Stoked and grateful to receive another grant from the Kone Foundation for environmentally responsible encounters. Looking forward to slow travel to reach Finland for my art residency with Saari Residence in 2020. The Trans Siberian Railway is a dream; thank you for believing in this crazy bonkers they’ll-never-pick-this-but-dreaming-was-fun idea! Let’s get our Russian, Mandarin, and Finnish on.

View the list here, and congrats to the other grantees!

 

(Kuala Lumpur)—I’m stoked to be selected as one of the 200 Obama Foundation Leaders for their Asia-Pacific Program heading to Kuala Lumpur in two weeks. The Obama Foundation Leaders: Asia-Pacific Program is a one-year leadership development and community engagement program that seeks to inspire, empower, and connect emerging leaders from across the Asia-Pacific region, and I am one of those under the “Arts and Culture” issue area. Find the official website with the full list of Leaders here.

I have often wondered how artists can lead, especially if one tends to be on the quiet side and is semi-reclusive. (As a side note, it looks like I’m the only artist who is not a director or a boss of anything, and wow, my fellow participants have quite impressive titles!) Since my first leadership program with SEAD and the Mekong Cultural Hub and the British Council, and the many international residencies given to me in the past decade, I have realised that artists have a responsibility to keep working towards a just society using creative ways that only artists can think of. The freedom of an artist is such that we can keep learning and making and use these skills to build communities and frameworks to imagine a better future for all of us, and what better thing can one do to spend her days?

Since moving to Sydney, I am grateful for the very supportive research community in a safe and privileged environment where I can keep working on my practice in peace. This program will help me to not lose sight of the bigger picture and to remember that there is a world out there that needs fixing which requires all of us.

I am very much looking forward to participating, asking lots of questions, and learning from my fellow Leaders. It’s quite an intriguing word—to lead—and I can’t wait to see what that word means to me.

Thank you to my friends, colleagues, and an ace supervisory team for their support!

Below is the press release from us Leaders in Australia (FYI: I am a Philippine national who is part Chinese and part Filipino and recently relocated to Sydney, so hello to both my Aussie and Philippine colleagues!)

Press release

November 21, 2019

Contacts:

Nicole Anaejionu, nanaejionu@obama.org

Farah Zuber, farah.zuber@edelman.com

Fourteen Australians Announced as New Obama Foundation Asia-Pacific Leaders

President Obama and Mrs. Obama to Join Leaders: Asia-Pacific Program Gathering in Kuala Lumpur; Plenary Speakers Include YB Hannah Yeoh, Tan Sri Dr. Tony Fernandes, Dr. Oyun Sanjaasuren, Tim Brown, Arthur Huang, Helianti Hilman, Aaron Maniam, and Pat Dwyer 

Fourteen Australians have been selected as part of the inaugural cohort of Obama Foundation Leaders: Asia-Pacific, a cross section of 200 emerging civic leaders from 33 nations and territories in the region, who will convene in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from December 10-14. The 200 Leaders represent public, private, and non-profit sectors, and they work on a variety of issues, ranging from education to environment to entrepreneurship. 

Among the Australian leaders who have been selected for the program are:

