The Matter of the Soul
The Matter of the Soul is a sound, sculpture and performance work, created by Kat Austen, Cultural Fellow in Art and Science at the University of Leeds’ Cultural Institute.
The Matter of the Soul focusses on the difficult problem of emotional engagement with climate change, and aims to engender empathy in humans with the process of dispersal and transformation in the Arctic region. The work draws an analogy between human migration, the movement of water from ice to ocean in the Arctic and changing identity online.
Kat began The Matter of the Soul during an Artist in the Arctic residency with Friends of Scott Polar Research Institute in 2017. During a residency on the ship the Akademik Sergei Vavilov, sailing through the Canadian High Arctic, she made field recordings of the acidity and salinity of Arctic waters using hacked pH and conductivity meters. She has continued its development during her Cultural Fellowship in Art and Science at the University of Leeds’ Cultural Institute, in collaboration with researchers from the Priestley International Centre for Climate.
The musical compositions for The Matter of the Soul are based around field recordings of the different acidity and salinity of Arctic waters using hacked pH and conductivity meters. These properties of the waters vary depending on the melting of ice that increases the amount of fresh liquid water in the Arctic. By measuring these properties, and by taking sounds from these measurements, the work captures the way that climate change is affecting this fragile region.
The focus on dispersal and transformation in the Arctic is not limited to ice and melting, however. Human activity is intrinsically linked with climate change and change in this region. The compositions also include samples from interviews with visitors to and inhabitants of Baffin Island and Resolute, exploring the impact of human movement on the region’s culture and individuals’ identities, and reflecting on the environmental changes interwoven with this process.
The raw material and compositions from the project will be released online under CC-BY-SA 4.0, with a call for others to remix the work’s identity as it travels the internet.
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