A quick shout out to my friends in Copenhagen who are organizing the Arctic Ice Chess tournament starting tomorrow! This is the first time this game will be played, and fittingly, it will premiere in one of the Arctic Council nations. I am so thrilled this is happening and happy it is being cared for by curator Malou Solfjeld and the team at SixtyEight Art Institute. Art can provide engaging spaces for us to discuss challenging things, and so I hope you have fun with the game while discussing serious climate issues in the Arctic and beyond. 

Kudos as well to the previous residencies who hosted me as I was developing this game, namely China Residencies and Saari Residence, and the UNSW Design Futures Lab for their assistance as I was shipping the work.

On Saturday 25 September, SixtyEight invites you to view a chess tournament on the subject of climate change, which will be initiated in the Copenhagen Harbour; and as part of the curatorial research project Memoirs of the Abyss: Three Ecologies and More, curated by Malou Solfjeld.

The first Arctic Ice Chess match will take place on the prow of the MS Arno, docked at Langebrogade 1C, Saturday 25 Sept. at 12.00-14.00.

The artwork Arctic Ice Chess is a project created by the Philippine artist Catherine Sarah Young; where plastic toy soldiers are frozen in ice cubes and take up positions as standard chess pieces; and where the ice pieces melt as this classic strategy game unfolds throughout the playing period.

The first game will be played by Jon Rahbek-Clemmensen, lecturer at the Institute for Strategy at the Danish Ministry of Defence Academy; versus the environmental activist and candidate for mayor, Gorm Gunnarsen. And as the melting chess pieces move throughout their match, both will discuss issues related to the world’s rising sea levels and geopolitical and economic interests emerging in the Arctic region.  

https://sixtyeight.dk/icechess.html

Honored and grateful to be in the latest issue of @artplusmag together with the other amazing 13 Artists Awardees of 2021! Thank you to the Cultural Center of the Philippines for facilitating the interview. Manila friends, please do grab a copy!

Inside Art+ Magazine Issue 74: Raul Lebajo

Cultural Center of the Philippines announces the 13 Artists Awardees for 2021. The awardees are Allan Balisi, Nice Buenaventura, Gino Bueza, Mars Bugaoan, Rocky Cajigan, Geloy Concepcion, Patrick Cruz, Ian Carlo Jaucian, KoloWn, Czar Kristoff, Lou Lim, Ryan Villamael and Catherine Sarah Young.

Read the full story inside Art+ Magazine Issue 74. Art+ Magazine is available on Shopee, Art Plus webstore, and at National Bookstore, Fully Booked, and Rustan’s branches nationwide.

http://www.artplus.ph

I wrote a post for Sydney Observatory to conclude my residency from June-August 2021. The link to the post is here. The entirety of the article is below. Enjoy!

Of Water and Planets: Dreaming of Mars while in Earthly Lockdown

Catherine Sarah Young, Sydney Observatory Resident

Entering Sydney’s lockdown of 2021, this time because of the Delta variant of the coronavirus, meant exiting the Sydney Observatory residency for me in the physical sense. I sadly bid farewell to my room in the Observatory, barely used and whose sticky locks I had just gotten used to. I, like many of us, had been accustomed to the changing situation presented by the COVID-19 era. The residency system as well has been transformed and I had to be mostly confined to my flat in Paddington and its five-kilometre radius.

For my residency, I had been interested in doing research on Mars. As an artist who works on environmental issues such as climate change, the human ambition to investigate and to voyage to the Red Planet become increasingly important. Do we see Mars as Planet B, as we are currently destroying our Planet A? What might we learn from a planet that so many governments and billionaires want to set foot on? What does it mean for us to seek to be a multi-planet species? And how can we ensure that we remember our human and Earthbound origins as we do so?

