By accident and by design: Composing affective atmospheres in an urban art intervention

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Michels, C., & Steyaert, C. (2017). By accident and by design: Composing affective atmospheres in an urban art intervention. Organization, 24(1), 79-104. (ABDC_2019: A; ABS_2021: 3; VHB_3: B)

Publication type

Article in Scientific Journal


This article argues that the notion of affective atmosphere provides a privileged access to the study of organizational affect as it relates to a spatial ontology of ‘being-together-in-a-sphere’. Drawing on the study of affective atmospheres in philosophy and cultural geography, we develop a conceptual positioning from which to analyze a musical intervention in the streets and squares of Berlin. The study traces the preparation and enactment of a 2-day music event that breaks with the emotional experience of a ‘mainstream’ classical concert, and instead intervenes in urban atmospheres by mingling music performances with everyday urban life in an attempt to affect chance spectators. Tracing how the concert’s atmospheres emerged through a series of encounters between various bodies and their specific affective capacities, the analysis emphasizes the tension between the possibility of designing and crafting atmospheres and its emergence in erratic, ephemeral, and excessive ways. Therefore, we propose that affective atmospheres make perceptible the potentialities of organizational space and give scope to our feelings as we experience their spatial recomposition. In the conclusion, we emphasize affective atmospheres as a key concept for the critical study of affect, as it advances a politics that attends to new possibilities of feeling and acting collectively in spaces of organizing.


Organizational Units

  • Institute of Architecture and Planning

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