Balloons : what do they mean to you? Harmless playthings? Medical devices? Educational tools? Or means for attending to the properties and spaces of air and geographies of atmosphere? For the latter, see the work of professor Derek McCormack, of the School of Geography and the Environment, Oxford, UK, who focusses on balloons as vehicles for conceptual and empirical experiments in the multiple space-times of atmospheric materialities. He presents a new paper in the journal Cultural Geographies, October 2014, vol. 21 no. 4 605-625. It’s entitled : ‘Atmospheric things and circumstantial excursions’
“Stories told of the excursions of things are inflected by the properties of those things and by their capacities to move and be moved in different ways. Such stories can also be infused with a sense of the processes and relations from and within which these things – as apparently discrete presences – emerge. Moving in the spacetimes between these ontological and narrative imperatives, this paper tells stories of the excursions of atmospheric things as shaped forms that proposition us as discrete presences while also drawing attention to the clouds of affective and material relations in which they are generatively immersed. These episodic stories turn around the promise of the balloon as an only ever partially dirigible narrative device: a device through which to foreground what, following Michel Serres, we might call the ‘circumstantial’ qualities of atmospheric things.”
Noting as well that :
“The promise of the concept of atmospheric thing is that it points to the existence of a kind of worldly entity that makes its presence felt as something discrete but only insofar as it foregrounds the durational mattering of diffuse atmospheric fields in which it is a participant. These atmospheric things move between two trajectories in the materialisms that circulate in social, spatial and political theory. One is a growing sense of the importance of atmospheres as diffuse yet palpable spacetimes that require particular modes of attunement and genres of address. The other is the affirmation of the object as an ontological starting point whose essence is always withdrawn from the world,”
Further reading(s) :
Before embarking on any practical balloon-based explorations of atmospherics, may we recommend a document cited in the paper, namely a Pollution Policy and Position Statement from the Marine Conservation Society, UK, ‘The intentional outdoor release of balloons and Chinese/sky lanterns’ And, a Sept. 2007 story from The Daily Mail (also cited).
Also see : improbable dirigibilties in : 300,000 to 450,000 Cows Per Zeppelin, approximately.