Like an astronaut preparing for confinement, I had taken photos of every single object in the Observatory before pursuing my research virtually, as though I had wanted to create a personal archive in my pocket before the gates of the Observatory were closed to me for the time being. In many ways, confined to our homes and besieged with the seemingly perpetual anxieties of contagion, conflict, and catastrophe, we are astronauts on planet Earth, wondering where to land and when we can leave the spacecraft that our homes have become. We are in many ways at war with ourselves, and thus it may seem a bit poetic that the Red Planet we want to go to is named after the god of war in Roman mythology. In the years to come, the tension between our species as Earthbound creatures and our species as interstellar voyagers will become more apparent. 

Figure 1. ‘Mars’ porcelain figure made by William Duesbury & Co. c 1760. MAAS Collection.

From Sydney to Mars

More than a century ago, a fellow Paddington resident Walter Frederick Gale (1865-1945) had also been interested in Mars. Gale was a banker and astronomer, educated at Paddington House School and had a lifelong interest in astronomy because of his father’s encouragement and the appearance of the Great Comet in 1882.1 At seventeen years old, witnessing this powerful force in the sky created a lasting impression, and he discovered several comets in his lifetime.2 A member of the British Astronomical Association (BAA) (now known as the Sydney City Skywatchers), Gale led an expedition to Queensland to see the total solar eclipse of 1922.3

Figure 2. Photograph of Walter Frederick Gale and the eclipse expedition of the British Astronomical Association in Queensland, 1922. Gale is third from the left. MAAS Collection.

Ten years later, Mars was exceptionally close to the Earth, making it an excellent opportunity for it to be viewed through telescopes. The BAA in London reviewed the various drawings submitted to them by space enthusiasts, and Walter Maunder, Director of the Mars section, remarked on the superior quality of Gale’s submission.4 Gale further created glass slides of Mars and other astronomical observations, which are in the Observatory collection. The desire to discover and to record the distant planets and other celestial bodies persists in human history, and the Observatory hosts not just archives of the past, but also current images of space taken by professional and amateur astrophotographers.

Figure 3. Drawings of Mars by Walter Gale on 6 August 1892 at 12:30 am Sydney Mean Time (SMT) and 7 August at 11:15 pm EST. Image from the Illustrated Sydney News of 18 February 1893 p18 and courtesy of Sydney Observatory

 

Despite being confined to both Earth and our homes, places like Sydney Observatory create space for us, who, like Gale, direct our curiosity to the skies. In the beginning of the year before the lockdown, we, the residents, had the cool opportunity to tour the Observatory with curator and astronomer Dr. Andrew Jacob. The highlight of this was looking into the Schröder refracting telescope, which is the oldest working telescope in Australia. It was first installed in the South Dome in 1874 to observe the transit of the planet Venus as it crossed the face of the Sun.Opening the dome was a special experience for me as a resident, as I had visited the Observatory several times before but never had access to this part until then. 

Figure 4. Opening up the South Dome—a residency highlight! Photo by Kate Rees.

Escaping to another planet may be the dream of many an intrepid explorer but I like to think of Mars missions in relation to improving our Earth mission in parallel. We may not get it exactly right the first time, but eventually we get there, such as in the case of Mars-3, the first spacecraft to make a successful landing on the Martian surface. Hopefully, we get it right here on Earth, too.

Figure 5. A 1:2 scale model of the USSR spacecraft Mars-3. Pre-1985. MAAS Collection

Water and planets

The spirit of exuberant curiosity of Walter Frederick Gale exists in us, which may even emerge through the constraints imposed by lockdown. For many of us in confinement, there is an impulse to record the minutiae of our lives—the daily walks, the food made and ordered online, the workouts, the Zoom calls with loved ones we cannot see in person. Like astronauts, albeit of the accidental kind, we track various activities, once so mundane in the Beforetime when masks were not mandatory and human contact was something we took for granted. These activities are transformed into special moments, proof that the day even happened at all. We pass the time like astronauts on the way to Mars, recording plant growth, calories burned, and remaining supplies, with the goal of reaching the other side though unknowning when this will be at all. And these activities are for us who are fortunate enough to still have our basic needs met while our social systems are tested in these pandemic times. 

