Patterns. Our lives are ruled by these. By routines, by threads of familiar incidents that repeat themselves in some form.

Since 2013, I have noticed one grim thread: Once a year, I keep facing the possibility of death. I don’t think this is happening on purpose, or that anyone is after me. I think these events are just caused by an odd coupling of bad luck and not thinking clearly because of stress. They’ve happened enough to me that I’ve started to call them NTEs, short for Near Tragic Experiences. Here is a catalog of these so far:

NTE #1: A Close Call on a Mountain (2013)

Thank you, Buddha. Really.

Thank you, Buddha. Really.

In 2013, I thought I was going to spend the last minutes of my life on a mountain. I was hiking for a project, and, thinking it was a day hike, packed accordingly. Unfortunately, it was a bigger mountain than expected and I didn’t beat the sunset upon my descent. I spent about 10 to 15 minutes blind in the pitch-black mountain. Branches scratched my face. My arms flailed wildly. I thought I lost the trail, but I knew there was a temple nearby. With my feet, I gauged where the trail was sloping down—surely it leads to an exit!—and saw a flickering light on the corner of my eye. It was too early in the year for fireflies. I followed it and saw that it was a lantern. And in fact, I had found the trail and the rest of it was lit by lanterns because the temple nearby, usually dark and closed at this time of the night (because hello who hikes at this time of the day), celebrated Buddha’s birthday on that day. It was May 17th, 2013.

(I previously wrote about this, which you can read here.)

NTE #2: Almost Burned (2014)

Last year, I moved to Manila and lived in a hotel. Pro: It was near my family’s house, it was convenient, it was near my dojang. Con: It was in the red light district, I would wake because of people next door getting busy or fighting, the infrastructure wasn’t fantastic. Manila is not the easiest city for me to live in, but I had to hit the ground running for an art residency and my first solo exhibition. At the end of six months, I was unhappy, felt completely voided of energy, and was wondering what to do next. One night, the cafe right below my room caught fire, and we had to evacuate. Hours later, I watched the old building burst into flames. We got out just in time. This was what was left of my room (actually, that’s the cafe; the room caved in and the bed went through the floor).

What could have been my coffin. It's awesome to be alive.

What could have been my coffin. It’s awesome to be alive.

Unfortunately, one thing I learned that year is that when you think you can’t feel any lower, you actually can.

NTE #3: Nearly Suffocating in a Public Bath (2015)

Everything was fabulous. Until my vision started blurring.

Everything was fabulous. Until my vision started blurring. On the left is the *amazing* public bath and on the right is the shower where I was puking my guts out.

In a visit to South Korea, I spent my last day in one of their public baths. It was a jimjilbang in an airport. How convenient! It was starting to freeze in Seoul, so I was immensely joyous at soaking in water that was heated to 41°C. Perhaps I was in there for too long or perhaps the sudden changes in temperature were too much for me, but when I went into the shower I started feeling faint. My vision started blurring, my chest started to tighten, and I had a seriously hard time breathing. Just before I passed out, I willed myself to breathe and to sit down. A few minutes of wheezing and vomiting passed before I finally left the shower where I met three Korean ajumma (middle-aged ladies), who looked annoyed at how long I stayed there. Still dizzy and nauseous, I bowed multiple times and apologized sheepishly while I tried to hold myself on a wall. They gave me the Unblinking Ajumma Death Stare. You Koreans know what I’m talking about.

I find the sauna story hilarious now but at that time, I really thought I was in deep shit.

Each time I faced these events, survival instincts kicked in. “I refuse to die in the dark on a mountain/in a hotel in the red light district/nude in a bath with all of these other naked people!” I think going through these things sucked, but all things considered I’m pretty satisfied—proud, even—of how I handled myself. No screaming or hysterical sobbing or anything. I just remember the realization in my head that “Shit, so this is how it goes down.” I also remember mentally telling myself, “Don’t panic. Breathe.” And what went through my head when I was out of danger: “Bitch I’m alive! Woohoo!”

