It was with great regret that I knew that Gernot Böhme died a few days ago. I met him on several occasions and at conferences, he was a Visiting Professor at my university in Rome, he wrote several essays for books and journals (also translated into Italian and English) for which I was and am responsible, I translated the only volume published in Italian (2010), and we had maintained a regular, frank dialogue ever since.
I/we will miss him: he was a decisive figure for a way of understanding philosophy that does not reduce it to technicalities and that, even with the necessary rigour, never loses sight of the issue, in some way always existential, which, in my opinion, alone justifies a lifelong philosophical commitment. His reflections on aesthetics as “Aisthetic” or philosophy of perception, aesthetic capitalism, pathic ethics, “oblique” thought and the dimension (phenomenological but also ethical) of corporeality (Leiblichkeit) will remain an indispensable point of reference for anyone wishing to deal with these issues without disciplinary prejudices and jargon.
The loss of Hermann Schmitz and Gernot Böhme in the space of a few months is, of course, irreparable damage to the issue at the centre of this site and to philosophy in general. Personally, I will miss my two main interlocutors, but more importantly, philosophically, two of the most important voices in this field of the second half of the twentieth century have been lost.
The least that can be said is that the philosophical question of atmospheres, so brilliantly suggested and explored by both German philosophers, is unlikely to find interpreters of similar calibre and quality. All of us will obviously try to do our best, also to honour the work of both of them. Let us hope we are worthy of them.
(Tonino Griffero – Tor Vergata University, Rome)
It is rare to meet one of your idols and not be disappointed. It is even rarer to meet someone who is happy to receive criticism about their work in an open, welcoming manner. Gernot was just that kind of person. Apart from committed thinker, he was a generous, kind and understanding person. Someone whose strong political positions and uncompromised ethical integrity was always accompanied by an all-embracing aesthetics and a solid will to think along rather than preach, to facilitate rather than to confound, to understand rather than simply to convince. I met him late in his life but I was still impressed by his youthful enthusiasm, his continuing passion for novel ways of thinking, and his surprising interest in my work and indeed my (I hope gentle) criticism of his. Since then, I’ve met him a few times, every single one of which as inspiring and fulfilling as the first. He will be missed.
(Andreas Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos – University of Westminster)
When I knew that Gernot Böhme passed away, I felt a deep sense of loss. And some memories of his writings and meetings came to me in a very vivid way.
I met the philosophy of atmospheres about ten years ago, I found some works by Schmitz and Böhme and I discovered that Griffero was bringing them to Italy and originally developing this philosophical field. It was a very meaningful meeting for me. The pathic aesthetic that these authors have been developing enlights the ground around the exploration of psychopathology from a field perspective. This phenomenological-Gestalt approach supports a field based clinical practice. A revolutionary perspective that places suffering neither inside, nor outside the suffering person, but rather before the differentiation of subjective and objective poles. In 2016, we invited Böhme in Ischia to the National Conference of the Italian Associations and Schools of Psychotherapy.
Beside the stage, we had many chances to talk about aesthetic, psychopathology, and psychotherapy. His understanding of the processes of perception, of its atmospheric and synestetical roots, his differentiation of semeiotic, hermeneutic and aesthetic way of knowing inspired me to differentiate the same three ways to understand and define diagnosis in psychotherapy and clinical meetings. We discussed these issues a lot, and the book that Griffero and I edited in 2019 (“Psychopathology and Atmospheres. Neither inside nor Outside”) and the forthcoming “Psicopatologia e atmosfere. Prima del soggetto e del mondo” have been deeply influenced by him. His understanding of atmospheres and perception processes are offering me an inspiring and fertile ground to further explore the dimension from where we come as subjects. A crucial dimension for understanding psychopathology and human suffering. And so the therapeutic directions. I feel gratitude for his contribution, so supportive for many disciplines and developments.
After the Conference in Ischia he sent me his last book, and in the dedication he wrote: “For our further cooperation”. Yes, I know that we are continuing our collaboration and our common journey.
(Gianni Francesetti – IPsiG Torino)
In my copy of Gernot Böhme’s ‘Architektur und Atmosphäre’ there is this dedication:
”Für Nils mit Dank und herzlichen Grüßen 24.10.06 Gernot”. The background is that Gernot Böhme visited the Aarhus School of Architecture and the Department of Aesthetic Studies at Aarhus University on the 2nd and 3rd October 2006. On the first day at the school of architecture he did a master class on atmosphere and architecture commenting upon and discussing presentations from researchers. He also lectured on ’Architecture and atmosphere’, the title of his in these days immediately forthcoming book. The second day he lectured at the university on ‘Aesthetical economy and the theory of atmosphere’ and back at the school on ‘Place and space in architecture’. The two days were very intensive, exciting and highly successful. Böhme himself found them ‘pleasant and fruitful’. It was indeed a great pleasure to experience his generosity, kindness and open and interested approach to others. Already back in 1993 I got a glimpse of that at a conference on ‘Kant’s conception of nature and aesthetics’ at the Man & Nature Humanities Research Center, Odense University (31 August-2 September). Here Böhme presented his ‘new perspective’ on Kant’s aesthetics focalising on Kant’s rococo-design-examples of beauty, which pointed towards an atmospheric conception of beauty. On November 16-17th 2007 I attended a conference at the Georg Simmel Zentrum für Metropolenforschung, Berlin on “Die Natur der Stadt”. Gernot Böhme’s lecture – “Die Atmosphäre von Kyoto City” – was impressively saturated with detail from his own experiences of the city. Overall, the seminar was an exciting interdisciplinary gathering of speakers and participants from the humanities, the social and natural sciences. ‘Naturally’, the relationship between atmosphere as an aesthetic-emotional concept and as approached by the natural sciences came up. Gernot Böhme found that the weather provided the overlap. On 16-17th March 2012 the Department of Anthropology, Archaeology and Linguistics, Aarhus University hosted a conference entitled “Understanding Atmospheres – Culture, Materiality and the texture of the in-between”. Gernot Böhme lectured as keynote speaker on “The art of the stage set as a paradigm for an aesthetics of atmospheres”. He also reacted – a bit sceptical, if I remember correctly – to my presentation of the idea that ‘gesturing’ may transport in-situ atmospheric experiences to others in other spaces and times.
