katausten.com is undergoing a make-over. New content will continue to be migrated across until the end of 2018.
Stay tuned for the release of the entire The Matter of the Soul | Symphony in November on Kat Austen’s Bandcamp.
We’ll also be releasing The Matter of the Soul | Symphony Première Live at HAR with Alex Bonney and Matthew Bourne, later this year.
This year I contributed to the Proceedings of the 9th SAR International Conference on Artistic Research. My paper, “Multiple Knowledges and the Redefinition of the Self in the Environment”, explores ecological grief and the feeling of overwhelm, post-truth and the role artistic research and practice can have on creating new knowledge. The paper can be found, alongside fascinating contributions on similar topics, on Research Catalogue where the proceedings have been published.
Don’t stop ’til you feel it: explorations in environmental empathy
Kat Austen and Rosemary Lee
6th November 2018
7 – 8.30pm
Siobhan Davies Studios
85 St George’s Rd, London, SE1 6ER
I’m thrilled to be in conversation with the excellent Rosemary Lee for the Crossing Borders series run by Independent Dance. We will be talking about how one connects to the environment with embodiment and emotion, and the line between art and activism.
Kat Austen: “For almost my entire life, I have been perplexed at my/our inaction towards climate change and what we couch as environmental damage. Inundated with scientific data, reportage, an overwhelming scientific consensus of not only the phenomenon, but also our part in it, I wonder about why we are not only reluctant to act, but incapable of it. My work focusses on aiming to answer the question: when we know so much already, what do we need to know in order to live more compassionately with/in the world and, most importantly, how do we need to know it?
To this end, I am particularly interested in the role of emotion in our relationship to climate change. One of the ways in which I research this is to focus on modes of engendering empathy, particularly in terms of acting with and upon the body. I create musical, sound and sculptural works and participatory practices that intervene with the minded-body in different ways, aiming to generate new types of empathy with that which we consider “other” to ourselves – be it another species or another ecosystem.”
Rosemary Lee: “Often rooted in our relationship to landscape, my practice of care and empathy has a deeply human focus. I am curious about the individual and the ensemble or collective, the creating of a community and illustration of it in the works themselves, the way the work engages a knowing audience in comparison to someone who stumbles across it, the responsibility I have for the casts and the audiences experience, the role language plays in facilitating movement and how our physical and sensorial knowing of the world shapes language. An embodied understanding of our environment, whether through touch, sensory activation or or re-imagination is a form of gentle radicalism -politically and artistically. I am curious about care as a state, a felt experience and how imagination, thought, opinion and action might be affected by it. I suggest that care is infectious and familiar and can be awoken in us at any moment, how to value it and hold onto it is the challenge.”
14th October 2018
National Technical Museum – Center for Architectural Heritage Plasy,
Plasy Monastery, Czech Republic
The video for biphasic | The Matter of the Soul, will be screened for the first time at Architecture and the Senses, a symposium organised by the Agosto Foundation at National Technical Museum – Center for Architectural Heritage Plasy, Mathey Hall, Plasy Monastery, Opatská konírna.
biphasic is the first movement of The Matter of the Soul symphony. This three-part symphony explores the relationship between human movement and the dispersal of Arctic water, creating in the process digital artefacts that disperse online. It is an elaboration of identity and meta-identity in the shifting times of climate crisis, interweaving socio-politics, individual needs and desires, and global impacts of human activity.
In biphasic, two discrete entities exist alongside each other, but not together, not mixing.
London-based composer John Morrison has used the conductivity meter sound recordings from The Matter of the Soul, available on Github under CC-BY-SA 4.0 license, as inspiration for his beautiful piece The Realities We Play. You can hear the characteristic rise and fall of the instrument throughout this haunting work, and most clearly at the very end.
This is the first time to my knowledge that the samples have been reused by another musician, an important step in the morphing and dispersal of The Matter of the Soul’s online identity, central to the work.
Performance at Spektrum, Berlin on Saturday 3rd March 2018
During Alien Organs, part of the Sonic Vibrations series, curated by Alfredo Ciannameo
Oceans are drastically changing. Seawater is less salty, and is becoming more acidic. The crisis in our seas is intrinsically linked to humanity’s reliance on fossil fuels. We release carbon dioxide into the air, causing temperatures to rise and ice to melt, we use them to make plastics, and we burn them to move ourselves around.
Two of my works specifically addressing these issues were shown at Spektrum, Berlin earlier this month when I debuted Concentration the first performance from my Arctic project, The Matter of the Soul, next to the Coral Empathy Device.
The performance,The Matter of the Soul | concentration, with live video from Hiroshi Matoba, is a sonic exploration of acid crystal immersion. By controlling acidity and salinity, scientific instruments scream their truths about the consequence of changing oceans.
The Matter of the Soul is an ongoing work comprising musical performance and sculptural installation to engender empathy for dispersal and transformation in the Arctic region. During a residency on the ship the Akademik Sergei Vavilov, sailing through the Canadian High Arctic, I made field recordings of the acidity and salinity of Arctic waters using hacked pH and conductivity meters. I have used these recordings, along with my hydrophone field recordings, in a composition that accompanies a live performance where I play the hacked scientific musical instruments by manipulating their physical environment with acid, crystal alkaline and salts. Forthcoming artworks from The Matter of the Soul are a sculptural installation and a longer musical composition with live performance focussing specifically in three-parts on the process of dispersal and transformation in the Arctic.
The Coral Empathy Device was exhibited along with the performance. This artwork is an experiment in interspecies empathy, aiming to create a conversation between humans and corals under anthropogenic influence. It explores differences in the way we perceive the world, and translates between a coral’s physical experience in its native marine environment, making its experience understandable to a human in their native terrestrial environment. Worn over the head, the device is driven by hydrophone recordings from the marine environment and DIY chemistry investigations into microplastic pollution near Norwegian coral reefs.
Works created with support from:
Piksel Festival, NYU Shanghai Gallery, Programme for Creativity and Innovation NYU Shanghai, Mono Shop, Friends of SPRI, Bonhams, One Ocean Expeditions, Polar Museum, Chemistry Department, University College London, and Cultural Institute at University of Leeds
Performance supported by:
Musikfonds and Re-Imagine Europe