Stranger to the Trees


Stranger to the Trees realises in hybrid artistic form the new materiality of forests in the time of ubiquitous human-made plastic pollution.

The multimedia project explores the interaction between 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.

The research from Stranger to the Trees resulted in a peer reviewed scientific article showing that microplastics cross from the soil into tree roots, the first publication reporting this phenomenon in trees.

“Microplastic inclusion in birch tree roots” (2022) Austen, MacLean, Balazatengui and Hölker, Science of the Total Environment, 808, 150

Stranger to the Trees has been further developed into an online installation in collaboration with

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?

Stranger to the Trees is based on extensive interdisciplinary research that examines the incorporation and rejection between plastics and trees with the constant consideration of the possibility for complementarity and coexistence.

As part of the project, experiments were carried out introducing microplastic into the soil around birch trees to better understand how they interact in close proximity. Two of the experimental birch trees are planted outside WRO Art Center in Wrocław, Poland, as part of the 19th Media Art Biennale WRO REVERSO. Ten birch trees have been planted in Bork (Kyritz) in Brandenburg, Germany, and are the subject of a long-term study into the impact of microplastic fibres on tree health.

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.

Experts: Joana McLean, Section 3.7 – Geomicrobiology, German Centre for Geoscience. Franz Hölker, Ecohydrology, Leipniz Institute for Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries. Daniel Balanzategui, Natural Science Unit, German Archaeological Institute and Section 4.3 – Climate Dynmaics and Landscape Evolution, German Centre for Geoscience, Simon Barraclough, Pawel Janicki, Kamila Mróz, The Eugeniusz Geppert Academy of Art and Design, Michal Adamski.

Special thanks to: Matthias Strauß, Bernhard Bosecker, Kristen Rästas, Kelli Gedvil, Andreas Baudisch,

Exhibition Catalogue “Il n’ya plus des saisons” at Mains D’Oevres, September 2020


Stranger to the Trees essay in The Next Renaissance: Culture and Creativity Shaping Europe (2022) European Crew, Odil Jacobs.

Article on Stranger to the Trees, “Mikroplastik und Bäume: Langzeitexperiment in Kyritz gestartet” on Märkische Allgemeine, in pdf format (German), 26th December 2020

On Microplastics and Co-existence (Stranger to the Trees in exhibition at Antre Peaux), Makery, November 2020

Listing of Stranger to the Trees in Wrocław Cultural Guide, November 2020

Review of Quarantine Exhibition, Dubrovnik,, 12th October 2020

Review of Touch Me festival, “Kreće Touch Me festival. Renomirani umjetnici pripremili su sjajne radove koji spajaju umjetnost, znanost i tehnologiju” on SUPER1, 3th September 2020

Review of the Workshop Microplastic and Co-Existence at Art Laboratory Berlin, Soldiner Quartier, Quartiersmanagement, 4th June 2020