I’m starting to pack for some fellowships, one of which is for China Residencies and while decluttering I came across some CDs (CDs!) from 2005 (2005!) which had photos of my lone trip to China, as a journalist covering a youth delegation to Beijing, Shanghai, and Huangzhou which aimed to foster good Sino-Philippine diplomatic ties. This was before the Beijing Olympics and China was opening its doors to the world. I can’t wait to see what has changed, to re-discover my roots, and to get scolded by lots of ahmas on the state of my Mandarin.

Also, as this was pre-social media days, who on earth are these people?! The only person I remember is the head of the youth commission who went on to be a senator. (He’s a good one, not one of those horrifying hacks you normally read about to see the decaying state of humanity.) Ah, the joy of forgetting.

I was a journalistic non-entity but was front and center here because I was the tallest.


I’m honored to show “The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store” at the “Victor Papanek: The Politics of Design” exhibition at the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany, which shows from September 30, 2018 to March 10, 2019! I’m excited to be one of the contemporary designers and honored to have a small contribution to this fantastic exhibition for my work on climate change. Very humbled to be among some amazing people whose work I’ve learned from through the years. Deepest thanks to the curators and exhibition team!

An excerpt from the VDM site:

With the exhibition »Victor Papanek: The Politics of Design«, running from 29 September 2018 to 10 March 2019, the Vitra Design Museum will present the first large retrospective focussing on the designer, author, and activist Victor J. Papanek (1923–1998). Papanek was one of the twentieth century’s most influential pioneers of a socially and ecologically oriented approach to design beginning in the 1960s. His key work, »Design for the Real World« (1971), remains the most widely read book about design ever published. In it, Papanek makes a plea for inclusion, social justice, and sustainability – themes of greater relevance for today’s design than ever before. The exhibition includes high-value exhibits such as drawings, objects, films, manuscripts, and prints, some of which have never before been presented. These are complemented by works of Papanek’s contemporaries from the 1960s to 1980s, including George Nelson, Richard Buckminster Fuller, Marshall McLuhan, or the radical design initiative »Global Tools«. Contemporary works from the areas of critical and social design provide insight into Papanek’s lasting impact.

»Victor Papanek: The Politics of Design« is organized into four sections offering an in-depth look at Papanek’s life and work. The exhibition begins with an introductory, large-format media installation presenting the designer’s ideas in a contemporary context and follows with a biographical overview tracing Papanek’s life from his escape from Europe to his international success. For the first time, organizers were able to draw upon materials of the Papanek estate held by the Papanek Foundation at the University of Applied Arts Vienna, which includes a number of documents that have never been exhibited, including notebooks, letters, furniture, pieces from Papanek’s collection of ethnological objects, as well as over thousands slides that the designer used for his lectures.

Two other sections focus on the main themes of Papanek’s work, including his fundamental criticism of consumerism and his engagement with social minorities, his commitment to the needs of what was then known as the »Third World«, ecology, sustainability, and »making« culture – creation and production using one’s own resources – which had its origins in the 1960s do-it-yourself movement. Visitors can also view a wealth of designs by Papanek, his students, and other collaborators, including those by the Danish designer Susanne Koefoed, who as a student of Papanek developed the first International Symbol of Access in 1968.

The exhibition is supplemented with around twenty carefully selected contemporary works that transport Papanek’s ideas into the twenty-first century by designers including Catherine Sarah Young, Forensic Architecture, Jim Chuchu, Tomás Saraceno, Gabriel Ann Maher, or the Brazilian collective Flui Coletivo and Questtonó. They, too, deal with complex themes such as global climate change, fluid gender identities, consumer behaviour, or the economic realities of migration, meaning they reflect the continuing resonance of the questions Papanek was already addressing in the 1960s. At the same time, they break out of the white, Western, and male-dominated world to which Papanek was bound despite all his efforts to the contrary.

»Victor Papanek: The Politics of Design« is thus both a retrospective as well as a themed exhibition. By focusing on Papanek the person, we can better understand a larger theme, namely the significance of design as a political tool. After all, what was revolutionary for Papanek’s time is now generally accepted: design is not only about giving form to something; it is a tool for political transformation that must consider social and ethical points of view. This is reflected by the fact that today’s debates over themes such as social design and design thinking draw upon Papanek’s ideas as a matter of course. The exhibition seeks to rediscover Papanek as a pioneer of these debates – and as one of design’s greatest forward thinkers – for the twenty-first century. At the same time, it examines how Papanek’s socially engaged design is changing our world today – as well as how it can make the world a better one.

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

More here.

