Symposium on “Visual Languages (and Representations) of the Sky:
Frameworks and Focal Points in Social Context,” International Congress of History of Science and Technology, Budapest, Hungary, July 28-August 2, 2009
James R. Fleming
The sky too belongs to the Landscape: —the ocean of air in which we live and move, with its continents and islands of cloud, its tides and currents of constant and variable winds… in which the bolt of heaven is forged, and the fructifying rain condensed… can never be to the zealous Naturalist a subject of tame and unfeeling contemplation — Luke Howard
Looking up, whether casually or with instruments, involves both frameworks and focal points. To observe the sky, whether clouds, sunsets, portents, or myriad other phenomena, is to visualize it, combining impressions, information, assumptions, and apprehensions. To represent the observations, whether with the naked eye or mediated, on rock, stained glass, paper, canvas, photographic film, or digitally, involves theory, language, technique, and cultural assumptions. It involves looking at it in a social and historical context.
The scientific gaze has trended toward full automation and abstraction, with data being acquired, analyzed and interpreted often without any direct visual inspection or representation. This has certainly not been the case historically in religious or aesthetic traditions. In landscape painting, for example, at least half of the scene is from the horizon up.
The International Commission on History of Meteorology invites historians of science and technology, art historians, artists, filmmakers, meteorologists, and other interested scholars to examine and explore the visual languages, cultural meanings, and representations of the sky—especially its weather and climate-related phenomena—in all its transient and transcendent glory.
Please email proposed paper title, 250 word abstracts, and short bio to either of the symposium conveners before the announced Congress deadlines.
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