Jussi Parikka – Some people say not to worry about the air

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This presentation speaks about air and the lack of air. The air is full of nitrogen, oxygen, light, clouds, wind, pollution, radio, airplanes, satellites, signals, dust, birds and more.

The solidity of the narrative about the Anthropocene as a geological period gives way to the various dynamic qualities that pertain to the other elements such as liquids and temperatures. A cultural and media focus on the Anthropocene also starts to look different from the point of view of the other of the three elements which, of course, are more complex when it comes down to their actual chemical composition let alone their effects on the human lungs and rest of the body. The geological solidity of the Anthropocene gives way to something that in alternative ways already the philosopher Luce Irigaray explicated: the air has been the philosophical unthought for the likes of Martin Heidegger and many others that are the infrastructural backbone of much of contemporary philosophy. Or then, in a bit more straightforward way, take the lyrics from Talking Heads:

What is happening to my skin?
Where is that protection that I needed?
Air can hurt you too
Air can hurt you too
Some people say not to worry about the air
Some people never had experience with…

While we might not want to mistake Talking Heads’ song Air (from the album Fear of Music, 1979) as a note about the Anthropogenic climate change and air pollution, it does set the tone in suitable ways. This talk will address such questions about air and air pollution, and the various political, media theoretical and material contexts in which it is registered.