Germany (University of Berlin) ERC Starting Grant Awarded to Film and Media Studies Scholar Steffen Hven

The European Research Council (ERC) is awarding more than 1.33 million euros in funding to a research project organized by Danish film and media studies scholar Dr. Steffen Hven from Freie Universität Berlin. With his research project, “Cinematic Atmospheres: Towards a New Ecology of the Moving Image – CATNEMI,” Hven wishes to investigate the production of cinematic atmosphere as an attractive but also problematic enterprise.

The global success of cinema is indisputably tied to its ability to embed its audience in affectively charged, atmospheric worlds. Filmmakers carefully design their narrative worlds through ambient soundscapes, music, colorations, filters, camera movements, production design, mise en scène, rhythmical editing, and countless other features that shape the emotional experiences of the audience. “Over the past few decades, ‘atmospheres’ in the sense of affective, spatial aspects of a given environment have come increasingly into focus as a pioneering subject of interdisciplinary research. While cinema is often considered a particularly atmospheric art form, many questions remain surrounding the specific nature of cinematic atmospheres, how they are produced and with what means, and what these cinematic atmospheres mean in terms of how the film is experienced both aesthetically and narratively,” says Dr. Hven.

Within the project “Cinematic Atmospheres: Towards a New Ecology of the Moving Image – CATNEMI,” the film and media studies scholar wishes to examine cinematic atmosphere production in all its experiential, aesthetic, and ethical implications as an attractive but also problematic, even harmful, and ideologically loaded enterprise. The project also aims to raise critical awareness of the basic atmospheric operations of cinema in a time when the medium is being increasingly relocated into new digital media environments and its techniques are being reused within ecologies such as news broadcasting, radio, videoconferencing, and sports refereeing.

The research project aims to contribute to a broad conceptual understanding of cinematic atmospheres as a way of organizing perceptive and affective access to the world of the film. Another goal of the project is to examine how these cinematic operations and techniques for atmosphere production are no longer the property of cinema alone but are increasingly employed within larger sociocultural, economic, and political contexts, from art installations to social media.

Steffen Hven received his master’s degree in dramaturgy, film, and television studies from Aarhus University (Denmark) in 2010, during which time he completed a research stay at Boğaziçi University (Turkey). He completed his doctoral degree at the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar in 2015. Following this, he worked as an associate international postdoctoral researcher at the Media Anthropology Center of Excellence, Bauhaus-Universität Weimar until 2019 before carrying out research at the University of Chicago as a visiting postdoctoral fellow. In 2021, he joined the “Cinepoetics” fellow program – an institution run by Freie Universität Berlin in collaboration with Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF and financed by the German Research Foundation. He also teaches at the Department of Philosophy and Humanities at Freie Universität Berlin.

The European Research Council uses ERC Starting Grants to support early-career scholars who wish to carry out pioneering research in Europe as “Principal Investigators” while building up their own, independent research group. The goal is to support researchers who have already produced excellent supervised work and help them make the transition to carrying out independent research. ERC Starting Grants may be awarded for up to 1.5 million euros over a period of five years.