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Artist to collaborate with researchers on climate change work

Centre news

An international artist will be collaborating with researchers at the Priestley Centre to create new work in an innovative new programme with the University of Leeds Cultural Institute.

Kat Austen is one of three artists to be awarded Cultural Fellowships,  designed to support and develop emerging creative talent in a variety of different art forms. Cultural Fellows work with scientists at the University to explore areas of science research and emerging technologies.

The fellowships will run from December 2017 for up to two years.

Professor Frank Finlay, Director of the Cultural Institute, said:  “For most of us, the Arts and Sciences are traditionally separated. These fellowships aim to spark conversations between the two practices, prompting science researchers to ask new questions and adopt new approaches, while artists are inspired to create extraordinary outputs for the benefit of all.”

Kat Austen is an artist and interdisciplinary researcher with a passion for the environment, digital media and understanding the world’s complex networks. Her work focuses on understanding our decision-making in terms of our relationship to the environment, with a particular focus on climate change.

Her works include “Not Waving”, a Twitter-controlled comment on “clicktivism”, that used melting ice, drowning micro-people, a social-media connected tea urn and a bath to explore the relationship between our awareness of environmental issues and our impact upon them.  Kat has also experimented with interspecies empathy with the immersive The Coral Empathy Device, a helmet-like object  that translates a coral’s physical experience in  its native marine environment to its human wearer.

Speaking about her appointment as a Cultural Fellow, Kat said: “Interdisciplinary research is a particular focus at the University of Leeds, and I’m very much looking forward to working with the Priestley International Centre for Climate and the Interdisciplinary Centre for Scientific Research in Music.”

Kat is especially interested in how action on climate change can be galvanised and exploring the role of emotion and empathy in the way humans connect with non-human others, such as the environment of the Arctic.

She has already visited the Arctic to collect sounds and videos  as part of a residency supported by Friends of the Scott Polar Research Institute, Bonhams and One Oceans Expeditions for a work in progress called The Matter of the Soul. Kat hopes to return there to undertake further work during her time as a Cultural Fellow at Leeds.

Kat is interested in creating a performance and installation with sound and touch and will be talking about her work, meeting people and gathering inspiration at a event on culture and climate change hosted by the Priestley Centre on Tuesday 19 December at the School of Earth and Environment  (11.00am-1.00pm), to be followed by festive drinks and buffet in the foyer.

The other two artists to be appointed as cultural fellows are Leeds-based artists and makers Christophe de Bezenac and Dave Lynch,  known for their collaborations both with each other and other people through scientists/artist collection The Superposition.

Photo courtesy of Kat Austen