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The Sewer Soaperie, The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store, and Climate Change Couture: Flower Masks are included in the Seawall project, a collaborative work by Manila-based artist Poklong Anading (PH), currently at his and Neil Fettling’s (AUS) exhibition, “Normal scheduling will resume shortly” curated by Dr. Vincent Alessi.

The Sewer Soaperie

Seawall is a collaborative project that deals with memory and the relationship of the city. Our imbalanced overdependence on natural resources for our daily sustenance has led to eroding our relationship with nature, largely for the sake of economic progress. Manila used to be protected from typhoons and flooding by mangroves; in fact, its name came from “may nilad“, where nilad is a mangrove species Scyphiphora hydrophyllacea that grows beside the water, protecting coastlines from storms and erosion. Using the “balikbayan” image of sending foreign goods to the Philippines, the stacks of boxesare a metaphor of looking back and serve as containments for the individual artists’ idea of the city they are living in. What are our memories of this city, and what might we let go of in order to make it more habitable for its inhabitants?

Other participating artists for Seawall include Milo Aceremo, Billy Adonis, Lorena Rose Balina, Idan Cruz, Rico Entico, Neil Fettling, Neo Maestro, Paul Mondok, Gelo Narag, Miguel Lorenzo Uy, Johannes Wiener, and MM Yu. Wonderful to meet new artists and say hello to old friends!

With Poklong Anading, curator of the project

The exhibition runs until November 3, 2019 at the 4th foor of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

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An Olfactory Portrait of the Amazon Rainforest. Image credit: Science Gallery Dublin 2017

My work, “An Olfactory Portrait of the Amazon Rainforest”, is in the book, “Research in the Creative and Media Arts: Challenging Practice” (2019, Routledge) by the inimitable Prof. Desmond Bell, award-winning documentary filmmaker and fellow of the National College of Art and Design in Dublin, where he was previously Head of Research. I’m truly honored and now feeling like a dinosaur.

With this, I am also reminded of the current struggle of Brazilian researchers, artists, and citizens in general, and hope that my work as an artist creates some impact, no matter how infinitesimal. I have a bunch of Amazon-themed projects in the pipeline, and I’m always happy to share.

Kudos to Prof. Bell and Science Gallery Dublin where the work was exhibited as well as LABVERDE and the INPA National Institute for Amazonian Research in Manaus who supported this work. Thank you, obrigada, go raibh maith agat, salamat and xie xie!

Get the book here.

The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store now also exists as a short story and won third place at the “Our Entangled Future: Short Stories to Empower Quantum Social Change” held by the University of Oslo. This is my first literary prize in, well, a while, so I am both happy and amused. The open access book will be launched in October at the Transformations 2019 Conference in Santiago, Chile. The book will include one of our studio photos.

The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store. Image by Studio Catherine Sarah Young

The story revolves around a female perfumer who lives in a future time when climate change has eradicated a lot of scents and she tries to preserve as many of these as possible. One day, she receives a knock on a door from a client who searches for her to create a perfume that has not been smelled in a very long time.

A perfumer in a future under climate change. Image by Studio Catherine Sarah Young

The actual olfactory art is still at the “Victor Papanek: The Politics of Design” retrospective with the Vitra Design Museum and their staff told me it will travel to the Barcelona Design Museum also in October.

The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store at “Victor Papanek: Politics of Design”. Image courtesy of Vitra Design Museum

The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store (T.E.M.P.S., or French for “time”) is part of The Apocalypse Project body of work which explores climate change and our environmental futures. Other extensions of this work is An Olfactory Portrait of the Amazon Rainforest exhibited at Science Gallery Dublin in 2017 as part of my residency with LABVERDE in Manaus, Brazil.

An Olfactory Portrait of the Amazon Rainforest. Image courtesy of Science Gallery Dublin

Also part of The Apocalypse Project is The Sewer Soaperie, currently at the DISPOSABLE exhibition of Science Gallery Melbourne. What fun to connect with all of these places with one of my favorite projects! Thank you to the jury and all the curators and institutions who have supported this work in the fields of art, science, design, and now fiction.

The Sewer Soaperie, part of The Apocalypse Project body of work, will be at the month-long DISPOSABLE group exhibition by Science Gallery Melbourne beginning August 1.

The Sewer Soaperie is an interactive experimental art project about turning raw sewage and used fats into soap to raise awareness on the fatbergs clogging sewer systems around the world, and how this will worsen flooding brought about by the more intense storms of the Anthropocene.

From observing the consequences of fatbergs in Manila to pursuing it as a residency project in Medellin, to being exhibited at 1335Mabini art gallery and presented at a USAID Climate-Resilient development conference in Bangkok, The Sewer Soaperie finally goes back to its interdisciplinary art/science roots with Science Gallery.

The DISPOSABLE exhibition is a month-long pop-up of installations, experiments, and events. From the programme:

The lid has been lifted on human wastefulness, but what next? Science Gallery Melbourne’s pop-up season, DISPOSABLE, takes you on a dumpster dive to find creative solutions to our throwaway culture. 