Hello friends! The online voting polls for the Best Climate Solutions Award are open from September 24 until October 15 (5:00 PM CEST). The Apocalypse Project is in the running under “Education and Media”. I’m hoping to fund a future series of projects benefiting an indigenous rainforest community in the Philippines, and to create an arts-led curriculum that outlines the frameworks of the climate change adaptation projects and workshops I’ve been leading in all of these places around the world you’ve seen me in. If you can please take a few minutes to vote and/or share with your friends, that would be great. Thank you very much!

HOW TO VOTE: Sign up or log onto and search for The Apocalypse Project. You can also visit for everything this project has done in the last 5 years. is a new platform to showcase the most innovative and compelling efforts from around the world to build a climate-smart and resilient future, and engaging with local developers, innovators, business operators, and researchers to support the scaling up of tools, technologies and business models that can generate tangible impacts.

Best Climate Solutions builds on the unique experience of the Best Climate Practices observatory, an initiative developed by ICCG in partnership with the Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change (CMCC). Since 2012 the Best Climate Practices observatory has collected and promoted a wide range of concrete actions for dealing with climate change challenges such as energy access, water management, climate finance, disaster risk reduction.

Ni hao, you guys! I’m honored and excited to be selected from a pool of 700 artists for the 5th Crystal Ruth Bell residency by China Residencies, from November to December in Beijing. What an awesome way to round up the year! I’m looking forward to continuing my work in climate change and sustainability with the residency theme, Nourish. The last time I was in China was more than 10 years ago, on a journalism assignment / youth ambassador thing before the Beijing Olympics, so another visit is long overdue. Let’s get this Mandarin restarted, y’all. I even have my reusable chopsticks ready.

This is the second time I applied for this grant, so kids, it just goes to show: If at first you don’t succeed, eat your feelings then try again.

Xie xie, everyone! 我很高興!

More here:

I’m honored to be listed as one of the ten Future Greats by ArtReview Asia with me selected by Poklong Anading, one of the region’s top artists, for their Summer 2018 issue. This is truly the kindest thing anyone has ever said about me that’s Google-able, and it’s more than I deserve. Thank you very much!

“I was invited to be on a jury for a residency in France, she applied and that’s where I first came across her name. She’s not so active in the local scene in Manila and more into producing works through residencies outside the Philippines. Nevertheless, it was a real surprise that no one in the local scene knew her. I find her work very interesting because there is a scientific base to it (she has collaborated with scientists, local communities, corporate entities and chefs), and it’s rare to see this. You have to study her work to really feel it, because it has a delicate nature. She’s concerned with the environment in a way that’s not so close to my own concerns (even though I’m doing some research on sewage systems in various countries): she has a way of working that’s more accurate, more responsible.

Sometimes I think I shouldn’t be part of the art scene: why are we making art rather than fixing society? The more art that is made, the more it spreads and the more problematic it becomes: we talk about a problem rather than addressing it. But Catherine uses art to bring extra perspectives to bear on environmental and social issues, which leads to a better understanding of the problems, and that’s what impresses me. Works from her Climate Change Couture (2013) series, part of The Apocalypse Project (2013–; an interdisciplinary platform that seeks to reveal the humane face of climate change), for example, draw on the disciplines of design and fashion to produce artworks in the form of wearable costumes that speak about what humans might have to do to adapt to climate change. I trust her knowledge. For me artmaking is more poetic, but I see the weight of knowledge behind her work as giving it importance. More than that, she plays with things and mixes things up. Her Sewer Soaperie series (2016) uses research into so-called fatbergs, conducted in Manila and Medellín, to trace the journeys of various cooking oils, ending up in the saponification of various used cooking oils and greases collected from sewers and open pipes in Manila (interestingly the saponification of used palm oil raised questions about how pure it was in the first place). She has a sharp mind and is very serious about what she does.”
—Poklong Anading

Works featured here are from The Apocalypse Project, a body of work that explores climate change and our environmental futures, specifically Climate Change Couture (2013) done during a residency at the Singapore-ETH Future Cities Laboratory, and the Sewer Soaperie (2016) created during a residency at Casa Tres Patios and Platohedro.

I’m very cognizant of how I’m able to do my work thanks to residencies and fellowships, as well as the generosity of time and resources of a lot of people. I’m going to work really hard for this to come true. Many thanks to all my previous and current collaborators!

View the article here.

I’m delighted to announce that The Apocalypse Project is in the running for the Best Climate Solutions 2018 Award for “Communicating Climate Change Threats and Opportunities”! I’m hoping to fund a future series of projects benefiting an indigenous rainforest community in the Philippines, and to create an arts-led curriculum that outlines the frameworks of the climate change adaptation projects and workshops I’ve been leading in all of these places in the world you’ve seen me in.

The online voting procedure will be open from September 24, 2018 until October 15, 2018 (5.00 pm CEST).

View the entry here.

