Workshop: Microplastics, led by Kat Austen

Image courtesy Kat Austen

As part of Test Sites: Assembly, artist Kat Austen will lead a workshop on microplastics exploring both the different plastic types and the different plastic identification techniques.

Microplastics have been gaining more and more public attention over the last few years. These small plastic particles have been shown to pervade the marine environment, and have been found to affect the wellbeing – and possibly even the behaviour – of marine species, and maybe even those that consume them. Much microplastic in the environment comes from the breakdown of larger pieces of plastic pollution. In this workshop we will explore different types of plastics, where they are commonly found, and methods of identifying them. We’ll also explore what it would mean to live without plastic. 
As an artist Kat deals with themes of environment, social justice, communities and human relations to digital culture. She creates experiences, stories and playful installations, mixing fact and fiction closely, so troublesome. Kat holds a PhD in chemistry from UCL and worked as a post-doctoral research associate at the University of Cambridge. Her writing has appeared in Nature, The Ecologist and The Guardian, and she consults widely on the intersection of science, art and technology, including as a Futureshaper for Forum for the Future, for the European Commission and UK water regulator Ofwat.
She has exhibited widely, including at Museo Diego Rivera, Mexico City, Kulurbraueri, Berlin, Kreuzberg Pavillion, Berlin, The Crystal, London, Schwartz Gallery, London, Regenerate Gallery, London and Williams Art, Cambridge. She is Head of Research and Design at social enterprise iilab, leading the Open Droplet water sensor project, which was recently included on the Serpentine Gallery’s platform.
The environment is Kat’s passion, and her interest is largely held by finding intellectual, experiential and sensorial ways of understanding existence in all its complexity. Her work explores the interplay between acts at different levels - individual, collective, communal, municipal, state, national, international - in the context of a global, digitally-enabled society. The aesthetics in her artworks treads the line between naive and polished, messy and sleek, humorous and disjointed. For instance, she drowned a lot of tiny people in a bath to make a point about social media. Kat has a PADI open water diving license and also licence to be crew on the yacht.