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(Kampong Thom, Cambodia)—From May 20-24, I was in Cambodia with my mates from the SEAΔ Fellowship, a leadership program for sustainability in the arts in Southeast Asia supported by the Mekong Cultural Hub and the British Council.

My team consists of Thet Oo Maung (filmmaker, Myanmar), Zikri Rahman (cultural researcher, Malaysia), Sinath Sous (independent curator, Cambodia), and myself, artist from the Philippines. Our project is to be part of co-fellow Sinath Sous’ Arts and Environment Festival by holding arts and culture workshops with the local community of Kampong Thom, a province in northern Cambodia.

On Day 1, we held an art workshop with local students at Kampong Chheuteal Institute of Technology with the aim of looking at their environment from the lens of the future. Students created visual icons of their province using local and recycled materials.

On Day 2, we ran a Future Resilient Communities workshop where participants made their own paper architecture that reflected their desired future community under climate impacts. We were very honored to have the elderly people of the Kampong Thom community participate, including a couple of village leaders. I love holding this workshop because it intersects strategic planning, art, adaptation, the climate crisis, and various sectors of society. It gets one to see, quite visually, how human beings actually want their futures to be as well as to consider (and later, to correct), the common misconceptions of what a benefit is. (In the Philippines, it was a sea wall and here, it was a plastic incinerator.) Most of them have never done art classes before so their outcomes were even more wonderful.

On Day 3, we ran another Future Resilient Communities workshop and a Letters for Science session with some local governmnet officials and community members. In Kampong Thom, increasing heat decreases crop yields in an agricultural society and delays work as some have to stop working at high noon. The more intense storms also threaten public safety as most houses are built on stilts that sway when the wind is too strong.

The Planetary Renewal Spa in Cambodia!

On Day 4, the final day, we had a photography, soap-making, basket weaving, and flower workshops. I did a Planetary Renewal Spa and gave me honey facials to Cambodian teens. Afterwards we offered food to the monks.

SEAD Create ended in the evening with a public exhibition and various performances with other participants that engaged the community of Kampong Thom such as collaborative musical performance from Cambodian artists of various styles, a beauty pageant that included Ms. Universe Cambodia and runner-up of Cambodia’s Next Top Model, a performance by circus artist Maya Ross who wore one of my Climate Change Couture masks, and others.

We will work on the outcomes from the Arts and Environment Festival and will present them for part 3, SEAD Share, in Bangkok in July. We hope to see you there!

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(Beijing)—I’ve finished my stint with the 5th Crystal Ruth Bell Residency with China Residencies and Red Gate Gallery. Here are some highlights in the second half:

  1. “Maslow’s Dream,” a group exhibition at the Austrian Embassy

2. Open Studios at Red Gate Gallery

3. Going around the hutong in Crystal Ruth Bell’s sanlunche to ask people for their climate stories and opinions on the food I designed

4. Holding a Letters for Science Workshop

5. Interacting with the elderly in Beijing

6. Spending time with kindergarten and grad school friends

7. Thinking about food futures of China

8. Training! Hurray!

9. Working on a new piece for Science Gallery Detroit. More soon!

10. Being with nature and having time to think about very important big future steps.

It was a wonderful tranformative time. Stay tuned for outcomes! In the meantime, thank you China Residencies and dear friends I’ve met along the way!

 

Eco Art Challenge by Global Shapers Beijing

 

(BEIJING, China) – On March 16th, I was invited to give a talk at Global Shapers Beijing (Hub 2) for their Eco Art Challenge. I spoke about my work and, more importantly, about what I learned, my triumphs and failures with my Year for the Planet personal challenge. Other speakers included Break Free from Plastic China and Eric Lau. Afterwards, the participants created a whale sculpture made of plastic trash and embarked on a 7-day plastic-free challenge—a very difficult thing in Beijing, where plastic seems to weed its way in places you did not think it would.

Year for the Planet
Why go plastic-free

You can download a pdf of my talk here:

Thanks to Yoka and Zishu of Global Shapers Beijjng for the kind invitation!

