The Matter of The Soul

Music Installation and Performance

by Kat Austen & Simon Findlay

The Matter of the Soul is a music, installation and performance work. It engenders
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.
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. Thus, measurement of these properties, and the taking of sounds from the process of this measurement, captures the way that climate change is affecting this fragile region. During live performances, Austen plays Arctic water using these instruments.
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. As such, 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. Live performances are complemented by sculptural elements and video that play off acentral motif, abstracted from the aesthetics of dispersal. The form is a combination of passive surrender to the external force of gravity combined with an active downward force. The predominant colour of all the visual elements is red: the shock of blood on etherial ice; biological life and death in a seascape out of time. Live performances themselves often involve musical or visual collaborations, and in the former case are recorded and released.

All compositions of The Matter of the Soul are released on audio cassette. This physicalformat was chosen for its technical ease of physical remixing while allowing the audio quality to be be preserved.

about the artists

Kat Austen is a person. Her work interrogates the boundary between what we think of as the self and other(s), redefining and enriching our relationship to the environment. She creates installations, sound art and performances. Based in Berlin, Kat is Teaching Fellow at UCL Arts and Sciences BASc and AiR at the UCL Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences. She was Cultural Fellow in Art and Science at the University of Leeds 2018 and 2017-18 Artist in the Arctic for Friends of SPRI / Scott Polar Research Institute. She holds a Ph.D. in Chemistry. Kat was an inaugural member of the London Creative Network and DIY Hack the Panke (Art Laboratory Berlin). She has exhibited at Bonhams Art Gallery, London; The Polar Museum, Cambridge; Art Laboratory Berlin; Staatsoper, Berlin; SPACE, London; Kulturbrauerei Berlin; Palazzo Ducale, Genoa; NYU Shanghai; Kuehlhaus, Berlin; Piksel, Bergen; Carter Road Promenade, Mumbai… She has performed at Howard Assembly Rooms, Opera North; Fusion Festival; Headlands Center for the Arts; Climate Hub by Greenpace, COP24; Music Tech Fest Stockholm, Sweden…


Simon Findlay blends performance and painting by using a broom to create powerful strokes on large canvas. His artistic process is linked with his physical/mental health, which is supported by consistently painting a large work every month.

“These images would plague my dreams and meditations, over and over, the only way I could ease them was to paint them”