Atmospheric imaginaries: science, infrastructure and biopoetics of arctic phenomena /winter fieldwork/
posted by Agata Marzecova on 24 January 2018

A collaboration between visual artist Hanna Husberg and environmental scientist Agata Marzecova.

A year before the nation’s independence Malla Nature Reserve was established in the thumb of Finland, for strict scientific reasons. As the young nation was established, borders were consolidated disrupting the centuries-old practices of nomadic sami reindeer herders. A few decades later, during the second world war ‘The German Road’ was built connecting Kilpisjärvi with the south, making the region more accessible, and paving the way for further scientific research, and eventually also for holiday homes and tourism.

Kilpisjärvi Atmospheric Imaging Receiver Array (KAIRA), a system of remotely controlled and relatively low-cost technology antennas located at the Finnish-Norwegian border, is one of the region’s newest extensions. The receiver array is capable of receiving incoherent scatter from nearby radars, critical for studying atmospheric and near-space processes. The KAIRA technology is currently being tested in view of developing the next generation radar network EISCAT_3D capable of providing 3D monitoring of the atmosphere and ionosphere. One of the commitments of the EISCAT_3D is to render the first 3D map of aurora borealis.

These were some of the narratives that emerged over our first stay in Kilpisjärvi during the last days of polar night, or kaamos. In June we will return for further explorations under the midnight sun. We place our hope in slow unrushed dialogue to reveal multiple stories of the place, allowing contradictory entanglements and large narratives to co-exist.

Arctic phenomena have become an inherent part of contemporary environmental sensibility, not least as environmental and climate changes are accelerated at the poles. For science, the vast Fenno-Scandinavian territories provide the most accessible large scale laboratories under the auroral oval permitting research on the functioning of the whole geosphere and atmosphere.  

Our project is an inquiry into the role science, and its geopolitical infrastructures, plays in constructing environmental imaginaries. Contemporary understandings of the environment are increasingly concerned with scales and material realities that are not perceptible by humans. Networks of scientific stations such as Kilpisjärvi, and the EISCAT sites (Tromsø, Kiruna and Sodankylä) provide knowledge about these environmental processes but are also physical places through which imaginaries of a global environment is shaped. Rather than observing the atmospheric phenomena as such our intention is to look at the material infrastructures and people that make them visible. Paying special attention to the aesthetics and materiality of the daily practices that underlie the formation of atmospheric knowledge our intention is to explore some of the processes that give emergence to these new environmental imaginations and therefore also to new environments.