I just wrapped up a fellowship with the Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s (Un-)Learning Place! These were five wonderful days with fantastic people from around the world challenging institutions, our assumptions, realities, etc. Many thanks to HKW and the facilitators of our track, Spaces of Theory, including diffrakt: center for theoretical periphery and raumlabor berlin! Here’s a collection of my thoughts via my Instagram account:

(BERLIN, Germany) – Guten Tag! I’m honored and excited to be one of the selected fellows for The (Un-)Learning Place, a program by the Haus der Kulturen der Welt. What a great start to 2019 and how fitting having just been immersed in anthropogenic food futures, sustainability and decolonization with China Residencies and Mekong Cultural Hub / British Council this past Fall. I’m in Track 5 on Space/Theory. I can’t wait to be back in Berlin, one of my favorite cities in the world! Let’s take this on. See you soon!

 

From the program text by HKW:

The present is characterized by a crisis of the established epistemic-political order. Outdated categories and terms no longer function. Representational logics fail to grasp the complexity of contemporary phenomena and increasingly global societies, whose change is accelerated by digital infrastructures. In this situation, it is necessary to unlearn established modes of referring to the world and to rethink methods of constructing, situating and criticizing reality.

During the Opening Days of HKW’s new long-term project The New Alphabet , HKW will set up a unique space for gathering, discussion and workshops—a unique (Un-)Learning Place curated by Boris Buden and Olga von Schubert. In the five-day curriculum international participants are invited to take part in (Un-)Learning Tracks to work with curatorial, artistic, or activist strategies in close collaboration with self-organized research collectives and independent artists, researchers and curators.

How do the cultural techniques of archiving, integrating, and classifying transform archived knowledge from within? Can the necro-aesthetics—the presentation of dead beings—in Natural History Museums be reframed by changing museum taxonomies? How do body molecules tell stories of their century-old political suppression and how can they be reread? What are modes of resistance in digital network cultures and how is it possible to navigate through increasingly opaque streams of data and information? What would spaces of learning and unlearning look like in a world permeated by institutional infrastructures of dominance and cultural supremacy? How can a library of African diasporic writing be cataloged without reproducing oppressive categories? And what role does our understanding of the workings and logics of theory and its institutional practice play within?

In five (Un-)Learning Tracks the (Un-)Learning Place seeks out strategies to navigate through the inherent classification and ordering systems of archives, libraries, museums, institutional architectures, and digital networks and offers approaches to situating, negotiating and ‘(un-)learning’ research in artistic, site-specific, poetic, and bodily practices. Together with eight independent curatorial, activist or artistic collectives, and invited guests, the (Un-)Learning Place offers its 80 international participants the opportunity to investigate new strategies for interdisciplinary research and potential crossdisciplinary collaborations in the fields of Translation, Digitality, Archiving, Embodied Infrastructures as well as the Politics of Space and Theory, in order to challenge established perspectives and collectively develop ways of restructuring the order of things.

It’s almost 2019, and what a year 2018 has been! Here’s a year in review:

Personal

I started the year decluttering my parents’ house, stopped needing a cane from a hip injury, went back to training in taekwondo again, made lots of new friends, and reconnected with old ones. My dad was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor and is back in Manila from treatment in New York. Apart from residency/fellowship travel (see below), I visited Lucerne (to see a friend), Bratislava, Berlin, Salzburg, and Bangkok (with extended family).

Research: Philippine jungles

I visited Cleopatra’s Needle Critical Habitat sponsored by Great Escapes Philippines and Centre for Sustainability PH.

Exhibitions: Manila, Germany, Dublin

The Sewer Soaperie and An Olfactory Portrait of the Amazon Rainforest were part of the Manila Biennale in February. The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store was part of “Victor Papanek: The Politics of Design” at the Vitra Design Museum in Germany in September, and was also part of Science Gallery Dublin’s In Case of Emergency exhibition which closed in February.

Projects, Residencies, Fellowships, Awards: Vienna, Beijing, Taipei

From April to June I did a visual arts residency with KulturKontakt Austria and the Austrian Federal Chancellery. I produced another body of work, Wild Science, which explores the role of science in society. There were fun collaborations, such as with Dr. Gerhard Heindl of the Schönbrunn Tiergarten for this piece, Der Tiergarten 1.0: Human Forces on the Animal Kingdom, and a photo shoot with some cool herpetologists and taxidermists at the Naturhistorisches Museum Wien (Natural History Museum, Vienna). I also produced Letters for Science and asked youth from Eferding, Austria to write letters to climate change deniers.

