Kat Austen



The multimedia project Stranger to the Trees explores the complementary coexistence of microplastics and trees as carbon sinks. How do trees and microplastics coexist in forests, capturing carbon in the time of the climate crisis? Combining video, interactive sound and sculpture, Stranger to the Trees queries the response of forest ecosystems to the ubiquitous and irrevocable dispersal of microplastics around the Earth.

What we consider to be our environment unequivocally and ubiquitously contains plastic. Plastics have been found to be present even at the outskirts of human reach: at the bottom of the Mariana trench, in the rain, clouds and atmosphere. While 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? By what processes will they become together?

This project builds on ongoing artistic research by Dr Kat Austen (UK/DE) on the topics of microplastic and the climate crisis. Austen is focussing on the coexistence of birch trees with microplastics and developing artistic and DIY scientific research methods to explore this. The birch is a pioneer species, colonising land disrupted by human, following human and industrial pollution. Not demanding of the soil, birch withstands both full sunlight and low temperatures. These characteristics define the birch as a perfect pioneer in the plastisphere. The ongoing artistic-scientific research focusses on birch groves in forests between Berlin, Germany and Wroclaw, Poland and includes microscopy and histology of tree parts, field recordings of audio and video from forests where microplastic and trees cohabit to examine the incorporation and rejection between plastics and trees with the constant consideration of the possibility for complementarity and coexistence.
Stranger to the Trees realises in hybrid artistic form the new materiality of forests in the time of ubiquitous human-made plastic pollution.

This exhibition is a continuation of the first chapter of the virtual version of Stranger to the Trees, which was a two channel video premiere at post-gallery.online in 2020. The present exhibition takes a further look into the coexistence of trees and microplastics and provides a more deep understanding of the subject through research content and as well by a completely new digitalised experience of this multi-layered art project. Open until: 20/05/22


Scroll to experience the interactive sculpture

Click on the leaves to play the sound

The presentation of Stranger to the Trees in cooperation with post-gallery.online is supported by Neustart Kultur.

Stranger to the Trees in cooperation with post-gallery.online is funded by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media.

Stranger to the Trees is in cooperation with the Fossil Experience exhibition by Prater Galerie hosted by Gro├čer Wasserspeicher in Berlin, which is open 23/04-08/05/22.

Additionally there is a workshop Participatory Artistic Research: Exploring Airbourne Microplastics in Berlin on 07/05/22.

Stranger to the Trees is realised within the framework of the European Media Art Platforms EMARE program at WRO Art Center with support of the Creative Europe Culture Programme of the European Union.

post-gallery.online exhibitions are supported by Cultural Endowment of Estonia.

post-gallery.online exhibition production assisted by Ada Retegan.

BKM Neustart Kultur