Fog (a Delegation for Atmosphere)

In 1973, W.H. Auden wrote one of his last poems about finding solace in a romance that was spatially enhanced by the fog rolling in, creating a liminal zone cut off from the world. ‘Thank You, Fog’ delivers a dialectic of habitation – an interiority and exteriority established by a change in atmosphere. Spencer Finch’s photographic work of the same title (not pictured) documents the encroaching natural phenomenon and reveals its palimpsestic qualities; the fog envelops a forest, connoting a geopolitical scale effect that emerges through the act of witnessing. Its display is forensic and methodical; the seriality and indexicality inherent to photography and implicit in the apparatus are exactly those qualities that produce the opacity of image and the confusion of meaning. In this chapter of Postcards from the Anthropocene: Unsettling the Geopolitics of Representation, I argue that to scrutinize an object (‘Nature’ or ‘Climate’, in this case) ultimately produces what could be called a peripheral eco-aesthetics. The human drive to capture or to know is confounded by the elusiveness, affectivity and differentiation of perception, realized by a manmade framing of an ecological encounter. As a mutable postcard, I assert that Finch’s work succeeds at problematizing for the twenty-first century what Heidegger distinguished between ‘earth’ and ‘world’, and questions whether the totality of the latter can continue to be thought as always already in retreat.

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