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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

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(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.

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.