Making of Treading the Steep Route

The audio files that were used in the Genoa installation of Flows 2.0 Treading the Steep Route, along with the python script written for the Raspberry Pi controller, are online now on GitHub.

GitHub repository for Treading the Steep Route

To make the switch that triggers the mp3s, Alex Shure wired a copper disc and copper coil to the water release lever on the water boiler. These levers are non-standard, so it’s necessary to adapt the design to the lever – possibly even using a motion sensor rather than a physical connector. The python script here triggers when the circuit is closed – as the state of the circuit at rest is open.

I wanted the wires to be as discreet as possible, so I coated them in black heat shrink and ran them through a hole in the base of the boiler (where the heating element is, and through the plastic base to reach the Raspberry Pi underneath. The RPi was installed with Noobs and libraries according to this adafruit tutorial and I made sure the audio was coming from the headphone jack not the HDMI port. Shure also added in a PCB to make the interface with the RPi and the switch plug and play – wiring the switch to one of the GPIOs and adding a pull-up resisitor to vcc so that the switch has a definite level.

Here is a video of the unit in action in the studio:

Treading the Steep Route (Flows 2.0) from Kat Austen on Vimeo.

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Exploring the global tea trade at Genoa Science Festival 2015

Last week the newest iteration of Flows/Flujos was unveiled as part of the European Commission’s Global Systems Science meeting at the Genoa Science Festival.

Treading the steep route: circuits and flux in the global tea trade (Flows 2.0) was exhibited in the Palazzo Ducale, Genoa, Italy.

An interactive installation, this work explores the abstraction from the trade of tea, anchored at both end points of production and consumption in direct trade and increasingly removed from its physical meaning as it flows between these points.

Masquerading as a conference refreshments stand, the work incorporates crowd-sourced audio recordings from significant points involved in the tea trade from around the globe, immersing the listener in the soundscape of tea production as they leverage this global network for their corporeal rejuvenation.

Treading the Steep Route was produced with thanks to:

Ajith de Alwis, Gayani de Alwis, COSTI (Sri Lanka), Dilmah Teas, Shezri Junaid, Alex Shure, Simon Barraclough, Kaveer Gogoi, Adrian Jones, Dr C Austen, Mr C Austen, Samantha Di Giovanni, Steve Banner, Sasha Kinney, Matt Freear, Brett Scott, Tom O’Dea, Jun Matsushita, Project SYMPHONY

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Tea growing experiment

As part of Flows’s exploration of production and supply, this month sees the beginning of a tea cultivation experiment in Berlin.

The aim is to look at the feasibility and resources (water, heat, time) required to grow tea in urban Berlin.

Having obtained the seeds, the first step is to soak them overnight for 12 hours in room temperature water.

Soaking the Seeds

Phase 1: soaking the seeds

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Flows/Flujos at OKFest 2014, Berlin

Flows/Flujos is currently exhibited at OKFest 2014. I wrote about the project for the OKFest blog. I’ve also left around some guerilla QR codes around the festival. Here are a couple of pictures of the installation:

photo 2-7 photo 1-7






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Flows/Flujos installation design

I’ve been working recently on the design of the interactive Flows/Flujos installation. Here are a few first sketches of the simplest installation plan.Flows_installation_corner  Flows_installation_table_view

And here’s the Flows/Flujos sculpture.



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Late opening at Schwartz Gallery HOT-ONE-HUNDRED show – 1st August

This Thursday the Schwartz Gallery will be open late for London’s First Thursdays – a night when many of the city’s top galleries extend their opening hours, crack out the beers and play host to a buzzing throng of art lovers.

The gallery will be open until 9 and you can join the crowd to see Flows/Flujos in the flesh before the exhibition closes on Saturday afternoon.


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Coverage on The Wall Breakers

Having long admired the content on New York based arts blog The Wall Breakers, it’s thrilling to be included in their coverage. Last month they ran a lovely piece about Flows/Flujos, where they explained the work and some of the thinking behind it.

The Wall Breakers is run by James Scully and Matt Weckel. They cover some fantastic work, like War Department’s The Posting Sentries Art Project – a thoughtful look at the domestic scars of war in the UK, a country long untouched by ground battle itself – and Pedro Gonçalves’s Hipster Animals (I expect some of these guys will look familiar).

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Flows/Flujos selected for Schwartz Gallery’s HOT-ONE-HUNDRED

This July, the Schwartz Gallery, London, is running a show of 100 emerging contemporary artists. Flows/Flujos is being exhibited. The English version of the work will be on show from 17th July to 3rd August.

The exhibition is itself an artwork, an ironic statement against our reductionist mentality that insists on list making and ranking in order to make sense of our own desires, an idea that resonates well with the nod to complexity in Flows/Flujos.



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Flows/Flujos installed in Museo Diego Rivera Anahuacalli, Mexico

The itinerantphysical presence of Flows/Flujos reflects the motion represented within the artwork


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  • let the QR codes guide you into the story (english y espanol)

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