11 August 2018, Manila—Last weekend, I was one of the three speakers asked to give a talk at this art space in Makati called Gallery in the Gutter (G.i.G.) about something other than climate change (woohoo!): mental health. Specifically, I spoke about how I take care of mine. But along the way, i debunk some stereotypes about artists, too.

As someone who regularly travels on residencies and exhibitions, I’ll be the first to tell you that this amount of travel can put mental health in jeopardy if one is not prepared. Here are some things I’ve learned about mental health, and how I’ve learned to take care of it through the years:

1. Mental illness can be inherited (whether you are an artist or not).

…And I wish I knew that anxiety ran in the family earlier than December of last year, when an aunt told me. I have a cousin who needs medication for anxiety, and some others who may be vulnerable to it, too. However, as they were raised in the US and me in Asia, our upbringing was different. I grew up in a disciplined Chinese environment where mental health was never discussed. If you had anxiety, that was disciplined out of you. I definitely recommend seeking help; speaking about mental health is thankfully not as taboo as it once was. Through the years, I have also developed my own strategies to cope. I still believe that the state of the world makes it difficult to not be worried about things, and so with years of learning different ways to be resilient, I’ve never needed medication (and hopefully never will).

I also talked about other misconceptions of artists, such as the left brain / right brain fallacy, and ways that artists’ brains are in fact unique, such as some structural differences.

2. Capitalism has made people work so hard at jobs they don’t love to buy stuff they don’t need at the risk of their relationships and happiness.

I believe in this point so much I placed it on two slides. This made me think of a recent article that said that artists’ brains are not motivated with money. But because we still live in a world of capitalism and unending growth, holy crap, what now? I think of this as an artist still early on in her career, where I count myself fortunate to still be able to do what I love and push myself to ask better questions through the auspices of the grants that have supported me, where I get paid to not conform. In between, I do get increased anxiety levels thinking about whether I should just stop all this and just, oh I don’t know, work in a bank or marketing or something. *shudder*

3. The strength of our relationships is the most important predictor of long-term happiness.

I didn’t say this, scientists did. When researchers tracked men for about 80 years, it turns out that the primary determinant for well-being was how satisfied they were with their relationships. My relationships—and the gratitude that comes with having good people in life—are definitely among my primary values. If I’ve ever given you one of my Ritual cards, thank you for being part of my life!

Another way I go this is by making Memory Boards where I print out photos of me with my friends. I think it’s great to have a physical way to remember people, instead of always seeing them online. Also, having photos of myself looking so happy has a mirroring effect, which is especially helpful when I’m at my lowest—if I felt that happy once, I can be that way again one day.

4. A healthy diet promotes good mental health.

Last year, you may remember the Year for the Planet: Food project I embarked on, where I fixed my eating habits for the sake of the environment. This accidentally made me a plant-based, meal-prepping, buy-in-bulk consumer with a fraction of her plastic waste (for it is impossible to be completely zero-waste in some cities). My unwitting foray into healthy eating also improved my moods and productivity and I’ve been a lot happier ever since. It also prevents me from eating junk when traveling.

I also spoke about where I get my information, seeing that misinformation abounds especially on the internet. Scientific literacy is something I spread in my work, and in my personal life, I tend to question everything. I am categorized a “Questioner” in Gretchen Rubin’s The Four Tendencies Quiz, and being a Questioner, I took this test multiple times in different points of a year and still got Questioner. I digress. When it comes to food, my go-to source is Dr. Michael Greger’s Nutrition Facts website—I like how he references studies and how they got to specific conclusions.

5. Rituals are the safety net that holds everything together.

If I have been with you on an art residency, I may have offered to give you a facial massage. This isn’t for vanity purposes, though it has the effect of making one look years younger. (I am also at the age when getting carded is no longer a flattering affair, so really, this has more to do with general well-being.) Doing this every night relaxes me, an insomniac, into preparing for bed. I’m also one of those artists who don’t smoke, drink, or do drugs, and instead I bring a bottle of lavender oil everywhere to help with anxiety.

Also, I’ll never forget how taekwondo has put me on the right track to self-care. Hurray for martial arts!

6. Nature heals.

Forest-bathing is a miracle. I would know; in my last residency in Vienna there was a forest right outside my house and I hiked two hours every day and felt fantastic. Coming back to Southeast Asia and the chaos of Bangkok and Manila right afterwards was quite a shock, and I snorted half a bottle of lavender to keep me sane. In Manila, I wish we had more parks where I could at least see something naturally green, or to wake up with birds or see a random fox on the grass.

7. Meaning is healthier than happiness.

Having a purpose or working towards something bigger than you is definitely better for overall mental health than chasing after petty pleasures. I’m really thankful for everything my projects have given me—friends and colleagues with similar values, a healthy lifestyle, an a realization that it’s not as hopeless after all.

Thank you, Mrs. Elizabeth S.P. Lietz and Alexa Arabejo for the kind invitation!