Actually, during and in the immediate aftermath of nearly falling off cliffs, or burning to death, or asphyxiating, I remember some of my taekwondo teachers (in particular, their voices, especially when they were screaming commands), mainly because they’ve prepared me for situations like these, although ugly wheezing in a public bath probably wasn’t on their list of what-ifs. Martial arts is the life blood of everything I do; I can’t do my work without it. I was never the best in my classes—I was just the one who kept showing up. And hey what do you know? It actually does save my ass from time to time. Thanks, guys!

I've had over 30 teachers, but this is the only photo I have with any of them in uniform. Hmm.

I’ve had over 30 teachers, but this is the only photo I have with any of them in uniform. Hmm. This was right after a test, which explains why I’m so sweaty.

Some things changed in me as a result of facing mortality every year. I give less time to things and people who don’t matter. I make decisions faster. I work on as many creatively fulfilling projects as possible because they might be the last. Facing tragedy gives a layer of clarity to one’s life and perspective. It brings a sense of urgency and purpose to my days. Each time I wake up, I want to make it count. (On a lighter note, I also feel it gave me heightened senses. Not like a spider sense or anything, but I pay more attention to the time of the day, how the air smells, my pulse, etc. I also felt that these events made me a better artist and writer, because there’s a greater range of human experience I can draw from. Bitch, I’m alive.)

Now I know close calls happen to lots of us, but in my case, as they happened to me for the past three years straight—the life-flashing-before-my-eyes bit and all—I’ve decided, surprise, surprise, to turn it into a project.

Anyway, one thing I started last year was to send cards to my friends during the holidays. It really helped to be in touch with my friends from all over the world, especially when I had a serious case of PTSD and depression after the fire. I had friends calling me from overseas and messaging me online because they were afraid for my mental health. (Frankly, so was I.) This was around November and so I got the idea of writing to them—sort of a thank you + Hey Happy Holidays in one go. I’m not much into gushy letters so I decided to let the physical form of the card reflect the time it took to make it.

Last year’s card was an origami Santa Claus on a velociraptor. But why not.

My fleet of Santas and velociraptors is complete.

My fleet of Santas and velociraptors is complete.

 

Ho, ho, ho... RAHR!

Ho, ho, ho… RAHR!

I sent special black belt Santas to some of my taekwondo teachers.

TAEKWONSANTAS. yeah!

TAEKWONSANTAS. yeah!

When I got back from Seoul and after the sauna incident, I realized that thanking people every year for being in your life might not be the worst idea ever. Try it. It takes me about a day or two to do everything and I don’t feel like it’s such a burden. I actually felt lighter afterwards, and gratitude is one of the things that can make you happier and live longer. It’s also a good exercise in creativity; a small card is nonthreatening enough to be a fun canvas. Some of my friends don’t celebrate Christmas, so these (and succeeding cards) are meant to celebrate the New Year.

This year, it’s a card with messages written in UV-activated ink (so you have to place it under the sun for 10 to 20 minutes) and phosphorescent ink (so you can read it in the dark). On the front are instructions:

New Year Card revised outlines-01

At the back of the card is a message in grey. When you place it under the sun, the UV-activated ink will turn purple. In this card, some of the letters are in plain watercolor so you can decipher the message after you give it a solar bath. The yellow letters glow in the dark.

newyearcardback

So I do this to remember the people I’ve encountered the past year and to let them know that hey, it was good to know you. You know, just in case I lose the “Near” in Near Tragic Experience and one day I won’t have a chance to say it. It’s just a small thank you that I send out once a year. Don’t panic. It’s not like I’m in love with you or anything. Hello. It’s just a card.

To make it worth the postage and the carbon, I will make each year’s card really special and worth collecting. In ten years, if you’ve managed to collect at least 5, let me know and you win a prize! No, really. It’s good for nomads like myself to have relationships that last at least that long.

I’ll post them all on this page as I go along.