In researching Mars in relation to life on Earth, one of the first things we think about is water. In the American science fiction drama Away that streamed on Netflix last year, there is a scene where Commander Emma Green, played by Hilary Swank, is in conversation with her Earthbound husband, who holds his phone outside his car so that she could hear the sound of rain. The scene cuts to Green imagining a rain shower in the spaceship. Few things are as Earthly as the sight of rain clouds, and this photograph in the late 19th century by Observatory photographer James Short is a rare surviving example of early meteorological photography.

Figure 6. Rain clouds by Observatory photographer James Short 1891-1900. MAAS Collection.

Figuring out rain on Earth helps us understand the gravity of the water situation on the dry Red Planet. I was fascinated by the collection of rain gauges of the Observatory which illustrate similarities and differences of rain measurement. Quantifying rain persists in civilisations throughout history as this helps plan for agriculture, from beautifully crafted ones like the Korean rain gauge from 1442, to various metal gauges in later centuries, to two measuring cylinders from the 19th century, to the delightfully named pluviograph.

Figure 7. Replica Korean rain gauges. The originals were designed in 1442 by Jang Yeong-sil whose patron was King Sejong, ruler of the Choson Dynasty. MAAS Collection.

 

Figure 8. Metal rain gauge. Date unknown. MAAS Collection.

Figure 9. Two rain gauge measuring cylinders. These were designed by Angelo Tornaghi for Sydney Observatory. He was born in Milan and arrived in Sydney in 1858 to supervise the adjustments of the Observatory’s Negretti & Zambra instruments. MAAS Collection.

Figure 10. A rain gauge or pluviograph made by either Angelo Tornaghi or one of the Observatory staff and was used in the Observatory before 1900. By 1860, rainfall and other weather observations were collected every month from around New South Wales and sent to the Observatory. This pluviograph is especially significant because of its pioneering role in Australian science that connected astronomy, meteorology, and technology. MAAS Collection.

The permanence of temporary phenomena

Creating permanent archives of temporary phenomena help us understands the systems that govern the workings of the Earth. My favourite exhibition room in the Observatory contains some of these rain gauges as well as various artifacts from different times in the history of Sydney that focus on weather. Here you can find the first weather map of Australia made by Henry Chamberlain Russell made 1877. To compile the map, Russell referenced weather information telegraphed to the Observatory from 40 meteorological stations across New South Wales. There are also photographic records of clouds and lightning, as well as models of hailstones that fell in the storm of April 1999, with the largest one being 8.5 cm in diameter. This makes me wonder about the future maps and instruments we may use someday in Mars, and what adaptations we will eventually have. 

Figure 11. The first weather map of Australia made by Henry Chamberlain Russell, the third New South Wales Government Astronomer and the first Australian-born one. MAAS Collection.
Figure 12. Photograph of lightning used by James Short, 1908. MAAS Collection.

Figure 13. Model of hailstones that fell in 1999. Original casts made by Mike de Salis, Bureau of Meteorology, NSW Office. Display Models by Iain Scott-Stevenson. MAAS Collection.

Our search for water continues in Mars and also links with Walter Frederick Gale, as a crater on the Red Planet is named after him. NASA chose the Mars rover Curiosity to land on Gale Crater because of signs that it may have contained water in its history.6 The Gale Crater is estimated to be about 3.5-3.8 billion years old which may be a dry lake. In the centre of the crater rises the mountain Aeolis Mons, and in between this mountain and the crater’s northern perimeter is the plain Aeolis Palus. NASA’s Curiosity Rover landed in Aeolis Palus on August 6, 2012. This spot has since been named Bradbury Landing, named after author Ray Bradbury.7

I realised while discussing my project with the Sydney Observatory staff that I had actually 3D printed the Gale Crater several weeks ago. In the UNSW Design Futures Lab where I conduct some of my research, I had been experimenting with 3D printing Martian landing sites. NASA has an open-source website that contains various 3D models. Printing Martian landscapes using clay from planet Earth felt like connecting the two celestial bodies together. Like Martian landings, we cannot get it right the first time, as you can see in this incident where the printer, as unpredictable as our current times, regurgitated the clay onto my board.