    • Usman Iftikhar, Sydney, 29, is an award-winning social entrepreneur, passionate about solutions to global warming and the global refugee crisis. He is the co-founder and CEO of Catalysr, a startup pre-accelerator that empowers migrant and refugee entrepreneurs to launch their own startups. In its first three years, Catalysr has supported 181 migrapreneurs to launch 50 businesses. For his work, Usman was named the 2018 Commonwealth Young Person of the Year.
    • Dan Ilic, Sydney, 38, is a comedian and journalist who hosts the satirical comedy podcast A Rational Fear. He has worked in radio and television in Australia and the USA. Most recently, he was the Executive Producer of Tonightly with Tom Ballard (ABC), the Executive Producer of Satire for Fusion Network (USA) and senior satire producer for Al Jazeera’s AJ+ (USA).  Dan also serves on the board of youth community broadcaster, FBi Radio.
  • Noel Kwon, Canberra, 28, is passionate about human rights and achieving efficiency and equality in organizations. Having been a cultural and linguistically diverse consultant in community organisations before government, Noel still provides strategic advice to community organisations in the Australian Capital Territory.
  • Alice Mahar, Melbourne, 32, is the founder and director of The Corner Store Network, a non-profit working towards food security, improving nutrition, climate adaptation and minimising food waste in Australia and Timor-Leste. She is the co-founder of the initiatives Stock/Store, Harvest/Store and WithOneBean. Alice is passionate about feeding a growing global population in an environmentally regenerative way, and ensuring that no person is left behind.
  • Nicholas Marchesi, Brisbane, 25, is a Co-Founder and Co-Director of Orange Sky, a world-first, free mobile laundry service for people experiencing homelessness. On a mission to improve hygiene standards, Nic and Co-Founder Lucas stumbled on something more significant – the power of a conversation. Now facilitated by more than 1,800 volunteers, operating over 250 shifts a week, Orange Sky aims to positively connect communities across Australia and New Zealand.
  • Jaclyn Mclendon, Brisbane, 38 is the lead of the Asia Pacific Screen Awards, an international cultural initiative bringing together the 70 countries and areas of the Asia Pacific. She is passionate about film as a common language to bring understanding to our global dialogue. She recently launched the Asia Pacific Screen Forum to provide a fertile ground for collaboration for filmmakers across the region.
  • Hayley McQuire, Canberra, 28, is a proud Darumbal and South Sea Islander woman. She is the National Coordinator and Co-Founder of the National Indigenous Youth Education Coalition, and the Head of Education for the Foundation for Young Australians. Hayley previously served on the UN Secretary General’s Global Education First Initiative Youth Advocacy Group, and was a UNICEF Australia Youth Ambassador.
  • Tim Middlemiss, Sydney, 32, is a consultant who partners with global institutions like World Vision, government departments, and local organisations like Taronga Conservation Society to build and engage their communities for social impact. Tim was a founding director of for-purpose creative studio, Agency, co-founder of social impact conference, Expanse, and is senior strategic advisor to Rev. Tim Costello AO.
  • Skye Riggs, Sydney, 33, is the Founder of Y Vote, an edu-tech social enterprise focussed on building the civic capabilities of young people to create a stronger democracy. Alongside ongoing community engagement and youth voter drives, Y Vote’s action-based civic education programs are delivered by local government organisations throughout Australia.
  • William Smith-Stubbs, Brisbane, 32, is a social entrepreneur, mental health activist, and writer. As co-founder of social impact venture studio spur: and award-winning mental health non-profit spur:org, William has worked across human rights, refugee health, child safety, and youth mental health. William is also a member of the Leadership Advisory Council for the World Economic Forum Global Shapers, an UNLEASH Global Talent for the Sustainable Development Goals and a Gates Foundation Goalkeeper.
  • Zohar Spatz, Brisbane, 37, is an arts and cultural leader working within a multi-disciplinary context. She is currently the Executive Director of La Boite Theatre Company, Australia’s longest continuously running theatre company. She is also President and Chair of All the Queens Men, an independent Australian arts organisation that collaborates with communities of all shapes, sizes, and identities to produce transformative creative experiences that champion equality, social health, and human connection.
  • Alan Wu, Canberra, 35, is the youngest member of the Board of Directors of Oxfam Australia, one of Australia’s largest international development organisations. After serving as an executive and lawyer with the Australian Government, he is now also the Regional Coordinator for Asia Pacific at the Open Government Partnership, a multilateral initiative that brings governments and communities together to advance reforms to make governments more inclusive, responsive and accountable.
  • Catherine Sarah Young, Sydney, 36, is an award-winning artist, designer, and writer. She uses her background in molecular biology, fine art, and interaction design to create interdisciplinary and experimental artworks on the environment. She has an international award, exhibition, collaboration, and fellowship profile, most recently in China, Southeast Asia, Austria, and the Amazon rainforest. She is a Scientia scholar at UNSW Art and Design, working on climate change and sustainability.

The Leaders: Asia-Pacific gathering will serve as the kick-off event for a year-long leadership program and is designed to further inspire, empower, and connect the emerging leaders to change the world. While in Malaysia, the Leaders will be joined by prominent speakers and thought leaders who will discuss topics such as progress and opportunity in the Asia-Pacific region, values-based leadership, and the intersection of purpose and entrepreneurship during a series of plenary sessions. 

In addition to President and Mrs. Obama, confirmed speakers include:

  • YB Hannah Yeoh, Malaysia’s Deputy Minister of Women, Family, and Community Development;
  • Tan Sri Dr. Tony Fernandes, Malaysian entrepreneur and co-founder of AirAsia;
  • Dr. Oyun Sanjaasuren, Director of External Affairs at the Green Climate Fund;
  • Tim Brown, co-founder of Allbirds;
  • Arthur Huang, Taiwanese entrepreneur and founder of Miniwiz;
  • Helianti Hilman, Indonesian entrepreneur and founder of JAVARA;
  • Aaron Maniam, member of the Singapore Administrative Service; and
  • Pat Dwyer, Director and founder of The Purpose Business.