Curated with young adults for young adults, the season will be an experimental trash bag of installations, exhibits and events at sites throughout Melbourne.         

The Sewer Soaperie will be at Testing Grounds, Southbank from July 31 – August 3, and The University of Melbourne at Macfarland Court from August 5 to 18. It was also be part of the Extrasensory exhibition at the Parliament of Victoria on August 10 from 6PM to 10PM for National Science Week.

The audience will be invited to wash their hands with the soaps, but please do so at your own risk. There are three types of soaps: those made from palm oil, those made from used oils, and those made from sewage. These were all boiled and then mixed with the appropriate amount of sodium hydroxide method to create soap. If you’d rather not touch the soaps (I don’t blame you), there are other ways of perceiving the work, such as through sight (Observe the physical differences and ask what type of fats might be in these different-colored soaps?) and smell (Some have said they smell like cookies, others have said chicken. What do you think they smell like?)

Follow the hashtag #SewerSoaperie for updates!

Image credits: First image – 1335Mabini; all the rest: Studio Catherine Sarah Young (Photography by Rache Go, hair and makeup by Rori de la Cruz). Thank you to Science Gallery Melbourne curators Tilly Boleyn, Veronica Dominiak, and Ryan Jefferies, and the fantastic Science Gallery Melbourne team!

From June 29 to July 4, the SEAΔ fellows of the Mekong Cultural Hub and the British Council were at the “Asia on the Rise?” Conference hosted by the Association of Asian Studies at the Royal Orchid Sheraton in Bangkok, Thailand. There we presented the outcomes from SEAD Create, which our group held in Kampong Thom, Cambodia.

It was quite fun to discuss what we did with the local communities in Cambodia, from the workshops we held and the culminating Art and Environment Festival. At the very least, as I have learned presenting in different conferences, it was unique to have artists in an academic setting who actually reached out to communities that academics are studying.

Moreover, it was a joy to reconnect with my new friends and colleagues from all over Southeast Asia and the UK, comparing notes on what went well and what did not. We were divided into three groups and there were three very unique projects. Our group’s project, “Adapt to the Future” focused on how art can contribute to adaptation in the climate crisis. Through performances, exhibitions, and workshops for social development, the project inspired co-creation and action of Cambodia’s collective futures through the lens of climate change.

Another group, “Clayground Theater”, was a workshop series in Thailand using dance and craft to explore childhood memories. The third group, “Three Women and a Duck”, connects with groups inside several markets in Vietnam and Lao through an intimate sharing space, coming up with workshop sessions and recording stories, music, and objects.

Finally, it was fantastic to connect with so many amazing people in the conference and the Bangkok art scene. Bangkok is a dynamic, pulsating city packed with people in art and sustainability. We had field visits at the Fine Art Magazine office where we met Tawatchai Somkong, artist, editor-in-chief, and curator of the Thai Pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale; the community in the beautiful Bangkok 1899, Chris Oestereich of Linear to Circular and the Circular Design Lab, and others thanks to MCH regional representatives Siriwat Pokrajen of Thailand and Mimi Heaungsoukkhoun of Laos.

Even on my days off, I was still meeting people, such as a chance visit to the traveling exhibition of the National Museum of the Philippines where they presented the pineapple silk cloths of the tropics, and some people from the UK and China art scene in the Airplane Graveyard. If I can still work in the decaying corpse of a Boeing 747, I know it was a good trip.

I learned many things during this trip. Among others, I have no doubt that it is imperative for the arts to be integrated into other disciplines to reach the communities that the latter aim to serve. I am so excited to be in this unique position to come from both the arts and the sciences doing projects on the environment, and to work with all of these incredible people. I look forward to how these experiences will shape me in the years to come.

All in all, it was a great week in Bangkok. Next up, SEAΔ Reflect in Yangon, Myanmar. See you, fam!

Thanks to Jennifer Lee and Patty Chan of Mekong Cultural Hub, our creative facilitators Nicola Turner and Sudebi Thakurata, Daniel Donnelly and Julia Davies from the British Council, and the Association for Asian Studies!

I have a new piece in the The Apocalypse Project series currently exhibited at the DEPTH exhibition of Science Gallery Detroit.

Overview

Ice Chess examines the Arctic crisis and inspires viewers and participants to reflect on the situation up north. A map of the Arctic with its indigenous peoples is printed on a chessboard with pieces cast out of ice. Inside the pieces are toy soldiers and that represent the players in the emerging “battle” of the Arctic—the political and industrial figures that have big stakes in oil and shipping that stand to gain from melting ice and the emerging maritime routes as a result, and the pawns that represent the countries that will be affected by sea level rise and that are sacrificed in order to achieve these goals.

In these urgent times, now is not the time to romanticize the Melt. In a game with high stakes, who is responsible? On the edges of the board are freestanding soldiers and figures that represent observer countries and other affected nations, and anonymous figures that represent globally concerned distributed people. The battle is on, and we are all watching with bated breath. Ice Chess uses art and science to interrogate, to speak truth to power, to point to the powerful entities who are primarily responsible for what is affecting the whole planet.