Human beings are steadily living longer. What could happen when we extend our lifespan? In this project, I design artifacts and tell the story of Emily, a fictional 148-year-old woman in a future.

In the future, may we have more inclusive magazine covers that feature accomplished people of all ages.

In the future, may we have more inclusive magazine covers that feature accomplished people of all ages.

If we can live to be 150 years old, I envision that we will have technologies that will allow people to achieve this maximum longevity. Perhaps we will have tattoos that can deliver hormones for telomere repair. Or wearables that can track the number of cell divisions. Maybe we will inject young blood into ourselves to extend our lives (and maybe this blood will come from younger family members)—a macabre possibility, for sure, but so are lots of what we do to ourselves now especially if our ancestors could see them!

I also think that living longer affords us time to pursue more interests. If we want to go back to school for the second or third time, then we can! We can learn more languages, change careers, perhaps have more lovers. If we have more time, I think most of us will devote this to developing ourselves and our relationships. There are pros and cons to this future.

Browse the gallery to view The Matriarch, a story of a 148-year-old woman and a day in her life.

If we can live to be 150 years old, we might develop technologies to assist us as we age, such as tattoos to deliver hormones for telomere repair, or wearables that can tell us the number of our cell divisions.

If we can live to be 150 years old, we might develop technologies to assist us as we age, such as tattoos to deliver hormones for telomere repair, or wearables that can tell us the number of our cell divisions.

Many thanks to Emily Abrera and her family, and Rjho De Guzman. 

This November I find myself in Seoul for the Bio-Art Seoul 2015 Conference. It’s great to be back here in Korea, which is turning into a yearly homecoming of a sort. Annyunghaseyo!

For my bit in the show, I presented the second volume of The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store. There were eight new scents I debuted here. The line was called “A Walk Home” and it was based on the scents of my childhood in the Philippines. These olfactory memories were especially potent when I moved to Manila last year after ten years of being away.

 

The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store Volume 2: A Walk Home

The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store Volume 2: A Walk Home

The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store: A Walk Home has these eight scents: Recess, A Chinese Apothecary, Time with My Mom, Swimming Lessons, Wild Grass, Manila Sunsets, Carnival, and Moments of Solitude.

Oh you kids. <3

Oh you kids. <3

During the exhibition, it was fun to see families smell the perfumes. My favorite part was when I saw the little kids trying them on, especially the really small ones who had to tiptoe to reach the bottles. It was so cute when one group of little boys gathered around, each taking a bottle, and sprayed it on himself. (I pity the ones who got the perfumes marked “Recess” and “A Chinese Apothecary”.)

kids

Some of my favorite target audience.

 

Sometimes, reactions to my work are polarized. LIke so. (I hope the kid on the right is ok.)

Sometimes, reactions to my work are polarized. LIke so. (I hope the kid on the right is ok.)

And now, a cathartic release by writing about an embarrassing moment. It was the exhibition opening, and man, I was so excited to do my first Korean ribbon cutting—complete with the white gloves and golden scissors, yo! I was nervous to cut it in advance like I’ve seen people do when what I should have been worried about was not catching the darn things after you snip them.

My first Korean ribbon cutting ceremony! How exciting!

My first Korean ribbon cutting ceremony! How exciting!

I’m the sad chick second from left with the pile of ribbons on the floor. Sigh. No one ever tells me these things. Hmph.

Epic fail.

“Oh sh*t” was the first thought that entered my head. Epic fail.

For the record, I still think it’s a lot cooler to let everything dramatically fall to the floor. Hello. It’s a grand opening. Just kidding.

Artist Talk: Wet Media Conference

In Sogang University’s Department Art and Technology, artists (including yours truly) gave talks on their work. My talk, entitled “Living SciFi: Bio-Art and our Futures” drew on my journey through science, art, and design, ending with the show at the Institute for the Future and what I’ve learned here so far.