The five-day convening in December will also consist of skill-building workshops, leadership development training, and opportunities for Leaders to connect with one another. Leaders will have a chance to apply their skills and knowledge to various real-world scenarios while using creative, values-driven approaches to problem-solving. Additionally, to underscore the important relationship between service and leadership, Leaders will participate in a community service project. 

Although the gathering is closed to the general public, the plenary sessions will be made available via livestream at obama.org.

Each Leader’s journey of growth will continue remotely for a year after the gathering, through webinars and a virtual speaker series, as well as support, amplification, and other opportunities from the Foundation.

The Asia-Pacific program follows the Obama Foundation’s inaugural international Leaders program launched in Africa in 2018 and represents the Foundation’s commitment to the region, along with the belief that these emerging leaders, through the extraordinary work they do in their own communities, have the potential to positively affect change across the globe.

Meet the inaugural Leaders: Asia-Pacific cohort and learn more about the program here.

NOTE TO MEDIA: Select sessions during the gathering will be open to media, although space will be limited. Members of the media interested in applying for credentials must send an email request to AsiaPacificLeaders@edelman.com by December 2 at 1:00am MYT / 12:00 pm ET (Dec 1). 

For interview requests or other press related questions, please email AsiaPacificLeaders@edelman.com or leaderspress@obama.org.

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Science Gallery Melbourne’s DISPOSABLE exhibition wrapped up on September 1st after a busy month. The Sewer Soaperie was one of the works in this exhibition. The team sent me lots of photos and feedback. Here is what happened and what we learned from this project:

According to co-curator Dr. Ryan Jefferies in an email to me, the exhibition received 26,504 attendees within the four weeks. The show had 150 kg of recycled fat, 12,000 plastic-eating mealworms, over 500 urine samples, and thousands of river reeds.

Having just moved to Australia, I have learned that post-event surveys are standard procedure here, which is fantastic. Here are quantitative feedback from the audience:

  • 92% of visitors were satisfied with the exploration of the theme DISPOSABLE
  • 85% think SGM is distinctive to other galleries
  • For 79% the program challenged their thinking
  • For 86% it sparked conversations they wouldn’t usually have

Dr. Jefferies also wrote that, “DISPOSABLE has also been our most sustainable season, with Science Gallery now following a Sustainability Action Plan, participating in the University of Melbourne’s Green Impact Challenge and significantly reducing our waste.”

The Sewer Soaperie at DISPOSABLE. Image by Science Gallery Melbourne

It was also great to see this piece at the Parliament of Victoria for National Science Week:

The Sewer Soaperie at National Science Week, Parliament of Victoria. Image by Science Gallery Melbourne

I’ve had this work exhibited before, but Science Gallery Melbourne’s team is one of the most exuberant I have ever worked with, and I couldn’t help but feel excited as though this were the first time. It also made those long hours worth it.

More images by Science Gallery Melbourne:

DISPOSABLE by Science Gallery Melbourne. Image by Brent Edwards

Some viewers participated by washing their hands with the soap, though for those who passed, no one blames you.

Images by Brent Edwards

Among the hallmarks of Science Gallery are their mediators, who are there to help their largely young audience to connect with the works. Science Gallery audiences are, from my experience, very curious and ask a lot of excellent questions, which is why I love exhibiting with these guys.

Image by Nicole Cleary for Science Gallery Melbourne

According to Ellie Michaelides, one of Science Gallery Melbourne’s mediators, here are some feedback from the visitors:

“It feels just like normal soap! But less lather”
“I make my own soap at home, I never thought of adding my own left over cooking fat to it!”
“Sewers?! Yeah, nah…”
“Are you sure it’s really clean?”
“That’s really smart, can I buy some?”
“I thought it would smell more”

“It doesn’t smell bad”
“I wish I could buy some”
“I feel like the colour should be less clean”
“I wanted to see what the original fat looks like”

More images by Nicole Cleary:

I, too, have learned a lot as an artist who was a part of this. Back in 2016, this project seemed outlandish, almost in the realm of conceptual art. But human impact on the environment and on cities have increased over time, and so The Sewer Soaperie is in its own way now a legitimate design solution. I am happy and fascinated with how well this been received, including how it provoked many people. For me, art can have a confrontational message and propose solutions in addition to other things it can do. I think this is the strength of interdisciplinary art-science work: it can bring about new dimensions and divergent ways of thinking, and as we continue to negotiate our environmental futures, this can be among the ways by which we can transform society.

