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Iconic photo of the first Earth Day (photo from Smithsonian Magazine)

Iconic photo of the first Earth Day (photo from Smithsonian Magazine)

The above is the most iconic photo of the first Earth Day. Held on April 22, 1970 in New York City, the first Earth Day manifested the emerging environmental consciousness of the US, largely due to the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962. On April 22, 20 million people marched to demonstrate for a sustainable environment. Currently, Earth Day is celebrated in more than 190 countries.

A black-and-white photograph of a man wearing a vintage gas mask and stretching his neck to smell some flowers became iconic of this day. The photographer is unknown; the credit simply read “Associated Press”, and AP identifies the person as a freelancer. In August 2010, Smithsonian Magazine reported his name as Peter Hallerman, then a sophomore at Pace College. Hallerman recalled that he was one of the 30 Pace students who held a demonstration in a park near City Hall. Hallerman wore a gas mask that he once belonged to his mother, Edith, who worked with Red Cross during World War II. The AP photographer told Hallerman to smell the flowers of a magnolia tree with his mask on.

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This historic photograph is still relevant as we reflect on Anthropogenic climate change, and I used it as inspiration. After recreating the original photograph, I expanded it to reflect my current location. Medellin, Colombia is a city of rich history and culture. Once a hotbed of violence, it has emerged over the years as a city of innovation and urban design—a city of “cool”. Among other things, Medellin is known for winning the 2016 Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize and 2013 City of the Year Award, as well as emblematic and permissive graffiti culture, though it hasn’t completely shaken off its violent past. The photographs were taken near the Museo Casa de la Memoria, a museum dedicated to victims of armed conflict in Medellin. The city also faces environmental challenges as it works to modernize itself and in the context of the Anthropocene. These photographs are meant to reflect the city’s character, culture, and contradictions as it projects its identity into the future.

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Title of Work: Earth Days

Deepest thanks to Platohedro and Casa Tres Patios, where I did a residency supported by Arts Collaboratory and the Ministry of Culture of Colombia.

(Medellin, Colombia)—On June 7th, my first Tuesday here in Medellin, the City of Eternal Spring, I gave an artist talk at Casa Tres Patios, one of my two hosting institutions for my residency here in Colombia.

 

Artist talk at Casa Tres Patios

Artist talk at Casa Tres Patios

I spoke about art and science, as well as how The Apocalypse Project came to be, as well as my residency project, The Apocalypse Project: Urban Harvest. Artist talks are always a walk of nostalgia, so kudos to all the previous residencies, grants, and collaborators whom I’ve met over the years!

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Thanks to Estefania Piedharita and Tony Evanko of C3P for translating, and both C3P and Platohedro teams for organizing!

(Medellin, Colombia)—It’s my first time in Colombia (and actually, South America). For a week in Bogota, I sat terrified in the back seat of taxi drivers who went through the manic city as though they had a death wish. I stuffed myself with arepas, almojabanas, and pan de queso, without the usual reaction I get from wheat bread, because—whee!—these puppies are gluten-free. I walked through the cobblestoned streets of La Candelaria, full of history and stories and tourists and kitsch, feeling as though I were back in my birthplace of Manila.

Walking the streets of La Candelaria in Bogota

Walking the streets of La Candelaria in Bogota

Colombia and the Philippines share very similar stories. Both countries were Spanish colonies, are very diverse in terms of landscapes, flora, food, and people, and have had histories of unfortunate violence. Filipinos are often considered to be the Latinos of Asia, and in fact many Colombians and Filipinos look a bit similar. Heck, they definitely look more Filipino than I, the apparent ambassador of Chinese, Korean, and Japanese faces. Food is similarly rich in meats and rice, though these people use way more avocados than I ever have.

Colombian graffiti

Colombian graffiti

I stick out like a sore thumb with a neon Band Aid here. Perhaps I look Colombian from the back, since they mostly have black hair as well, but spin me around and wham, awkwardness ensues. The only Asians I have seen so far are the two Korean tourists I saw in a Juan Valdez Cafe across the street from the Museo de Botero in Bogota, their hiking clothes a dead giveaway; and the Taiwanese woman who works in the vegetarian restaurant across the street from Casa Tres Patios, one of my two hosting residencies, in Medellin. At least they only look and don’t touch, I tell myself silently, sending mental shade to other places where I experienced more harassment.

Are those Asians I see behind my arepa?

Are those Koreans I see behind my arepa? Wassup, guys!