It was also great to meet some bio-artists. Personally, I identify more with the terms “conceptual artist” and “sci-art” since I currently work with so many different fields of sciences and haven’t stuck to just one, so it was great to learn from these guys, especially those whose work I’ve heard so much about. Mad props to Anna Dumitriu, Vicky Isley and Paul Smith of boredomresearch, Sonja Baeumel, Roberta Trentin, etc. It was cool to meet you guys!

Workshop: Making Smells of Perfumes

You know I'm in Korea when I'm doing a lecture in my hiking clothes.

You know I’m in Korea when I’m doing a lecture in my hiking clothes.

A week after the opening, I also did a perfumery workshop with some high school and university students in Korea. There was a group of biology students that were accompanied by their teacher. In the beginning, the students participated in my olfactory memory experiment where they were given mystery smells and then were asked to recall the memory that came to mind.

The students did my smell memory experiment where I gave them mystery smells to sniff and asked them to recall the memory that came to mind.

The students did my smell memory experiment where I gave them mystery smells to sniff and asked them to recall the memory that came to mind.

Later, I asked them to do a Smell Walk and gather objects from nature that they want to make a perfume of. We distilled essential oils and also used some from my own collection of essential oils. It was exciting as one distillation flask caught fire (the kids put it out in time and no one was hurt).

The students took a Smell Walk and gathered fragrant objects from nature.

The students took a Smell Walk and gathered fragrant objects from nature.

 

The haul from the Smell Walk

The haul from the Smell Walk

 

Gathering fragrant things in nature

Gathering fragrant things in nature

 

Mashing things up for distillation

Mashing things up for distillation

 

A simple DIY distillation set-up

A simple DIY distillation set-up

 

Whattup, Korea!

Whattup, Korea!

I loved that one of the museum staff participated and insisted on making a banana-flavored perfume. He was a fun student. For the record, I insisted that he tuck his tie so it wouldn’t catch fire.

This museum staff member joined our workshop and he made a banana perfume.

This museum staff member joined our workshop and he made a banana perfume.

After the distillation, I also got them to create perfumes using the commercial essential oils I have in my personal collection.

Day 2: I was back in my apocalypse suit. Ole!

Day 2: I was back in my apocalypse suit. Ole!

SAMSUNG CSC

Making perfumes

 

Another experience of making a perfume using commercial essential oils

Another experience of making a perfume using commercial essential oils

I gave them Apocalypse Project Commander badges as a reward for all their hard work. Thanks, guys!

Apocalypse Project Commander badges for everyone! Whee!

Apocalypse Project Commander badges for everyone! Whee!

Aaaannnd that’s officially it for me for 2015. No more exhibitions, talks, workshops, interviews, etc. for the rest of the year. I’ll be in Seoul until November 29th reflecting on the year that was and what to do next. You know I’m not a big fan of this part. A bit of Korean hiking should knock me to my senses. Are you in town? Come join me!

Many thanks to Bio-Art Seoul 2015, Biocon, Seoulin Bioscience Co., and Digital Art Weeks International. Thank you especially to Dr. Sunghoon Kim and Helen Kwak!

 

 

The lovely Alexa Smith, founder of ArtFuture, sent me these clips of her interviews with me during The Apocalypse Project: House of Futures exhibition. Thanks, Alexa!

The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store

The Weather Millinery

Climate Change Couture

This was after all the events we had, so if I look a wee bit exhausted to you, it is not a coincidence.

Also check out my and my friends’ talks here at swissnex San Francisco’s Apocalypse Project: Ideas for a Hotter Planet event, courtesy of the awesome Fora.tv!

The Apocalypse Project: House of Futures has finally launched at the Future Gallery of IFTF. Free and open to the public, the 7-month exhibition features interactive works that explore climate change and our futures through the lens of high fashion. The exhibition welcomes audiences of all ages.

Manila to San Francisco to Palo Alto

September had a whirlwind of events. My flight from Manila was delayed for the next day, and I was awake for more than 24 hours and carrying very precious and dubious-looking cargo—Metal hats! Climate change perfumes! Apocalypse masks!—that fortunately went through customs without a hitch. Thankfully, things went smoothly and were not apocalyptic when I landed in San Francisco.