Why Chess?

Chess is one of the oldest skill games in the world and has been played for over 5000 years. Chess spread around the world through colonization and trade. The objective of chess is to trap the king—to checkmate him—and it wins the game. Chess is historically played by the wealthy. In this project, it references wealth inequality, one of the systemic causes of climate change.

Chess is metaphorical of how humanity has treated nature—as a game of strategy where we seek to exploit it and each other. It takes this further by actually melting the project with the aid of the players—a reference to how we collectively have caused the Arctic to melt and how we can also put a stop to it.

This game does not intend to pit one human being against the other (or one country against the other), which risks oversimplification. Rather, each player represents a set of alternative possibilities that, when the game is played, clash to produce permutations of consequences. In the game, players and the audience are allowed to view the many entanglements that a wicked problem such as the Arctic crisis can provide.

A primary reason for economic interest in the Arctic is the emerging Northern Sea Route, which will connect Western Europe and Asia. This could make shipping up to 14 days faster than the southern route via the Suez Canal. In 2018, the Venta Maersk, owned by Maersk Line and carrying 3,600 containers, successfully set sail from Vladivostok to St. Petersburg—the first container ship to tackle the Arctic sea route north of Russia.

The Chessboard & The Pieces

The board is a map of the Arctic labeled with indigenous communities, seas, emerging shipping routes—all of these will be names we would hear more about in the coming decades. This map represents the battleground where a literal and figurative cold war is already happening.

The Arctic Council Nations

The powerful row of pieces—the king, queen, bishop, knight, and rook—represent the Arctic Council nations: Russia, USA, Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Canada, and Denmark. The row of pawns represent countries around the world that are and will be most affected by sea level rise. Surrounding the board are Arctic Council observer countries, other nations affected by sea level rise, and anonymous figures that represent globally distributed concerned people.

Climate Change & the Great Lakes

The Great Lakes contain 5,500 cubic miles of freshwater, one of the biggest freshwater resources of the world. It supports more than 34 million people who live within its Basin. These people rely on the lakes for drinking water, fisheries, recreation, and industry. Climate change is already affecting these ecosystems through extreme weather, decreased crop yields, heat waves and consequent poor air quality, stress on water quality and infrastructure, affected navigation and recreation, and impact on wildlife.

Thank you to curators Mark Valentine Sullivan and Antajuan Scott and the rest of the Science Gallery Detroit team!

(Kampong Thom, Cambodia)—From May 20-24, I was in Cambodia with my mates from the SEAΔ Fellowship, a leadership program for sustainability in the arts in Southeast Asia supported by the Mekong Cultural Hub and the British Council.

My team consists of Thet Oo Maung (filmmaker, Myanmar), Zikri Rahman (cultural researcher, Malaysia), Sinath Sous (independent curator, Cambodia), and myself, artist from the Philippines. Our project is to be part of co-fellow Sinath Sous’ Arts and Environment Festival by holding arts and culture workshops with the local community of Kampong Thom, a province in northern Cambodia.

On Day 1, we held an art workshop with local students at Kampong Chheuteal Institute of Technology with the aim of looking at their environment from the lens of the future. Students created visual icons of their province using local and recycled materials.

On Day 2, we ran a Future Resilient Communities workshop where participants made their own paper architecture that reflected their desired future community under climate impacts. We were very honored to have the elderly people of the Kampong Thom community participate, including a couple of village leaders. I love holding this workshop because it intersects strategic planning, art, adaptation, the climate crisis, and various sectors of society. It gets one to see, quite visually, how human beings actually want their futures to be as well as to consider (and later, to correct), the common misconceptions of what a benefit is. (In the Philippines, it was a sea wall and here, it was a plastic incinerator.) Most of them have never done art classes before so their outcomes were even more wonderful.

On Day 3, we ran another Future Resilient Communities workshop and a Letters for Science session with some local governmnet officials and community members. In Kampong Thom, increasing heat decreases crop yields in an agricultural society and delays work as some have to stop working at high noon. The more intense storms also threaten public safety as most houses are built on stilts that sway when the wind is too strong.

The Planetary Renewal Spa in Cambodia!

On Day 4, the final day, we had a photography, soap-making, basket weaving, and flower workshops. I did a Planetary Renewal Spa and gave me honey facials to Cambodian teens. Afterwards we offered food to the monks.

SEAD Create ended in the evening with a public exhibition and various performances with other participants that engaged the community of Kampong Thom such as collaborative musical performance from Cambodian artists of various styles, a beauty pageant that included Ms. Universe Cambodia and runner-up of Cambodia’s Next Top Model, a performance by circus artist Maya Ross who wore one of my Climate Change Couture masks, and others.

We will work on the outcomes from the Arts and Environment Festival and will present them for part 3, SEAD Share, in Bangkok in July. We hope to see you there!