It was also inspiring to have this piece be exhibited with these amazing projects. There’s also been a lot of media coverage about DISPOSABLE; do check them out:

Thank you to the Science Gallery Melbourne team!

Hurray, SGM team! Image by Brent Edwards

(Norway / Chile) I’m excited to share the news that the book, “Our Entangled Future: Stories to Empower Quantum Social Change,” is now available and free to download. My contribution, a short story version of “The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store,” won third place, and I’m stoked to be part of this wonderful collection.  The book will be launched tomorrow, October 15, at the Transformations 2019 conference in Santiago, Chile, and will be available in ebook and paperback versions.

The nine short stories presented in Our Entangled Future are rooted in the complex reality of the climate crisis. Rather than painting a dystopic future, they present agency-driven characters whose insights will inspire readers to contemplate and realize the potential for quantum social change.

The book is co-edited by Karen O’Brien, Ann El Khoury, Nicole Schafenacker and Jordan Rosenfeld. Many thanks to the team, the jury and my fellow writers!

Download the book here.

 

I’m excited to let you know that I have moved to Sydney to join the Arts-led Energy Humanities group at the Faculty of Art and Design at UNSW as a Scientia scholar, continuing my art-science work on the environment! Hurray for deep work in what looks like a supportive community. (TLDR: same schtick, but deeper and down under.)

 

I am honored to be supervised by the amazing Douglas Kahn, Lindsay Kelley, and Kate Dunn. Thank you to all who’ve advised me on this major relocation. Wish me luck!

I saw a kookaburra on my first day so I hope this is a good sign!

Image by Nicola Turner

(Yangon, Myanmar)—From September 16-19, the SEAD1 fellows gathered at the Pansuriya Art Space in Yangon, Myanmar for the final part of the SEAD program.

SEAΔ is a program co-created by Mekong Cultural Hub and British Council which creates space for cultural practitioners to reflect on how their work in arts and culture can contribute to sustainable development within South East Asia through their individual and collective leadership.

On Day 1, we looked back on what SEAD has done for us in the past year and what the future might hold for us. As an interdisciplinary art-science person, I really appreciate how much more exposed I am towards social and environmental issues, and also as a former journalist I shared my experience in communicating my work especially on the internet.

In the evening we prepared a Burmese dinner together, thanks to the fantastic team of Sa Ba Street Food Tours. I really love the tea leaf salad, and what a great introduction to delicious Burmese food.

 

On Day 2, we spent time getting to know some inclusive art spaces in Yangon, such as the Pansuriya Art Space where the fellowship was held, and The Able, a cafe and community space which employs hearing-impaired people. We also mapped out our networks and listed our skills, reviewing them as we slowly move forward from SEAD. It was a great say seeing how art can permeate different communities, and how far we ourselves have come.

 

In the evening some of us went to the beautiful awe-inspiring Shwedagon Pagoda, currently my favorite pagoda in all of Southeast Asia. I really liked the animal sculptures that all had some kind of symbolism.

On Day 3, the last day, we thought about our assets as artist and I realized I had more resources than I thought, and ideated on our insights, values, questions, and redefinitions that we had over the course of the nine-month fellowship. Critically (at least for me!) we worked out what our ladders of success (whether vertical or horizontal), and I diagrammed “The Art Dojang”—how I mapped out an arts career to taekwondo, because, well, what better metaphor do I have? We wrapped up the day sharing stories that connected us, and also filmed a message for the future SEAD2 fellows.

We wrapped up our time in Yangon at the wonderful Burma Bistro. It was quite a wild ride for the past nine months! This is the first fellowship I’ve had where I didn’t need to bring hot sauce. I’m really happy to have said yes to this opportunity to reconnect with my Southeast Asian half in a nurturing and safe environment and to think about the divergent ways I can manifest being an artist. I’m thinking about this experience in the context of a very productive year with very timely gigs, starting from The Unlearning Place at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt to China Residencies and then Southeast Asia. .

My deepest thanks to the Mekong Cultural Hub’s Frances Rudgard, Jennifer Lee, and Patty Chan; creative facilitators Nicola Turner and Sudebi Thakurata; and the British Council’s Katelijn Verstraete, Daniel Donnelly and Julia Davies for taking great care of us and helping me grow through this process, and my fellow SEAD friends for being my teachers as well as colleagues. Very excited to take all that I have learned in the next steps. Can’t wait to begin again in Sydney! .

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.