Figure 14. A 3D printing accident. Photo by Catherine Sarah Young

But eventually, we get it right!

Figure 15. 3D printed and fired Gale crater. Photo by Catherine Sarah Young

I have a one last thought on water and planets (and also billionaires and pandemics). There is a quote that is going around which says, “We are in the same storm, but not in the same boat.” Similarly, we are in the same space but not the same spacecraft. Confinement to our homes in a pandemic reveals the various ways in which we need to make life more equitable for all of us to be ok while we continue with our interstellar ambitions. In the time of Walter Frederick Gale, Mars was alien territory. Now, it is slowly but surely within our reach. We know where we want to land in both Earth and Mars, but the question is: how?

References

1 Harley Wood, ‘Gale, Walter Frederick (1865-1945)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, published first in hardcopy 1981. Accessed online 24 18 August 2021: https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/gale-walter-frederick-6269

2 Obituary, Walter Frederick Gale, British Astronomical Association, 1 June 1945

http://articles.adsabs.harvard.edu/pdf/1945JBAA…56…18 Accessed 18 August 2021

3 Geoff Barker, ‘Photograph of Walter Gale and the British Astronomical Association eclipse expedition,’ October 2008, accessed 18 August 2021: https://collection.maas.museum/object/382076

4 Nick Lomb, ‘Walter Gale and the Landing of Curiosity’, 7 August 2012, Accessed 18 August 2021: https://www.maas.museum/observations/2012/08/07/walter-gale-and-the-landing-of-curiosity/

5 Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences. The Story of Sydney Observatory. Sydney: Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, 2018.

6 W. E. Dietrich , M. C. Palucis , T. Parker , D. Rubin , K. Lewis , D. Sumner , and R.M.E Williams. 2014. “Clues to the relative timing of lakes in Gale Crater.” (Report). The Eighth International Conference on Mars, Pasadena. https://www.hou.usra.edu/meetings/8thmars2014/pdf/1178.pdf

7 Dwayne Brown, Steve Cole, Guy Webster, D.C. Agle, “NASA Mars Rover Begins Driving at Bradbury Landing, NASA, 22 August 2012. Accessed online 18 August 2021: https://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/aug/HQ_12-292_Mars_Bradbury_Landing.html

Figures from the MAAS Collection

1 – Mars porcelain figure: https://collection.maas.museum/set/7242/object/188070

2 – Photograph of Walter Gale and the British Astronomical Association eclipse expedition: https://collection.maas.museum/object/382076

5 – Model of Mars-3 spacecraft: https://collection.maas.museum/set/7242/object/157005

6 – Rain clouds: https://collection.maas.museum/object/328762

7 – Korean rain gauges: https://collection.maas.museum/object/122107

8 – Metal rain gauge: https://collection.maas.museum/object/232629

9 – Two rain measuring cylinders: https://collection.maas.museum/object/36977

10 – Rain gauge (pluviograph): https://collection.maas.museum/object/248205

12 – Photograph of lightning: https://collection.maas.museum/object/373032

Here are some photos from the exhibition by the Multispecies Visionary Institute (MVI), spearheaded by my friend, the artist, researcher, and curator Sabina Sallis. The Weighing of the Heart was exhibited alongside her and other artists’ works at Gymnasium Gallery at Berwick, UK. Happy to have been part of a show with old Amazonian friends. Thank you MVI, Berwick Visual Arts, and to The Peace Studio for their support!

The Weighing of the Heart is a series that casts the ashes of the Australian bushfire crisis into human heart sculptures. 

I’m thrilled that the project gathered artists, poets, gardeners, and others together.

