first
documented his photographic research in Le
vol des oiseaux (1890) and then he moved to the very medium for the flight of birds.
In other words, “he began by photographing the wing moving through the
air and ended by photographing the air moving around the wing.” Marey’s experiments on the movement of
air awakened high interest at a
time when aviation research was making
its first steps. Marey was a consultant,
adviser, and for some time even the “éminence grise of French aviation, yet he
was aware of his limited capability to interpret his photographs mathematically
and physically.” Among other photographs, he produced images
of smoke fillets and then of air streams that he studied in a wind tunnel he
constructed specially for this purpose.
Retrospectively it is considered “the grandfather of those still in use
today to visualize how air flows around an airplane wing.”
Let us move now to the classical example of building screens between the
body and the wind: architecture. We begin with the literary description of a
residence that was built to protect its inhabitants from strong winds:
Wuthering Heights is the name of Mr. Heathcliff’s
dwelling, ‘Wuthering’ being a significant provincial adjective, descriptive of
the atmospheric tumult to which its station is exposed in stormy weather. Pure, bracing ventilation they must have up
there, at all times, indeed: one may
guess the power of the north wind, blowing over the edge, by the excessive
slant of a few, stunted firs at the end of the house, and by a range of gaunt
thorns all stretching their limbs one way, as if craving alms of the sun. Happily, the architect had foresight to build
it strong: the narrow windows are deeply
set in the wall, and the corners defended with large jutting stones.
Walls and roofs, arcades, pergolas and other elements provide shelter
for the body on one side against wind, precipitation, and extreme temperature,
while on the other side, windows enable the air to circulate between indoors
and outdoors. Therefore it would be
short-sighted to consider that architecture builds only against the natural elements.
As important as the protection from severe weather conditions is
provision for opening oneself to outer space.
Apart from border cases, such as bunkers or other exceptional capsules,
buildings do not block but only regulate and filter communication with the
environment. Houses, like bodies, are open
systems with various degree of
permeability depending on the climate.
In recent decades, architects opposed to the uniformity of modern
international architecture have returned to the vernacular traditions of
building that integrate the natural elements (light, local building materials,
air, etc.) into the construction.
larger scale, urban planning has to take into consideration the most
frequent direction and intensity of the winds in order to decide conveniently
the placement and orientation of what will be built.. As a matter of fact, architecture and urban
planning are themselves filters or combs of the wind since they build solid
masses that hinder the natural air circulation and city highways that become
channels for the wind. Thus artifacts do
not only manifest (make visible or audible) the air streams; they also conduct
the air and eventually shape it. By
means of artistic engagement the
impossible gesture of grasping the wind is converted into various successful
attempts to form and lend sense to the immaterial.
This vision may well be dismissed as the product of a poetical fantasy.
However, a radical change of context
occurs when we move to the last type of aesthetic engagement, political commitment. It has already been mentioned that this can
be expressed indirectly by using stormy weather as an atmospheric symbol for
swift political changes. But the air
belongs also to what Arnold Berleant has called “the perceptual commons,” the
very ground of perception, and this requires a responsible and democratic
“aesthetic politics of environment” to regulate the quality, the availability,
and the access to basic natural resources. The wish to breathe pure and fresh air instead
of being exposed to atmospheric pollution counts among the “perceptual claims”
that differ from other claims because of “their immediacy in experience and
their primacy for sustaining life itself.” One may certainly find examples of artists
who make such claims and qualify their ecological and political engagement as
an aesthetic (i.e. aisthetic) engagement.
However, here again, as in
perceptual engagement, aesthetics transgresses the realm of art to
become, or rather to rediscover, its initial meaning as a theory of
As a matter of fact, all the forms of engagement mentioned above are
based upon sensibility, if sensibility is not reduced to the receptivity to
stimuli of a passive subject but is understood as the faculty for reacting to
the outer world and producing
something new: new images, new emotions, new reflections, and new
artifacts. In the case of the wind, this
stimulus activates various faculties
of the subject, those of perceptual
discrimination, emotional empathy, reflection, taste, and inventiveness. The
famous idea of aesthetic disinterestedness in the sense of the absence of any
practical interests does not at all exclude the subject’s interaction with the
environment and a highly participatory attitude. What eventually distinguishes
the art of feeling, (re)presenting, symbolizing, and making the wind from any
passive exposure to natural elements is precisely the attempt to capture the
essence of the wind in a never-ending adventure.
To view, "The Eolian
Harp" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, click here: The Eolian Harp
Mădălina Diaconu is
Privatdozentin for Philosophy at the University of Vienna. Her latest
publications are Sinnesraum Stadt. Eine multisensorische Anthropologie (Berlin: Lit, 2012) and Phänomenologie der Sinne (Stuttgart: Reclam, 2013).
She published in Contemporary Aesthetics “Reflections on an Aesthetics of Touch, Smell and Taste“ (vol. 4, 2006)
and “City Walks and Tactile Experience“ (vol. 9, 2011).
Published on December 30, 2013.
 Cioran, Cahiers
(1957–1972) (Paris: Gallimard,
1997), p. 963.