Why do I write down these memories on the sad, sad occasion of Gernot Böhme’s passing? One reason is that he was the one that captured me for atmospherics. In April 1995 I bought his ‘Atmosphäre – Essays zur neuen Äesthetik’ in the Aarhus Book Café, the best of its left-academic kind in the Nordic countries. I swallowed the book and immediately found it extremely relevant for me as a philosophically oriented teacher and researcher coming from the social sciences and working in a school of architecture. The following year I was invited to do a lecture for architectural researchers and practitioners in Oslo. I accepted on the condition that I among other things could talk about atmosphere. They accepted, and they liked it. For 27 years now, Gernot Böhme has been my main guide – almost embodied – in atmospheric matters. That is the other reason. Thank you so very, very much, Gernot. My sincere condolences to your family.
(Niels Albertsen – Aarhus School of Architecture)
In memory of Gernot Böhme, I had a good sip of Japanese whisky on him the evening I learned of his passing. I couldn’t help but think of the joy on his face when he was handed a bottle of Japanese whisky as a gift at the symposium on the occasion of his eightieth birthday. This very well-balanced, harmonious and at the same time complex drink is capable of shaping the atmosphere of an evening hour. Just as whisky is based on craftsmanship, a sense of tradition but also a love of experimentation, so too is the work of Gernot Böhme.
Gernot Böhme was and is a spiritus rector of my academic reflections. In particular, his derivations and descriptions of atmospheres have accompanied me since my student days. Since I met him as a student assistant at a conference in Würzburg, we have met and spoken at several other conferences. With all his philosophical precision, I was particularly touched by his interdisciplinary openness, his didactically motivated writing style that built bridges between theories and disciplines. After his time at the university, he brought his commitment to the lived-bodily condition and being-human to the Institute for Practical Philosophy. I was fascinated to see him at international conferences – intellectually lively and on the cutting edge of current research debates.
My sincere condolences are with all his relatives. Dear Gernot Böhme, slàinte mhath, I’ll have another sip.
(Andreas Rauh – Human Dynamics Centre, University of Würzburg)
What is the most valuable gift that one of the top world-renowned voices in your field can donate to you? I mean, in addition to unrepeatable lessons and dozens of quotes.
We never met. But Professor Böhme supported me. When I felt lost in my Ph.D. journey, in one of those
moments of loneliness that anyone involved in research is familiar with, we discussed together. An email
broke the silence. In a single day, he responded to me. Generously. With clarity. That clarity, within the
vagueness, which was his forte. Thank you, Professor Böhme.
(Elisabetta Canepa – University of Genoa)
Nihil nisi bene…aber dennoch: meine Erinnerungen an Gernot Böhme sind ausgesprochen zwiespältig… wir haben häufig gestritten, weil ich, als Künstler und Psychologe, seine modischen Ansichten in beiden Bereichen als substanzlos und sehr kritisierenswert empfand. Als Doktorand hatte ich mich aus freien Stücken mit einem eigenen Thema (Das Atmosphärische) an ihn gewandt und musste schwierige Erfahrungen machen. Mein Thema war aus meiner künstlerischen Praxis hervorgegangen und ich hatte mich an ihn gewandt mit der Bitte, mir dabei zu helfen, mein Denken zu ordnen…, dieser Bitte wollte oder konnte er nicht nachkommen, statt dessen fand ich den ersten Teil meiner Arbeit unter seinem Namen in der bekannten Veröffentlichung vor. Als ich ihn daraufhin zur Rede stellte, sagte er, dass er mich doch immerhin in einer Fußnote erwähnt habe… das war das Ende unserer Beziehung und das Aus für meine Promotion.
Zu verdanken habe ich ihm, dass er den Kontakt zu Hermann Schmitz herstellte, den er auch zu einem Vortrag nach Darmstadt einlud. Das war jedoch, jenseits der bedenklich verkommenen, universitären Spielchen und Missverständnisse, ein Ereignis, für das ich ihm in Nachhinein noch dankbar bin.
(Reinhart Buettner – Schloss Lichtenberg-Odw)
Living in the 21st Century means not only dealing with uncertainty in combination with unexpectedly tragic circumstances descended from nowhere. Alongside this, there is depression, anxiety, intrusive political events, social outcry, and, at the same time, always hope and a Person one writes to keep the horizon bright holding on to the future.
For me such a person was dear Prof. Gernot Böhme. The works he wrote and the way he built up his profound philosophical thinking had a huge influence on me not only as a researcher but personally as well. He always recommended nice books and never refused a word in our fruitful discussions. We never met but I always felt his support.
With this text I am grateful to illuminate his presence in my academic works in the atmospheric trajectory I have taken for my research.
(Irina Oznobikhina – European University, St. Petersburg)
We invite all those who wish to share a memory of him, or express their condolences for his passing, to write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org