It was great to physically meet people I’ve been in touch with in the digital world for several months now. David Evan Harris and Bettina Warburg of IFTF, Sophie Lamparter of swissnex San Francisco, and Martin Schwartz of the Swiss consulate have been working on the administrative matters for the exhibition, while I worked on the projects in Manila while Skyping with ETH scientists all over the world.

Fashion Shows and Future Feasts

Time was not wasted the minute I landed. It was a Thursday, and David picked me up from the airport and we drove to IFTF where I met some of the staff and saw the Future Gallery for the first time. We went back to San Francisco to the swissnex office, where we did dress fittings for the models who will wear the Climate Change Couture garments.

The next day, Friday the 18th, we had a preview of the exhibition at swissnex San Francisco with some art and science talks as well as the first fashion show of Climate Change Couture. Music and science were provided by scientists-artists-DJs Stefan Müller Arisona and Simon Schubiger. It was great to see them again and work with them and jewelry designer Ika Arisona on The Wild Jewels project.

The Apocalypse Project at swissnex San Francisco

The Apocalypse Project at swissnex San Francisco. Photo by Myleen Hollero.

Two days of installation after and on September 21st, The Apocalypse Project: House of Futures finally had its grand opening. With opening remarks by Marina Gorbis, David Evan Harris, Consul General of Switzerland Hans-Ulrich Tanner, and swissnex San Francisco CEO Christian Simm.

A big part of the night was Future Feast, where chefs get to propose dishes of the future. In talk-show fashion, I introduced Vijitha Shyam of Spices and Aroma and Monica Martinez of Don Bugito. Vijitha prepared a delicious ayurvedic meal using vegetables that use less water and are therefore easier to grow in California’s drought, while Monica presented tasty insect dishes made of insects—a wonderful protein source that are easy to grow and has less impact on the planet.

Don Bugito by Monica Martinez at Future Feast at the Institute for the Future. Photo courtesy of IFTF.

Don Bugito by Monica Martinez at Future Feast at the Institute for the Future. Photo courtesy of IFTF.

The next day was IFTF’s inaugural Future Now, an all-day event with art and science talks, co-working, a fashion show on the streets of Palo Alto, more Future Feast food, and casual discussions about climate change and the future.

Futures, Community, Collaboration

Eating great food, seeing models strut their stuff, dancing the night away, and art you can touch and wear are not what you would normally associated with climate change, but these fun and inclusive activities are meant to get you to care about what is often a politicized issue. Climate change affects all of us, and I especially like to engage young people, such as the two little kids who looked at the exhibition on my last day of installation.

Jeremy Joe Kirschbaum of IFTF struts his stuff. Photo courtesy of IFTF.

Jeremy Joe Kirschbaum of IFTF struts his stuff. Photo courtesy of IFTF.

I think that the fashion shows were especially fun because of the life the models gave the clothes. Most of them came to me saying it was their first time walking a runway or putting on fancy makeup. There were models who got the call at the last minute, and I appreciated how some of them insisted on an explanation as to why they were wearing these strange clothes. It’s wonderful to work with people who have their own strong opinions and can bring their own personalities to the table., creating a different fashion show each time.

Zoe Bezpalko modeling Climate Change Couture at IFTF. Photo courtesy of IFTF.

Zoe Bezpalko modeling Climate Change Couture at IFTF. Photo courtesy of IFTF.

This has been such as positive collaborative experience—there are many people involved in these events whose names I’m still recalling because of the sheer number.

Old and New Friends

Simon Schubiger and Stefan Müller Arisona DJ the Climate Change Couture fashion show at swissnex San Francisco. Photo by Myleen Hollero.

Simon Schubiger and Stefan Müller Arisona DJ the Climate Change Couture fashion show at swissnex San Francisco. Photo by Myleen Hollero.

