Great to speak at Art & Market’s Landing 2022 conference about art and climate change, featuring past and recent work. Thank you for having me!
Here is the synthesis of the conversation by Art & Market’s Ian Tee:
- Artists innovate by creating new imagery that spark curiosity.
- Collaboration is enriching, especially for research-driven projects.
- While global warming is a universal phenomenon, the impact of climate change varies from one locality to the next.
- Rather than having the right answers, it is more important to be open to change as information changes over time.
For the second event of LANDING 2022, Vivyan Yeo, Content Producer at Art & Market, spoke to artist Catherine Sarah Young. Their conversation touched on various approaches towards engaging with the issue of climate change and sustainability in the arts.
Here are the takeaways from the discussion:
Artists innovate by creating new imagery that spark curiosity. This causes people to do a “double take” and pay attention to pertinent issues. In fact, audiences who tuned in commented on the arresting quality of her artist portraits taken as part of individual projects. One example is her ‘The Sewer Soaperie’ (2016) which highlights the problem of flooding caused by coagulated grease in sewer systems. For this work, the artist made luxury soaps out of oils collected from different parts of the sewer system. She says, “What artists do with these emotional hooks is to get people to notice and change their behaviours”. Art is a powerful asset as it speaks to people as human beings and helps us relate to each other.
Collaboration is enriching, especially for research-driven projects. Catherine believes that art and science are two sides of the same coin, and her multidisciplinary outlook is partly shaped by her undergraduate education in molecular biology and biotechnology. She appreciates the specificity her scientist collaborators work with. While projects can benefit from partnerships with experts from all walks of life, Catherine advises artists to be mindful of not taking others’ time for granted. It also helps to have a professional portfolio available online, be upfront with one’s request, and have a large pool of prospective collaborators to choose from.
While global warming is a universal phenomenon, the impact of climate change varies from one locality to the next. Therefore, it is crucial to adapt one’s artistic response to the local issues experienced by audiences. Catherine cites her project ‘Climate Change Couture’ (2013) which speculates on what one would wear in a future under climate change. It has been presented in Singapore, Manila, Colombia and San Francisco. In every iteration, the collection reflects the city’s unique environmental scenario and climate projections. It also reimagines the vernacular fashion as a way of acknowledging the cultural specificities of each locale.
Rather than having the right answers, it is more important to be open to change as information changes over time. In a world of misinformation and tribalism, Catherine hopes that her projects are situations where discourse can happen in a respectful way. In her workshops with children and adults, she observed the urgent need for intergenerational exchange on topics such as climate change anxiety. As we strive to make better choices each day, the major shift is to move away from a throw-away culture towards a sustaining culture.
Watch the video on YouTube or listen to the recording on SoundCloud here.