In Manila in September, we finished photo and video shoots of The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store and The Sewer Soaperie. I also started doing research for Wild Science on religion and beliefs in Quiapo, a part of Manila where Catholicism, Islam, and paganism intersect.

In Beijing in November for part 1 of the Crystal Ruth Bell Residency with China Residencies and Red Gate Gallery, I performed The Planetary Renewal Spa for the first time and did research for Future Feast. I’ll be back in March 2019 to finish the project.

I’m one of the ten inaugural SEAΔ fellows of the Mekong Cultural Hub and the British Council with part 1 held in Taipei in late November. We were divided into four groups, and mine will meet in Cambodia in May 2019 to execute our project. We will all be together to present the outcomes in Bangkok in June and reflect on the program in September.

I did the second Year for the Planet edition, focusing on my clothing choices.

The Apocalypse Project was shortlisted for Best Climate Solutions Award by Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change (CMCC).

This year’s Ritual Card is a Sunset Wheel, based on the cyanometer used by Alexander von Humboldt.

Talks: From Mental Health to Art and Social Norms

I spoke about artists and mental health in Manila, and spoke about art, science and social norms at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna and in Crossboundaries Beijing.

Media

I’m one of ArtReview Asia’s Future Greats for their Summer issue and was featured in my alma mater, the SVA NYC’s Visual Arts Journal for the Fall issue. I wrote an article for Vienna-based contemporary art magazine Springerin, entitled “A Different Shape of Progress: Contemporary Art and Social Inclusion.” I was part of a podcast by America Adapts (Episode 78: Flooding, Climate Change, and Art).

If you have been part of my year at all, thank you very much for your support! Here’s to another productive year. May 2019 be full of new work, growth, relationships, and life!

—Catherine

YearinReview2018_B.jpg

 

 

 

It’s that time of the year when I finish all residencies, fellowships, talks, and exhibitions, and reflect on the year that’s about to pass. It’s been a wonderful year of learning from different cultures and finding other ways of pursuing my practice. In 2018, I held residencies and fellowships in Vienna (KulturKontakt Austria and the Austrian Federal Chancellery), Beijing (China Residencies and Red Gate Gallery), and Taipei (Mekong Cultural Hub and the British Council). This post recalls some of my favorite memories during my Beijing residency. Head to this post for thoughts about my Vienna residency.


 

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What a great Friday! Hurray, friendcations! 😍

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My residency with China Residencies was split in two; I finished part 1 in November and will come back in March. I was really excited for this residency. It was my second trip after many years as a journalist, and coming back as an artist gave me plenty to be inspired by. Here are some takeaways for Part 1:

1. If at first you don’t succeed

This was the second time I applied for this residency and I thought my chances were even more dismal than the first time with 700+ applications. Hurray for perseverance! For my younger artists, seriously, just keep going.

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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 @chinaresidencies, 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! 😍 #climatechange #contemporaryart #sciart #artscience #catherinesarahyoung

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2. My fellow residents and the residency staff

For the most part, I’ve been quite lucky with fellowships because no one is a drama queen. I really loved being with my fellow Red Gate Residents this year, and the staff has been fantastic and supportive. I’m also pretty blown away by many of the senior Chinese artists I’ve met, who have been very generous with their time and humble despite their accomplishments. Also, there’s an artist I met in my Vienna residency that was also in Beijing! The world keeps getting smaller.

 

3. The food is great (and nothing to be scared of)

My residency project is about food, so oh poor me, I had to eat my way through Beijing. At first, I was panicking at the thought of buying so-called fake food that I would read about before my arrival. To be honest, I encountered none of these issues; if they exist, I was told by several locals that one might find them in the countryside but not in the upscale markets in the more modern areas of Beijing.

