Talking About the Weather

FICTILIS (US)

Talking About the Weather is a series of works created from FICTILIS’s research into weather-related language, specifically the technical terminology used in climatological and meteorological science, and the colloquial expressions used to describe weather attributes by English-speakers around the world. Examples drawn from these lexicons are combined with new coinages, based on existing phrases, to produce a linguistic preview of possible weather phenomena and human response, which shows how language can both reflect and affect our current concerns about global climate.

‘Climate change’ is as much a question of linguistics as it is a question of climatological, meteorological, and atmospheric sciences. Witness the way the term ‘climate change’ itself has gradually replaced ‘global warming’ in the popular media, the recent rise of the concept ‘Anthropocene’, and the brief celebrity status of the ‘Polar Vortex’.

The project’s pairing of ‘low’ and ‘high’ language, of informal folk expressions motivated by subjective experiences of weather, with phrases sourced from official scientific dictionaries which ostensibly refer to real, measurable things, highlights the difficulties faced by anyone attempting not only to accurately measure weather patterns that have no real historical precedent, but also to label them in a way that is both clear and accurate. There’s no accounting for tastes, as they say, and no accounting for strange weather.

And yet, just as talking about the weather actually serves a vital social function, so might our talking about climate change become something that serves to bring people around the world into a common conversation and single purpose.

About the artist: 

FICTILIS is the collaborative practice of media artist Andrea Steves and writer and artist Timothy Furstnau. They produce multimedia projects, exhibitions, and events, often in collaboration with other artists and institutions. They aim to foster new ways for cultural productions to reach diverse audiences, and seek to promote work that is aesthetically, conceptually, socially, and technologically engaging.