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Kat Austen: Arctic Notes

During this summer the British artist Kat Austen has been exploring the arctic as artist-in-residence at the Scott Polar Research Institute of the University of Cambridge. Today she is our guest in the wintergarden studio to talk about her (sound)research at place – and of course to let us listen to some of the results.

Just as in her earlier projects also this time Kat Austen is focussing on the multiple transformations generated by the human impact on the environment – and on both human and non-human actors involved in this process. Means, her work is not about survey or data collection, but about active participation. Grounded theory-as-practice.

Therefore she is not only gathering field recordings and voices; archival material, documents and stories from past and present can be used to foster background knowledge, but also as an inspiration to trigger approaches opening new ways of interaction. In this case: with the people at place, the inhabitants, the tourists enjoying the attraction of the fragile beauty of arctic landscape, the scientists trying to gain valid data of what was, what is and what will be.

However, unfold further perspectives and to widen the scope of what the researchers at the SPRI are into anyway, new and different tools are needed.
Therefore, with the help of some friends in Berlin and Cambridge, Kat Austen also set her hands at the instruments – a.o. with some smart hacks that translate the data records of the recording devices into sound. This does not render the records less accurate, but enables us to access them with different senses.

From data to atmospheres allowing us – far from any false romanticism – to delve deeply into a landscape in continuos erosion, a river of no return.
What remains? Well, as we all know, as always: the rest is noise…

Bonus Track: Kat Austen has brought some of her hacked instruments to the Datscharadio-Garden. So let’s listen for – and to – the datasounds they’ll generate in Berlin-Rosenthal!
Update: Not that we had expected any negative results – however, as already reported live on air… Yes, definitely – there is life in the Datscharadio-Garden =8))
Moreover, we’ve gained some knowledge about the audible difference between fresh water and meltwater probes (as well as between apple wine and other drinks).

Find out more about Kat Austen and her projects at: katausten.wordpress.com

This post is also available in: German

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