I’m especially excited for this exhibition because I got to work with some old friends who have supported The Apocalypse Project before it was even born. I started this project as an artist-in-residence at the Singapore-ETH Centre Future Cities Laboratory (FCL) in 2013. There, I produced the first collection of Climate Change Couture, designing clothes based on the research of some of the scientists and getting them to model the clothes. This time, for this Palo Alto show, it was a new experience to actively collaborate with them and co-design the garments. Moreover, as this exhibition is registered for ArtCOP21, I am happy for everyone’s efforts to be part of a global movement of cultural awareness on climate change.

And to think this is just the beginning! Stay tuned for more activities until we close this show in April of 2016.

This post first appeared on the website of the Institute for the Future here.

The Apocalypse Project: House of Futures opens soon in Future Gallery of the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, California. This seven-month exhibition explores our environmental futures under climate change through the lens of high fashion. I’m deeply grateful for the support of IFTF, swissnex San Francisco, the Consulate General of Switzerland in San Francisco, ETH Zürich, Singapore-ETH Zürich Future Cities Laboratory, and University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Northwestern Switzerland.

The Apocalypse Project: House of Futures

The Apocalypse Project: House of Futures

We have three events this September. Check them out and register now!

September 18, Friday, 6:30PM-10:00PM at swissnex San Francisco. Climate Change Couture: Fashion for a Hotter Planet. Get a taste of the exhibition by watching a Climate Change Couture fashion show and DJ/VJ performance plus talks from the artists involved. (Tickets at $10. More here.)

September 21, Monday, 6:30PM:10:00PM at Future Gallery, IFTF. The Apocalypse Project House of Futures Grand Opening Reception. See the exhibition plus celebrate with a Future Feast! (Free! Register here.)

September 22, Tuesday, 9:00AM-8:00PM at Future Gallery, IFTF. The Apocalypse Project: Future Now. Join us at Institute for the Future for the inaugural Future Now, an all-day event of futures thinking. (Free! Register here.)

I’m also even more excited to have old and new friends being part of this exhibition. Stay tuned for more in the coming days!

 

Digital Art Weeks International, whose exhibition “Hybrid Highlights” was held in Seoul last year, just published their free book, On Science, On Art, On Society: Interviews with Innovators”. Edited by Arthur Clay, Monika Rut, and Timothy J. Senior, it features a collection of twenty-five interviews from practitioners originating in diverse fields and opposing outwardly.

Divided into three separate chapters, the authors illustrate to the reader models of hybridity that can validate convergence as a method for nurturing innovation across disciplines. Readers interested in innovation and the processes that drive it, will find that each of the chapters of the book addresses a particular area of ​​knowledge and that each of the interviews offers its own perspective on the subject at hand as well as examples that could offer theory into practice.

Screen Shot 2015-07-25 at 3.22.09 PM

I was one of the interviewees in this interesting project. I’m in very cool and amazing company and it’s quite intimidating to be with them, such as Denisa Kera, Davide Angheleddu, Ruedi Stoop, etc. Download it here from iTunes now!

ClimateChangeCoutureLookbook

In my interview I talk about artscience collaborations, The Apocalypse Project, and climate change and cultural change. It also featured a photo from Climate Change Couture: Singapore (the Thermoreflector, modeled by Cheryl). Here is the interview, courtesy of DAW International:

Where Art & Science Coexist
An Interview with Catherine Young

Interviews with Innovators: As an artist, your work primarily explores human perception and its relationship to memory, creativity, and play. In a way, your story as an artist begins with studying molecular biology and biotechnology at the University of the Philippines. What inspired you to move into the arts, and what did you take with you from the sciences?

Catherine Young: I come from a family of artists and doctors. Although my grandfather was a photographer, my mom was a genetics professor so I grew up with a lot of Punnett Squares and DNA lessons. I love science and initially wanted to do only lab-based research, but I realized that I didn’t want to be just cooped up in the lab – there were so many other ways I wanted to pursue my ideas. I moved to New York City at 21 and just saw the endless possibilities available instead of the stifling path I had ahead of me. I moved (or more specifically, “ran away”) to Barcelona and rediscovered art, but also discovered for the first time how art and science could work together. From there I chose to study interaction design for my MFA in the US (which was a relatively new field at the time) because I felt it was a discipline where art and science could coex- ist and be effectively communicated to others.