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Day 11. A challenge with doing a project on the future of food in China is that the people are already adventurous eaters, and people have been eating insects for centuries. Unlike 2014 when using crickets and worms in certain ways was still a bit new, here I need to be clearer with frameworks and stories. I can't feed people scorpions on a stick; you can already buy them here for 25 yuan. One of the scorpions hurt my palette (crickets and larvae are still better IMHO) and my dumplings were too spicy so I ate some ice cream. I spied many people eating hunks of meat off the bone and all these made me nauseated so I went back to my apartment for some ginger tea. 😂 #ApocalypseProject #FutureFeast #climatechange #adaptation

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4. Reconnecting with childhood and grad school friends

So much time with familiar faces! Barbie has known me since I was 6! I knew Qing Qing from grad school in NYC and she lives across the street from the apartment that Red Gate let me stay in! Tina is a classmate from grad school and she visited! (Her grad school thesis was about food and she trained in culinary school, so our conversations really helped in my residency project.) How amazing to reconnect with all of these people!

 

5. Training in taekwondo after a year

If there’s something I’m thankful for in this residency that I was not expecting, it was training in a taekwondo school again. I haven’t stepped inside a dojang since injuring my hip from side kicks, so I almost cried when my feet touched the familiar rubber mat. It’s so good to train in a school…with a mirror. My poomsae are so off. I had stopped bringing a uniform with me since Vienna, as I had given up on finding a nearby school. Note to self: bring the freaking dobok every time. Plus the coach was World Champion! Hurray for kicking! I will die with this sport (though I hope I won’t die doing it).

This is also the first residency where I felt well enough not to bring a cane. I’m definitely taking way better care of myself this time.

 

6. Visiting the Great Wall

See what I mean? This was my second time on the wall. I’m definitely way fitter this time around, ha.

 

7. The very adaptable people

Flexibility is, I find, a very Chinese trait. China is very much a Big Brother state, but I found the people I interacted with to take this in stride, as though they were used to it and simply found ways to get on with their lives. While I’m sure this has disadvantages, as a (half) Chinese person, female, and of color, who has lots of dreams and has faced lots of challenges owing to her sex and race and background, I think this adaptability and determination to go on are survival skills that have served me well in all the years of being an artist. I also really like seeing the elderly in China; lots of community gatherings such as tai chi, mah jong, singing, etc. It feels less lonely here, for sure.

 

8. The future is here

I designed some Climate Change Couture masks back in 2014-2015, and exhibited them in a show at the Institute for the Future and Swissnex San Francisco. Little did I know this would work the best for me battling Beijing smog in 2018.

I spoke about this a lot during my talks, such as this one in Crossboundaries, an architecture firm in Beijing:

 

9. Can you feel the power?

There are a lot of places in Beijing that will make you contemplate about the centuries and dynasties that it took to build this city. They’re quite inspiring and exhausting to walk around in. Fragrant Hills and the Botanical Gardens looked tiny on the map and I thought I’d be done in the morning. I came home…12 hours afterwards. The good thing about splitting a residency in two is that one can run around in Part 1, determining which ones to go back to and include in your project in Part 2.

 

10. An older history of science

Still a nerd, I think my favorite place in Beijing is the Beijing Ancient Observatory, which was built in 1442 during the Ming Dynasty. Many places i loved in Vienna were built in the 1800s and are therefore babies in comparison. Most history books are so Western-centric and I was grateful for being reminded that the oldest technologies in the world aren’t far from my backyard.

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I love this courtyard! 😍

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TLDR: I had kept my expectations low, mainly because I didn’t have enough information about China as lots of websites like Google are blocked. And so I was prepared for anything. It’s wonderful to have a wealth of information, a lot of new friends, and a tank of inspiration to draw from as I prepare to finish this residency in 2019. Do reach out for more about Future Feast and The Planetary Renewal Spa!

 


 

In November 2018, I was artist-in-residence of China Residencies and Red Gate Residencies as the 5th Crystal Ruth Bell Resident Crystal Ruth Bell was co-founder of China Residencies who passed away in 2014; the residency is held in her honor. The projects I am working on are Future Feast and The Planetary Renewal Spa from The Apocalypse Project series. I will be back in March of 2019.