Colombia is gritty, its winding streets filled with stories of past violence, old but not forgotten, with its gnarled fingers clinging to the skirts of the new and young wave of modern and forward-thinking attitudes. It has surprised me so many times, from the first day in Bogota where I saw people betting on guinea pigs, to the free admission of its beautiful museums, the varying climate of Manila-esque heat in the city of Medellin to the stark cold of its surrounding mountain villages. It feels like Manila, if Manila had better urban planning and more condoms available. I am obsessed with their indigenous cultures—these ancient tribes have adapted for centuries and are still here!— and I even bought myself a pet ocarina (a type of flute) from their archeology museum. His name is Puck, and I can’t wait to do this residency with this little guy.

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Buenos dias, Puck! Vamos a trabajar!

I am won over by the warmth of the people here. At Casa Tres Patios, I average seven morning hugs a day. There is almost always cafe tinto on the stove; I will never complain about the coffee here! There are more bridges that connect us than walls that separate us; Tony, the director of Casa Tres Patios, was also a Fulbright scholar and has a third degree black belt in taekwondo (I have to prevent myself from bowing—good God, my tic of bowing all the time!), and Sonia, their general coordinator, speaks better Mandarin than I do, owing to two years in China. People have been very kind, in spite of the language barrier I am determined to bridge. Both Platohedro and Casa Tres Patios have been incredibly supportive, and the vibe of both residencies have been very homey for me, a nomad with a broken suitcase. Speaking with my Spanish, rusty and with a Castillian accent, feels like riding a bike (if I rode bikes, ha). If you want to make a Latino giggle, just thank him with a Muchas grathias. And if I finally succeed in rolling my r’s instead of gargling them, I will get back to you.

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Hello, Medellin!

I can’t not tell you why it was important for me to be here: because I’ve never been. It was a logical nightmare to get me all the way here from Asia, but so many people have helped bring me here, and I dare not waste a minute. Well-meaning friends have cautioned against my coming here, fearing for my safety or because of ignorance against Colombians and Latinos in general. In a world full of increasing hate and higher walls, which is even more terrifying in light of the borders we build around ourselves and the environment (hello, climate change), the only way to cure one’s anxiety against his unknown fellow human beings is to get to know them.

It’s my first time in Colombia, and man, I’m thrilled to be here. The Apocalypse Project will have an amazing time.

The students took a Smell Walk and gathered fragrant objects from nature.

(Medellin, Colombia)—From June 5th, I will be on an interdisciplinary residency together with Casa Tres Patios and Platohedro to develop a new body of work about The Apocalypse Project, with support from the international network Art Collaboratory and the Ministry of Culture of Colombia.

From Platohedro’s press release (in Spanish only):

Catherine Sarah Young es una artista de Manila (Filipinas) con formación en biología molecular, arte contemporáneo y diseño interactivo, y utiliza su práctica interdisciplinaria para aumentar la conciencia sobre las problemáticas del medio ambiente. Fundó el Proyecto Apocalipsis, una plataforma creativa sobre el cambio climático y los futuros del medio ambiente durante la residencia de arte y ciencia en el Laboratorio-ETH Zurich Future Cities Laboratory de Singapur en 2009. Con este proyecto ha viajado por Singapur, Manila, Seúl, Palo Alto, y Nueva York.

Desde el 5 de junio realizará una residencia interdisciplinaria conjunta entre Casa Tres Patios y Platohedro para desarrollar la nueva versión del Proyecto Apocalipsis, con el apoyo de la red internacional Arts Collaboratory y el Ministerio de Cultura de Colombia.

Para conocer más del proyecto Apocalipsis http://apocalypse.cc/ y su obra https://theperceptionalist.com/

Catherine estará realizando una serie de actividades interdisciplinarias y abiertas al público. Les compartimos la programación:

Martes 7 de junio: Presentación de la residencia/socialización
6:30 p.m. en Casa Tres Patios

Martes 14 y miércoles 15 de junio: Lab de Aromas de Medellín
¿Cómo sería el aroma de un perfume de Medellín? En este taller, las/os participantes van a formar parte de una Caminata de Aromas, en la que nos conduciremos por puntos escogidos de la ciudad para recolectar objetos con fragancia. Luego destilaremos la esencia de estos objetos y los convertiremos en perfumes. También reflexionaremos sobre la importancia de los aromas, cómo el cambio climático está provocando la desaparición de estas esencias y qué papel juegan en nuestras vidas.
14:00 a 17:00 p.m. en Platohedro
inscripciones >> en este formulario

Viernes 1 de julio: Exhibición y Cierre de la residencia
Muestra de los procesos de investigación y producciones realizadas durante la residencia.
6:30 p.m. en Casa Tres Patios.

