and Coexistence Kat
Austen and Nana MacLean
22 April 2020 from 5:30-7:00 pm
we consider to be our environment unequivocally and ubiquitously
contains plastic. It has been found at the outskirts of human reach:
at the top of Mount Everest, in Arctic ice, and at the bottom of
the Mariana trench. Plastic is becoming part of our geology and
the lively surrounding of many organisms on this planet a
new material and habitat providing new stories and life forms.
Documentation: Microsplastics & Coexistence with Kat Austen
and Nana MacLean, 22 April 2020
The overabundance of this human-made material challenges our concepts
of the natural and former sites of waste and refuse might
have gotten a new fertile potential: Trees grow on plastic dumps,
bacteria and fungi evolve to feed on PET. Plastic might be disrupting
our idea of nature but is it really disrupting nature itself?
plastic can be detrimental to the quality of an ecosystem, plastic
pollution is also a carbon sink, storing carbon and keeping carbon
dioxide and methane out of the atmosphere. But is this carbon sink,
itself an embodiment of industrial processes that contribute to
the climate crisis, in competition or complementarity to forests?
Using DIY science and artistic research, Kat Austen has been working
on a new project Stranger to the Trees* exploring the coexistence
of microplastics with birch trees.
soil, microorganisms are involved in degradation processes of both
natural and synthesized material. In order to build a first understanding
of the plastisphere as a living micro-habitat, Nana MacLean started
characterizing the microbial community on plastic debris in soil
and landfills she has visited during her Phd research. With molecular
data in her hands, shes questioning if bacterial life isnt
already owning the plastisphere as a new nature.
the DIY Hack the Panke programme's (Un)Real Ecologies
workshops by Nana MacLean and Kat Austen, participants work together
to research the coexistence of microplastics with the Panke River
in Berlin Wedding. The Sushi Roulette workshop series uses
DIY chemistry to search for microplastics in fish guts. Coexistence
of plastic with non-artificial entities in the environment, and
with humans, is a burgeoning area of research, which has been explored
through participatory interdisciplinary techniques and should be
discussed from many different angles.
Earth Day, join Kat Austen and Nana MacLean to discuss the coexistence
of microplastics in the environment and what it means for nature
and ourselves. During this online talk, we will invite your minds
with us to go visiting the plastisphere as artists, chemists and
biologists, trees and bacteria, humans and particles negotiating
together a plan of coexistence with microplastics on this planet.
Austen ia a person. In her artistic practice, she focusses on
environmental issues. She melds disciplines and media, creating
sculptural and new media installations, performances and participatory
work. Austen's practice is underpinned by extensive research and
theory, and driven by a motivation to explore how to move towards
a more socially and environmentally just future. Working from her
studio in Berlin, Austen is currently EMAP / EMARE Artist in Residence
at WRO Art Center, Artist Fellow at Institute for Advanced Sustainability
Studies, Potsdam, Artist in Residence at the Faculty of Maths and
Physical Sciences, University College London and Senior Teaching
Fellow at UCL Arts and Sciences. Joana MacLean studied Biology at the UvA Amsterdam and finished
her Master studies in Molecular Biology at the University Potsdam.
Besides her studies, she has been involved in projects that crossed
borders between disciplinary styles and methods - embracing both
speculative design and performative collaborations. As a PhD student,
Nana is currently working on microbial communities in anthropogenic
landscapes and plastic polluted grounds at the GFZ Helmholtz Center
Potsdam. Her research focuses on Plastic as biological habitat,
and furthermore explores future ecologies andareas of research that involve storytelling and other imaginative
methodologies. Nana is based in Potsdam and Berlin.
DIY Hack the Panke is a collective of artists, scientists
and curators exploring the rich historical and ecological heritage
of the Panke River in Mitte, Wedding and Pankow. Based at Art Laboratory
Berlin, we thank Panke e.V. for their cooperation in this workshop
and the Fachbereich Kunst und Kultur Bezirksamt Mitte and the Bezirkskulturfonds
for their generous support of our 2019 public programme.