Berleant, Sensibility and Sense. The
Aesthetic Transformation of the Human World (Exeter: Imprint Academic, 2010), p. 101.
 Arnold Berleant, "The Aesthetics of Engagement" (lecture
delivered at the Institute of Philosophy of the Russian Academy of Sciences,
Moscow, typescript notes, May 1993).
 Alfred Schutz, “Fragments toward a phenomenology of music,”
in Collected Papers, vol. IV (Dordrecht: Nijhoff,
1996), pp. 243-275.
John 20,22; Acts of the Apostels 2,2.
 Leonardo da Vinci, Philosophische Tagebücher (Reinbek bei
Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1958), p. 103.
 Watsuji Tetsuro, Fudo – Wind
und Erde. Der Zusammenhang zwischen
Klima und Kultur (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche
Buchgesellschaft, 1992), pp. 21-104.
 Wolfgang Behringer, A
Cultural History of Climate (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2010).
 Erwin Panofsky, Renaissance
and Renascences in Western Art (London: Paladin, 1970), p. 175.
 Aby Warburg, Gesammelte
Schriften, vol. I (Leipzig,
Berlin, 1932), p. 5.
 For images of
the Beaufort Scale, see http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Beaufort_Scale?uselang=de, downloaded
on 10.07.2013. However, wind speed may be measured also with acoustic methods,
either using vibrating tuner forks, or a tone generator, or even directly by
trained listeners (cf. Mins Minssen, "Zur Phänomenologie des Windes und
der Windmusik," in Phänomenologie
der Natur, ed. by Gernot Böhme and Gregor Schiemann, (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1997), pp. 232-255, esp. p. 245.)
 Edmund Husserl, Zur
Phänomenologie der Intersubjektivität. Texte aus dem Nachlaß: 1921-1928. Husserliana 14 (Dordrecht: Springer, 1973); Géza Révész, Die Formenwelt des Tastsinnes, vol. 1 (Den Haag: Nijhoff, 1938).
 Erwin Straus, Vom Sinn der
Sinne. Ein Beitrag zur Grundlegung der
Psychologie (Berlin: Springer,
1956), p. 238.
 Gilles Clément, Manifest der
dritten Landschaft (Berlin: Merve,
 An exception may be found in a video documenting
Anish Kapoor’s installation Ascension
from the Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice that shows a visitor stretching her hand to feel or
even “grasp” the wind that is technically produced inside the church.
 The Turin Horse,
directed by Béla Tarr and Ágnes Hranitzky
 Gaston Bachelard, L’air
et les songes. Essai sur l’imagination
du mouvement (Paris: José Corti,
1965), p. 7.
 My translation, ibid.,
pp. 256, 259.
 Ibid., p. 259; my emphasis.
 Even the olfactory dimension of the wind is mentioned
by Bachelard only parenthetically, at the end of the chapter (“balsamic
breezes,” “scented winds,” ibid., p.
 Hermann Schmitz, System der Philosophie III.5. Die
Wahrnehmung (Bonn: Bouvier, 1978),
 Gernot Böhme, Aisthetik. Vorlesungen über Ästhetik als allgemeine
Wahrnehmungslehre (München: Fink,
2001), p. 59.
 To mention one single example, the lascivious,
erotical, hot, and moist atmosphere in Thomas Mann’s The Death in Venice is typical for the Scirocco.
 Cf. Jean Chevalier, Alain Gheerbrant, A Dictionary of Symbols (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994), pp. 1110–1112, ref. on p.
 Quoted in
Partha Mitter, “History, Memory, and Anish Kapoor,” in Anish Kapoor: Past, Present,
Future, ed. by Nicholas Baume (Boston: Institute of Contemporary Art, 2008), pp. 104-119,
ref. on p. 108.
Roman Ingarden, Das literarische
Kunstwerk (Tübingen: Niemeyer,
1965), p. 353.
 See Minssen, op. cit., p. 248.
"Es ist schon faszinierend wie diese Harfen die Luft zur Erscheinung
bringen. Sie verwandeln die Luft in Klang. Wie die Luft ohne Grenze ist, so
ergießen sich diese Klänge randlos im Raum. Die Luft ist das Grenzenlose, das
apeiron – und ohne Anfang, ohne Ende und die Klänge so Harfe." (Jens Soentgen, quoted in Minssen, op. cit., p. 249).
 Tetsuro, op.
cit., p. 16.
 Marta Braun, Picturing
Time. The Work of Etienne-Jules Marey
(1830-1904) (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), p. 216.
 Emily Brontë,
Wuthering Heights (London: Penguin Books, 2003), p. 4.
 For example,
Kenneth Frampton’s critical regionalism (Modern Architecture: A Critical History, London: Thames and Hudson, 1985).
 For example, the refinery in Schwechat was built in
the south of Vienna, given that the winds usually come from the north.
Berleant, “The Aesthetic Politics of Environment,” in Aesthetics Beyond the Arts. New
and Recent Essays (Burlington:
Ashgate, 2012), pp. 181-193.