IWI: You have worked in a variety of traditional forms including draw- ing and painting, but also with less-traditional media such as dirt or soil. What role has artistic and scientific practices played in helping you break away from traditional formats?

CY: When two things collide, new relationships can be formed. For exam- ple, visual art is usually composed of traditional fields such as painting or sculpture—works that the public shouldn’t touch else you destroy the work. But this doesn’t hold true with interactive pieces where the work has to be touched to be experienced. The convergence of art and science leads to new ways to offer stories for people to explore, and unique opportunities for empathy. Also, advancements in science along with new ways of expression in art are leading to greater diversity in the type of work that can be done. For instance, there’s been a relatively recent interest in art investigating smell because of research that shows that olfaction is linked to memory. So if I were an artist interested in memory, this sense is now a channel for me to investigate that theme. Science can inform art and vice versa; each enriches the other.

I don’t really look at my projects and say, “Ok, what is the ‘art’ and what is the ‘science’ here?” I start with the questions I want to explore, and then test those approaches that I feel will best communicate the ideas I want to share with people. My different experience of artistic and scien- tific fields has exposed me to a lot of different ways for investigating top- ics and then presenting them to a wider audience. Science for me involves a lot of data collection, something which I often do in my current work. Artistic methods help me explore the many ways in which I can show that work. Each exhibition of a project is also like an experiment to me, so my work continues as I check how people respond to it. Person- ally, I don’t think there’s much of a difference between art and science because both ask similar questions. However, there is a great difference in the professions of art and science because of the systems we have created to practice them, such as the galleries, the festivals, the labs, academia, industry, and so on.

IWI: “Disclosure of knowledge” or “lifting of the veil” is how you describe your Apocalypse Project. Here you are trying to physically animate an in- quiry made concerning environmental futures. Can you tell us about this research in general and what the process was that transformed an en- quiry into an artwork?

CY: I started The Apocalypse Project during my participation at the 2013 ArtScience Residency Program in partnership with ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands, Tembusu College National University of Singapore, and the Singapore-ETH Zurich Future Cities Laboratory (FCL). I was talking to the scientists in FCL who were doing very interesting research on climate change and sustainability. But while their work was important, I saw a gap between their research and the public understanding of climate change.

In parallel to this, I was doing workshops with high school and college students in Singapore, asking them questions about what climate change looked like to them, what superpowers they wished they had to combat climate change, and what they would wear to a climate-change apocalypse. The last question resonated really well with the majority of the stu- dents, more so than my other questions. I realized that fashion is one thing that people can relate to – clothing is both a means of survival and a form of self-expression. This was the beginning of Climate Change Couture. I took the research of the FCL scientists and designed clothes and narratives that would fit a world that was uninhabitable, highlighting the problems that the research projects addressed. For the first collection, members of the FCL staff were the ones who modeled them and I think it was wonderful to see them outside the lab and being models.

IWI: Besides showing the actual objects themselves, how else have you tried to communicate the fact that climate change is real and “the heat is on” as they say?

CY: The projects are all about experience, so rather than just showing the clothes or the perfumes I developed, the visitors are invited to try on the clothes and smell the perfumes. In this way, they are able to place themselves in the story. I also hold public events, such as Future Feast at The Mind Museum in Manila where I got to collaborate with chefs to think about dishes of the future. It was a real feast with local musicians per- forming, scientists explaining topics about climate change, the chefs talking to people about why things like worm meat and sea vegetables could be future sources of nutrition, and included activities for the whole family. I think doing these inclusive and fun events reframes climate change from a doom-and-gloom political issue, meant to be discussed only by governments, to a human issue about creativity and resilience that everyone should act on.