Click here for more information about MVI.

Images courtesy of Sabina Sallis

It was a special afternoon for me today as I spoke with some winners of the Kids Care About Climate Change 2021 art contest.

with Shivom and his dad

First up is Shivom from Singapore, who is 7 (AND A HALF!). His poster talks about the importance of saving trees.

artwork by Shivom O.

“If you treat a tree good, they will treat you good. They will give you more oxygen paper, fruits and medicines. Plant more tree so we can live happily. Do not pluck the leaves from the plants and let the greenery grow.” We also showed each other our plush animals.

My second meetup today is with Shaurya from Singapore, who won a People’s Choice Award. He drew something that you all know resonates strongly with me.

with Shaurya and his dad

His artwork is entitled “Heart:Body = Tree:Earth”. He says, “If you want to breathe, SAVE the trees, so that the next generation can get oxygen for free. Have you realized, HEART and EARTH are spelled with the same letters? Take care of both, before it’s too late.” Shaurya just turned 10 and wants to be a pilot and artist. (Hey, me too!) He solved a Rubik’s cube while we talked.

Artwork by Shaurya K.

I know you kids won me, but I feel that I won you. ❤

Kids Care About Climate Change 2021 is a project by fellow #TeamHB members Marji Puotinen and Colleen Filippa, and the resulting banner with all the artworks will be showcased in COP26 UN Climate Conference by Scottish Greens Senator Lorna Slater. Congratulations for receiving 2629 entries from 33 nations and 213 schools! Winners win a Zoom with the jury members, one of whom is yours truly.

http://www.kidscareaboutclimate.org

(Madison, Wisconsin)—Last week, we wrapped up LunART Summer Arts Camp 2021! This was one of the most fun things I have done this year, and I’m really happy to have contributed a bit from all the way here in Sydney. LunART supports, inspires, promotes, and celebrates women in the arts through public performances, exhibitions, workshops, and interdisciplinary collaboration. The camp was held at Goodman Community Center in Madison, Wisconsin, and I taught remotely. 

During the camp, the four of us worked in rotating teams of two so that the two remote teachers (Me and Maya) worked with those in Madison (Midori and Satoko). Each week, we had tons of short and fun activities built around key words such as Hello, Ground, Connect, Rest, Build, Community, Communicate, and Share. We used various mediums, such as music, poetry, scent, sculpture, gardening, and others. 

(My favourite activity was a synesthesia exercise where we asked participants to sniff some mystery scents and to color and/or draw what they saw):

This is hands down one of my most favorite and meaningful events this year, and in light of lockdowns and disasters around the world where I sometimes wake up in despair and frustration, I am grateful to have been useful for a time and to have been part of a pioneering initiative where remote teams will increasingly work together in the future.

As well, I’m so happy to have worked with old and new friends, fellow Creative Peacebuilders for The Peace Studio Midori Samson and Maya Williams, and ace pianist Satoko Hayami . After all these weeks, I am going to miss you and the camp participants putting me to bed on a very late Tuesday night. Thank you LuNART and Goodman Center for hosting us, and to Midori for reaching out! 

Images courtesy of Midori Samson, LuNART, and Goodman Center

Find out more about the LuNART Summer Camp 2021 here.

Culture², a Toronto-based organization, is hosting their first online conference on community science, creative biology, and ancestral knowledge this Aug 28 + 29, 2021. I’m excited to be one of their speakers. Get your ticket here and see you there! 

This August 28th + 29th, 2021 we invite you to join us for our first conference where farmers, community activists, climate educators, artists, and practitioners will be sharing their wisdom in relation to the pillars of community science, creative biology, and ancestral knowledge.

Image: Culture²

Update: Video up on Vimeo here.

Thank you for having me!

I’m really happy to have contributed an essay to the #Healing edition of the New Alphabet School of one of my favorite cultural institutions, the Haus der Kulturen der Welt. I collaborated with colleagues I met during (Un-)Learning Place in 2019 in Berlin, which kicked off HKW’s long-term project The New Alphabet. 