Sábado 2 de julio: Banquete Futurista: Arte y Ciencia
Banquete Futurista: Arte y Ciencia es un evento público que abre un diálogo con artistas y científicos en relación al cambio climático y el futuro de nuestras ciudades. Júntese a diferentes creadores en este encuentro para discutir, ilustrar, y manifestar cómo podemos adaptarnos al Antropoceno.
4:00 a 6:00 p.m. en Platohedro

I’ll be blogging about my progress as I go along, as usual! Deepest thanks for being part of this journey so far!

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Simon Hirsbrunner, media researcher from University Siegen, Germany, visited The Apocalypse Project: House of Futures at the Institute for the Future and sent us these lovely photos. Many thanks for coming!

I’ve been traveling since May, which is why it’s been so quiet here. But having been on the road for less than three weeks, I had lots to learn and experience. It was also my birthday yesterday, hence the need to write something.

The story of my life. @_@ #adaptordie

A photo posted by Catherine Young (@catherinesarahyoung) on May 14, 2016 at 10:35pm PDT

 

Starting in Graz, Austria, I felt that my life was like the charger for my Macbook Pro. I have to adapt each time, adding another block to my already modular one. I was happy to spend some time in this lovely and idyllic city, where I lived in a convent (the irony is not lost here) while watching Game of Thrones and Eurovision clips on my downtime, and spent time with friends and colleagues.

A photo posted by Catherine Young (@catherinesarahyoung) on May 21, 2016 at 7:45am PDT

 

In Amsterdam, the Netherlands, I learned about roadblocks, challenges, and unexpected friendships. I was there as a finalist for a sciart competition. My team lost (bummer) but it was a great experience and I loved meeting the researchers I was working with. We even went to the coast to do some field work. It was awesome! I can’t say much about the project now (since not winning means we actually have more time to work on our proposal), but I’m happy to still have determined collaborators. Did I mention I love postdocs?

 

I came home from the Hague (where the competition was) to Amsterdam in a sad daze, because I was exhausted physically (I fly on at least 10 flights on this trip—more on this later), emotionally (I was sad to lose a competition yet excited for my next gig and for all the new experiences I was having), and intellectually (it takes a lot of brain power to come up with mildly interesting ideas, you guys). Amsterdam could have been another impersonal city, yet  strangely I met a number of new friends in the ten days I was there, largely because of the broad spectrum of emotions I was on. Having setbacks means gaining more time, and I was determined to learn new things. I even learned how to bike! (This is one of my worst nightmares, and more on this in a future post as I’m still recovering).

 

I’m writing this in Bogota, Colombia, where I will soon be en route to another residency in a nearby city, Medellin, for an art residency about The Apocalypse Project, which I happily sense I’m doomed to do forever. Bogota has been a very interesting city to explore. It feels like Manila, where I am from, in a lot of ways, yet also very unique. This is my first time in South America, and I’m incredibly excited for this new adventure. The food is incredible, the graffiti is spectacular, and I’m always thrilled when I realize there is still so much of the world I know nothing about. Many people have cautioned against coming here, fearing for my safety. I think this is why I was even more determined to go. So far, the people have been nothing other than kind and respectful to me. Asians are a rarity here, but at least they look and don’t touch (unlike in some other places, ahem!). We can breed less hate in the world by getting to know our imagined enemies. Plus, Bogota and Manila are very similar in many ways, and so Colombia’s risks are those I’m familiar with.

 

For more than ten years, I’ve been floating around the world like this. My Spanish-speaking friends often use the word “inquieta”—restless. I’ve met so many people I care so much about yet I’m not even sure if I’ll ever see them again. Do nomads love more because precious moments are fleeting, and are they loved less because they represent man’s natural restless and curious spirit—a three-dimensional breathing Hallmark card their absent friends can lock away in their memories? Each hello and goodbye feels like an echo of the many journeys I have made before.  I love traveling the world, yet I know one day I would want to pick a place to stay put for a while.

 

My suitcase (which finally broke and is being held with tape) is packed and I return the keys of another hotel tomorrow. The journey continues! Turning another year isn’t so bad.