IWI: Some of the garments that you have put on exhibition connect traditional design culture with what we might call “a fashion of necessity”. Does the inclusion of traditional elements make the message clearer that climate change and cultural change are synonymous?

CY: I think culture has always had to adapt to the environment. For example, the Barong Tagalog, which is a traditional dress for men in the Philip- pines, was designed to be lightweight because of the country’s tropical climate. I re-imagined it with a hoodie because of the unpredictable weather the country now has. When designing for a particular city, I like to research their traditional garments because the message resonates bet- ter with the audience if the visual imagery is familiar and they can relate to it. A lot of my projects deal with future loss, and so the audience has to imagine a world where some things are not available to satisfy the needs of their traditional practices.

IWI: Which of the methods used to carry over your message have been the most effective in motivating and empowering people to become co- creators of a more tangible future?

CY: I think it’s the fact that I do multiple projects, so I give people different ways to engage with environmental futures. If one doesn’t do it for them, another one might. Each project is also exhibited through multiple platforms and in multiple cities, and uses different types of media. Some people knew about the projects through the Internet, but for most peo- ple the work was more powerful when they saw and experienced them in person. From what I’ve observed, I think the work becomes most effec- tive when people are able to share their experience (and the memories that these projects evoke) with other people. This allows conversation about climate change go beyond the exhibition or the festival and into the people’s normal everyday lives. Another is that I target a wide audience. I’m particularly interested in the reactions of young children, because they have the most honest reactions. They will also bear the worst consequences of climate change, so I think they need to learn about it and how to take care of the environment as soon as possible.

IWI: Knowing that the research you have draw upon is the intellectual property of an institution with clear guidelines on representation, do you feel that there are any dangers of misrepresenting such research if presented through art objects and in a museum context?

CY: Yes, which is why I’m extremely careful about collaborations. There are a lot of conversations in the background, with me talking to my col- laborators (be it scientists, chefs, artists, students, companies, etc.) about what the project is, why I’m doing it, what possibilities could follow once we exhibit the work in public, as well as an opportunity to say no. I send out updates from time to time, and I update all my websites regu- larly so everyone knows what I’m up to. I’ve been on fellowships and grants for a long time, so I’m used to accountability and making sure eve- ryone is on the same page so that we’re all happy. For the information and images I have to send out to the press, or that I publish online, I always make sure everyone involved has reviewed it and has no issues with it. I think life is really short and there is no sense in prolonging suf- fering, so if I or the other person is unhappy, and all possible solutions have been exhausted, I probably will end the collaboration and just change the direction of the project.

That said, though, in my experience, if the finished project is successful – and I define “success” here as when a project gains an audience, when the message about climate change is effectively transmitted to another person, and when the collaboration was pleasant and we want to do it again – everybody wins: the artist, the collaborator, the space it was exhibited in, the audience who has had a positive experience. If the project fails at any point, such as if a blogger completely misinterprets it, it’s only me that has to bear it, and I try to rectify it by reaching out to the writer with more information and an invitation to get in touch. Either the writer updates his article or I’ll be working on another project to further make the point. The public events are, to me, critical, because I usually have attendants (I call them The Apocalypse Squad) who are trained to talk about the project and assist the audience if needed. The online presence of the projects is also important because that’s where I put all the information. I’ll get the occasional troll in the exhibition or on the Internet – usually climate change deniers – but I just ignore them.

Catherine Young is an artist, scientist, designer, explorer, and writer whose work primarily explores human perception and its relationships to memory, creativity, and play. Her work combines art and science to create stories, objects, and experiences that facilitate wonder and human connection. Her first solo exhibition was in a science museum. She re- ceived her degree in molecular biology and biotechnology from Manila, fine art education from Barcelona, and has an MFA in Interaction Design from the School of Visual Arts in New York as a Fulbright scholar. Previously, she was on residencies and fellowships in New York, Barcelona, Seoul, Singapore, and Manila.

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