The Healing edition in Dakar and Berlin focuses on afro-diasporic spiritual or folk healing practices, lay movements for recovery to generate ideas and media that may have transformative potential. My essay involves my current research and art practice around petrichor (the scent of wet earth when it rains) and how it brought me to Australia. Dankeschön to Olga Schubert, Elisabeth Krämer, Alessandra Pomarico, Esther Poppe, and Maya V. El Zanaty.

It’s a gift to still be able to contribute despite these lockdowns; sending you all a hello from Sydney!

Read the essay here.

(Paris and digital) I’m happy to contribute a heart to C40 Cities for their digital campaign, A Letter to Nature. C40 is a network of the world’s megacities committed to addressing climate change.

The Weighing of the Heart is a sculptural series where I cast human heart sculptures out of the ashes of The Australian bushfires. I’ve been doing this since 2020 after the 2019-2020 Black Summer.

C40 support cities to collaborate effectively, share knowledge, and drive meaningful, measurable, and sustainable action on climate change.

From C40:

C40 has teamed up with a collective of incredible artists who have unique visions of the world they want to live in. Their art challenges us to imagine a future where people and biodiversity thrive, and cities are more resilient and equitable.

C40 has teamed up with a collective of incredible artists who have unique visions of the world they want to live in. Their art challenges us to imagine a future where people and biodiversity thrive, and cities are more resilient and equitable.

The third artist in this series is Catherine Sarah Young. Catherine’s piece ‘The Weighing of the Heart’ casts ashes from the devastating Australian wildfires of 2020 into a heart-shaped sculpture. This video features the sculpture on a background of illustrations by Catherine, that represent hope and recovery.

Catherine said: “The casting of the ashes allowed for the creation of permanent sculptures and removes them from the processes in their landscapes, resulting in art that registers the effects of climate change.

“In this image, the sculptures are made from matter in a real-world catastrophe, but the illustrations arise from my imagination and stems from hope that we can rise above this and repair our relationship with the planet.” 

About the artist: Catherine Sarah Young uses her background in molecular biology and collaborations with scientists to produce innovative, interdisciplinary and experimental artworks that explore our natural world and environment.

I’m really honored to have contributed the cover image to this important book on migration and global justice co-edited by my friend Prof. Claudia Tazreiter! I took this image in 2017 as artist-in-residence of Plan International, where I visited youth in Lewoleba in Indonesia; Chiang-Mai in Thailand, and Tacloban in the Philippines. In Tacloban, a local tricycle driver took me around the city to witness the aftermath of Supertyphoon Haiyan that devastated Tacloban in 2013. The image shows a fishing vessel that had run aground Philippine soil during Haiyan.

 Working with children and youth who were affected by the climate emergency was one of the most impactful and humbling times of my artistic practice, and I am still grateful to Plan for the opportunity to co-create artworks on climate with them. 

The residency was facilitated by Plan International’s offices in Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines as well as the International Climate Initiative (IKI) based in Berlin. More on the residency outcomes here: https://www.international-climate-initiative.com/en/news/article/interview_to_know_the_colour_of_water/

The Handbook of Migration and Global Justice is published by Elgar Handbooks and is edited by Dr. Leanne Weber, Professor of Criminology, University of Canberra, Australia and Dr. Claudia Tazreiter, Professor in Ethnic and Migration Studies, Institute for Research on Migration, Ethnicity and Society, Linköping University, Sweden. This timely Handbook brings together leading international scholars from a range of disciplinary backgrounds and geopolitical perspectives to interrogate the intersections between #migration and global #justice. It explores how cross-border mobility and migration have been affected by rapid economic, cultural and technological globalisation, addressing the pressing questions of global justice that arise as governments respond to unprecedented levels of global migration. Available here: https://www.e-elgar.com/shop/gbp/handbook-of-migration-and-global-justice-9781789905656.html